Kidney Diet Tips

Tips for a Kidney-Friendly Holiday Season

Wooden table with holiday lights and ornaments

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, or another holiday, the holidays are always a special time of year. The holidays are a time of family gatherings, decorations, gifts and, of course, food. Even though this year may be different with social distancing, masks and Zoom gatherings, keeping your health in focus is important. Staying healthy during the holidays can be confusing and overwhelming. Prepare for a kidney-friendly holiday season by following these simple tips.

Take your binders.

Phosphorus is a mineral that helps our body form teeth and bones, get oxygen to tissues, move muscles and so much more. It is found in many foods like dairy products, nuts, seeds, meats, chocolate and more. It can also be added to foods and beverages like dark-colored sodas, packaged snack foods and frozen TV dinners. Depending on how much phosphorus you eat on a daily basis, the phosphorus levels in your blood can sometimes get too high. Over time, high phosphorus can lead to bone and heart problems that can be serious.

One way to control the phosphorus levels in your blood is to take your phosphate binders with every meal and snack as prescribed. If you are traveling to a socially distanced family function, bring your binders with you in a zip-top bag, pill holder or a small handbag. When you are enjoying your holiday meal at home, keep your bottle of binders by your place setting or in your kitchen to make it easier for you to remember to take. If you love to munch on appetizers, carry some binders with you in your pants pockets and take one with your hors d’oeuvres. Make sure you are ahead of the game by taking your binders this holiday season.

Be mindful of portion sizes.

Whether you are doing the cooking from the comfort of your own home, or attending a family gathering out of town, being mindful of what is being served and how much you are eating is important. Some holiday dinner staples may include ham, turkey, roast chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potato or pumpkin pie, yams, gravies, soups and chocolate candy or cookies. While these foods are delicious, they may be high in sodium, potassium or phosphorus. Eating these holiday foods in moderation will help you stick to a kidney-friendly diet while still enjoying them. For example, when choosing to eat high-potassium foods like potatoes, latkes, greens, chickpeas, sweet potato pie or chocolate desserts, be sure to serve yourself small portions of these items. If you are making latkes for your Hanukah celebration, try making broccoli onion latkes for a lower potassium option. You can satisfy your cravings but won’t overdo it!

Build a balanced plate.

Filling your plate with only mashed potatoes and apple pie for your holiday meal might sound tempting, but it won’t leave you feeling great for long. Try building a balanced plate by choosing kidney-friendly options from your holiday dinner table. Start with a high-protein food, like turkey, pork chops or roast chicken. Aim for about 3 ounces of a protein food to keep you full and satisfied.

Next, try choosing low-potassium fruits and vegetables to fill half of your plate. These foods could be roasted cauliflower and broccoli, roasted Brussels sprouts, green beans, fruit salad, cranberry sauce or a tossed salad. Lastly, if your table offers more starchy options like noodles, rice, challah bread, or a dinner roll, add one of these to your plate to help fill you up. Of course a holiday dinner is not complete without a delicious cookie, bread pudding, or candy cane! Having a treat like a cookie or slice of warm apple pie can fit into a kidney-friendly diet. Be mindful of your portion sizes and enjoy your treat without guilt.

Choose low-sodium options.    

A big holiday meal can be high in sodium, which can lead to serious blood pressure and fluid issues for your body. If you are doing the cooking for your holiday dinner, check your seasonings twice. Opt for Mrs. Dash® herb seasoning blends or fresh herbs to add flavor to your dishes. If you are going to a family member or friend’s house for the holidays, try bringing your own low-sodium seasonings to add your own flavor in a kidney-friendly way. Remember to buy canned vegetables that are labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added,” as salt is often added to these foods. When possible, use fresh or frozen produce for your holiday meal. Ham, a Christmas favorite, is very high in sodium and should be limited when possible. Choose a lower-sodium meat like low-sodium seasoned pork or roast chicken.

For your Kwanza celebration, choosing a spicier dish like spicy seafood etouffee is helpful because the spice adds flavor and heat, instead of salt! Another tip for sticking to a low-sodium diet during the holidays is to ask for the sauces on the side. Whether it is gravy or a cheesy sauce, put it on the side of your plate to dip in instead of pouring it on top of your meal. You will use less sauce this way and keep your meal lower in sodium.

Here are some great kidney-friendly recipes for your holiday meal!

Additional Kidney Diet Resources

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.

Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN

Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN

Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN has been a dietitian for three years, working in the acute-care, long-term care, and dialysis settings. She is a Philadelphia-based dietitian who loves to travel, bake, and spend time with her two cats Chia and Mr. Flax. Kellsey has a passion for helping others learn more about all things nutrition-related!