Learning to Live with CKD: Managing Diet
Part 2 Managing the Kidney Diet
This is the second part of a blog by Mary Jane, who shares her and her husband’s journey with CKD and managing the kidney diet.
My husband was diagnosed with CKD stage 3 at the age of 66. We spent 12 years making gradual changes in our way of eating, checking in with his nephrologist and managing his condition. Fast-forward to today. He finally sold his truck and retired a year ago, reluctantly. His energy had decreased so much, and when he came home on the weekends, he was exhausted. He is now 78 and had driven a truck for forty-seven years. He agreed it was time.
Then in May of this year, his glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was suddenly 18. I knew then we had to get serious. It was rechecked a couple of weeks later and it was 15. In a panic, I spent days on the internet looking for help, since the hospital and doctor we use no longer have renal dietitians on staff, due to cost-cutting measures. It was then I found DaVita’s website and the many helpful resources. The DaVita Diet Helper™ Planner & Tracker, in particular, changed our lives.
I am 72 and not very computer savvy, but I can navigate the DaVita site easily, and I quickly learned how to plug in the diet parameters the doctor had given me, and plan our day’s meals. It became a game I actually enjoyed. When my husband’s nephrologist did one more lab test, he said he thought he had been a little dehydrated and needed to increase his fluids, to decrease his potassium more, and he changed his blood pressure medicine a little. That lab test put him back at a GFR of 18, and almost all the other areas of the test were improved.
That was over a month ago, and I am utilizing the Diet Helper daily. We have found we can have most of our favorite foods prepared much like we always had them, with a few modifications, and I’m discovering more all time. Chicken fajitas? Sure! Meat loaf? Of course! Sausage breakfast burritos? Yes, would you like two?
We have slipped into a routine since my husband retired. He liked to eat a late breakfast when he was driving the truck for work, and then have a big meal in the early evening. This works nicely for us now. We frequently have a cup of coffee with a snack in the afternoon.
I plan the day using the Diet Helper Planner &Tracker. I first enter the non-variables, like the four cups of coffee he will drink during the day, then breakfast, and a snack for the afternoon; anything from Jell-O® with fruit in it and Cool Whip® on top, to the Lemon Blueberry Bread on the DaVita recipe site, to an old family cake or pie recipe. Then, I start working on our big meal, considering what I have on hand. I enter the main dish, usually meat-based, and then add vegetables, salad, and anything used in the preparation, such as a teaspoon of butter and a teaspoon of brown sugar on top of baked butternut squash. I keep an eye on the nutrient totals, and adjust the amount of the serving or change the type of vegetable to keep the totals where they need to be. I use mainly fresh or frozen produce. It makes it all so easy using the Diet Helper on the site.
The My Creations feature on the Diet Helper has proven very useful to me. I recently ran across a recipe for a cake I used to make, and when I looked at the recipe, I thought it would never be acceptable on a kidney diet. However, I put it in, and when divided into fifteen servings, it worked fine! The servings were a reasonable size, considering the baking dish was 9”x13”. Sometimes the potassium or sodium or some other nutrient looks way too high to include, but when figured into the food for the day, it works.
I eat the same food my husband does, and I try to cook enough for two meals when I can. The lower salt content and the smaller portions have benefitted us both, and we have both lost weight. However, I ran into one problem. The 2,000 mg of potassium my husband is allowed was too little for me, and I did not recognize that until my energy level just bottomed out. When I increased my own intake of this nutrient, I immediately felt much better. Now, I just make sure to have some high potassium foods each day.
Coping with the diet aspects of kidney disease does not have to feel like a miserable, deprived experience. Concentrating on the things the patient CAN have, as opposed to what he or she cannot have, changes the attitude, which is of utmost importance. It is easily possible to eat delicious, nutritious meals, and yet remain within the guidelines set for a particular person. We no longer feel overwhelmed and confused. Thank you, DaVita for your wonderful help. We are proof positive old dogs can, indeed, learn new tricks.
I hope our story provides help and encouragement to others who are on their own journey living with kidney disease and the kidney diet. Add your comments and share your story here or in the myDaVita discussion forums.