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Kidney Diet Tips

Archive for Food Facts

September 17, 2015

Cucumber Recall: Caution for Kidney Patients

cucumbers-6802Beware cucumber lovers. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports over 400 people have become ill and two deaths  were caused by  salmonella infection linked to cucumbers. The contaminated cucumbers were traced to imports from Mexico, and were distributed in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah, and possibly other states. If you have purchased cucumbers recently check with your grocer to confirm they are not from the contaminated source. Avoid cucumbers when eating out as a precaution. Read more…

May 30, 2013

Kidney Diet Tip: Phosphate-free Kool-Aid®

I grew up before the plethora of canned and bottled beverage choices. In our household thirsty kids had 3 beverage choices: water, home brewed iced tea or Kool-Aid®. Coca cola®, aka Coke® was an occasional treat. I preferred the orange or punch-flavored Kool-Aid over water or sweet tea.

Fast forward to 2013: water is enhanced with vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus; tea is available pre-made in cans and bottles, some brands with phosphate additives; Kool-Aid powder no longer gets clumpy, thanks to the calcium-phosphate additive. All are red flags for kidney patients who are following a kidney diet and avoiding phosphate additives.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to discover the new Kool-Aid® Liquid Drink Mix does not contain calcium-phosphate additives, plus it’s sugar-free. Each 1.67 ounce container has 24 servings of a liquid Kool-Aid concentrate you squirt into a bottle or glass of chilled water. Approximately 1/2 teaspoon makes an 8-ounce serving of Kool-Aid with zero calories, carbohydrate and phosphorus. Sodium is low at 0 to 10 mg a cup (all flavors are sodium-free except orange). Potassium is not provided but it is in the product since it contains acesulfame potassium (sweetener) and potassium sorbate (preservative).

Read more…

January 28, 2013

Kidney Diet Tips: What’s the Best Kind of Squash?

Food lists can make deciding what to buy for your kidney diet easier, but can also be a source or confusion. Squash is one example, since it appears on both low and high potassium food lists. Today’s post gives you some squash facts to help select the best choices for your kidney diet.

Squash varieties fall into 3 major categories—Asian squash, summer squash and winter squash. Read more…

February 17, 2012

Kidney Diet Tips: Finding Nutrients in Food

Where do you go for help when you want to find out the nutrients in your food? Knowing  protein, carbohydrate, fat, sodium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium content of food helps you make better decisions…and may influence how closely you stick to your kidney diet. There are several sources to consider.

Food Labels

The most obvious nutrient source is the food label, available on all packaged foods. Many grocery stores provide nutrient information for fresh produce, and soon fresh meat will require a nutrition label. The drawback is that potassium and phosphorus are optional on food labels and these are among the most important ones you need to know if you have chronic kidney disease or if you are on dialysis.

Food Composition Books

Any bookstore has a variety of food composition books that list nutrients in foods. Your dietitian most likely has a copy of “Bowes and Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used”, a comprehensive nutrition data book with thousands of foods, now in its 18th edition.

Other food composition books vary in the nutrients included. A few on my shelf include “The Complete Book of Food Counts and Vitamin and Mineral Counter”, both by Corrine Netzer, and “The Calorie King Calorie, Carbohydrate and Fat Counter” from dietitian Alan Borushek. If you still prefer a book over an electronic reader or computer, these resource books are a good investment. Some are available to download an electronic version. An extensive list of food composition resources is available from the USDA National Agriculture Library.

On a smaller scale, you can order a pocket guide from the American Association of Kidney Patient. It gives potassium, phosphorus, sodium and protein values for many commonly eaten foods.

Nutrition Databases

As a USA taxpayer, you have invested in a nutrient database that is available to anyone without charge. You can download the USDA nutrient database directly to your computer desktop and easily look up foods. Almost all the foods in this database contain potassium and phosphorus values, and it is updated once a year. One drawback is you won’t find  brand name and restaurant foods, but many generic descriptions can be found. I keep the most recent version right on my computer desktop so it is easy to access and use.

Another quick look-up tool is the Food Analyzer on DaVita.com. Keep this tool in your favorites to easily look up thousands of food. This special database has a filter to only include items with potassium and phosphorus, a feature missing from many online food analysis tools.

Looking for more? DaVita Diet Helper is a no-charge online meal planner with already planned menus, a Food Analyzer and Nutrition Log. You can  track the foods you eat and instantly see nutrient totals, including calories, protein, carbohydrate, sugars, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, fiber, sodium, potassium, phosphorus and calcium. Your data is saved and automatically broken down into meals, snacks and daily total. There are other online meal planners, but Diet Helper has two features that are missing from other planners. It is based on protein, potassium, sodium and phosphorus instead of calories to provide customized meals for kidney diets; plus all the foods in the database contain values for all the above nutrients, unlike some programs that do not include potassium and phosphorus for all foods.

Nutrition Software Programs  

You can purchase nutrient software programs that have additional features like diet and exercise analysis, scoring systems, weight trackers, menu planners, and recipe features. These programs usually include the USDA database as well as generic, brand name and restaurant foods. There are many simple, easy to use programs, such as Dine Healthy, or a number of other software programs at the Nutrition and Food Web Archive. You can get more bells and whistles from larger programs like The Food Processor  or Compu Food Analysis. A Google search will reveal many options and information on nutrition software programs.

There’s an App for That

In addition to the above resources you can find many apps for your smartphone or other devices. These apps make it much easier to track your food intake throughout the day and to have real-time data to help make decisions about what to eat on your kidney diet. Kidney Diet offers an app secifically for people following a kidney diet with a focus on protein, potassium and phosphorus.  

Regardless of the source you use to find out the nutrients in your food, learning and sticking to a kidney diet is easier when you have tools and resources to help you choose the best foods for your health.


Kidney diet resources from DaVita.com


December 14, 2011

My Favorite Things…Kidney Diet Goodies

I love holiday music, especially Carol of the Bells and My Favorite Things. I also love to discover new food products that are special because they’re only available this time of the year. I made a couple of ‘discoveries’ that could easily become favorite things from my local Trader Joe’s store this week (also available online).  I like shopping at TJ’s because they promise no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, no MSG and no trans fat. This means you can find kidney-friendly foods that are free of phosphate additives.

My first new holiday discovery is Speculoos Cookie Butter, described as “a deliciously unusual spread reminiscent of gingerbread and made with crushed biscuits”. Serving suggestions are to spread on pancakes, make cookie sandwiches, or use as a dip for celery or pretzels. Cookie Butter looks like a jar of peanut butter, spread smoothly like peanut butter, but the gingerbread-cinnamon-nutmeg flavor is out of this world! Because it’s free of nuts, the potassium and phosphorus are much lower than comparable nut spreads.  One tablespoon has 90 calories, 6 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrate and less than 1 gram protein. In addition, the cholesterol and sodium are zero. Okay, you may need help with stopping at 1 tablespoon—but keep in mind moderation is important to feeling good throughout the holidays). Read more…

November 7, 2011

An Apple a Day and Other White Foods for a Healthy Kidney Diet

We’ve all heard nutritionists promote health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, often by comparing the benefits to produce colors. ‘Eat the rainbow’, ‘Taste a rainbow of fruits and vegetables’ are used to remind us about produce benefits. Even if you are on a kidney diet limiting your potassium, it’s still important to eat a variety and include allowed portions of lower potassium fruits and vegetables each day. Read more…

September 30, 2011

Cantaloupe Recall- Kidney Patients Considered High Risk

Once again a message was sent out to alert consumers about contaminated food—this time cantaloupe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 72 people are ill and 13 people have died from eating listeria contaminated cantaloupe.

Listeria is an illness-causing bacteria similar to salmonella and E. coli, but more deadly. Most of the past listeria outbreaks are related to soft cheese and deli meats, but in the past 2 years there have been several produce-related outbreaks. Symptoms of listeria include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In some cases victims are unable to speak. Read more…

September 15, 2011

Flavored oils and vinegars: low sodium flavor for kidney diets

Do you ever find a new food or ingredient that you absolutely fall in love with and want to always have on hand? I had such an experience earlier this year when I attended a meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. Afterwords with some free time to explore, I discovered Outrageous Olive Oils and Vinegars, a wonderful shop that specializes in high quality extra virgin olive oils, flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world. I immediately thought how perfect for adding new and exciting flavors to a kidney diet or for anyone limiting sodium intake. Read more…

June 16, 2011

Sprouts: a health food linked to acute kidney failure and dialysis

When you read about causes of kidney failure, diabetes, high blood pressure and polycystic kidney disease are most likely mentioned. Rarely do you see E. coli infection listed. If predictions are right, this may be changing due to a hyper virulent strain of E. coli. In Germany this month, Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), a strain of harmful toxin-producing bacteria, caused over 2500 people to become ill; over 800 of them experienced a complication called hemolytic uremia syndrome (HUS), which affects the kidneys, blood and nervous system. Over 100 people will require lifelong dialysis or kidney transplant due to the infection, and at least 36 people have died. Bean sprouts from an organic farm in northern Germany were identified as the source of the E. coli bacteria. Read more…

May 19, 2011

Soy milk or cow’s milk: the best choice for kidney diets

This week one of my online friends sent a question about soy milk versus cow’s milk in the kidney diet. “Which is better for a person with chronic kidney disease?” was prompted when he substituted soy milk for cow’s milk in his favorite Starbuck’s coffee drink. Soy milk is made from soy beans, and any bean product is potentially a food high in potassium and high in phosphorus. Read more…

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