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Kidney Diet on a Budget

Many of your patients may assume that following a special diet means spending more money on food. However, this is not always the case. Sharing the tips listed below with your patients can help them to make budget-conscious decisions when following a kidney diet.

Plan ahead.

Planning meals ahead of time can be helpful in lowering food cost, reducing food waste, and helping one stay on track with a kidney diet. DaVita has a diet and nutrition webpage that is a great, free resource to help patients plan kidney-friendly meals. In addition to more than 1,000 kidney-friendly recipes, the webpage offers downloadable cookbooks, dining out guides and a food analyzer.

Shop the pantry or fridge first.

 Using foods already on hand, may help patients decrease their grocery bills. Suggest they look in their refrigerators for any foods that need to be eaten. They can then search on the DaVita diet and nutrition webpage to find recipes using these foods. They may already have all of the items needed to create a whole meal!

Leftovers can often be revamped into a whole new dish. For example, leftover chicken can be turned into a protein-packed chicken salad or soup. Leftover vegetables may be turned into a fiber-filled omelet. Ask patients to follow food safety guidelines when storing, reheating and consuming leftovers though.

Patients may want to stock up on pantry staples in bulk when they are on sale. White rice and pasta are good low-phosphorus carbohydrate options. Olive oil is a great way to add heart-healthy fats to a meal or make a flavorful salad dressing. Unsalted popcorn is a kidney-friendly, high-fiber snack that can be flavored many different ways. Canned tuna or chicken is great to use for a quick, protein-packed salad.

Canned vegetables have a long shelf life, but they can be a high in sodium. Remind patients to look for labels that say “low sodium” or “no added salt” when shopping. If a low-sodium option is not available, the canned vegetables can be rinsed under running water for one minute to remove some of the sodium.

Go meatless for a meal.

Meat is often the most expensive part of a meal. Replacing meat with a protein-packed vegetable can be a more cost effective alternative.

Some research may differ, but there is increasing research that shows that there are many potential health benefits of following a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets can potentially lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They have also been shown to slow the progression of chronic kidney disease, improve blood pressure, and reduce acid load. However, it is important to note that some meat substitutes may contain large amounts of sodium and phosphorus. Advise patients to read food labels, use a food analyzer such as the DaVita food analyzer, or talk with a dietitian to decide if a food fits their dietary needs. The DaVita diet and nutrition webpage also has several delicious, kidney-friendly, plant-based recipes.

Buy generic.

Brand-name items can be significantly more expensive than generic items. Inform patients that generic or store-brand items are often no different than brand-name items in terms of quality, nutrition and flavor, but they should always read the food labels when comparing items.

Shop in season.

In-season produce typically has better flavor, higher nutrient content and lower price tags than produce that is out of season. Grocery stores often put in-season fruits and vegetables on sale because they have a larger supply at that time. Suggest patients check their local grocery store flyer for weekly sales. (Patients who have been advised to limit their potassium intake should consult a dietitian on which fruits and vegetables are low in potassium.)

Buying locally grown produce at the farmers market may also be option for patients and is a great way to support their local farmers. By visiting the market right before it closes for the day patients may be able to get a better deal. Farmers may be willing to discount their unsold produce at the end of the day rather than take it all back home with them.

Prevent food waste.

Some leftover dishes like soups and casseroles can be frozen for later use. Vegetables can often be blanched (placed in boiling water for one minute then rinsed with cold water) and frozen. Fruits such as peaches or berries can be frozen and used later for smoothies. Adding frozen fruit instead of ice to smoothies can create a thick, creamy smoothie without extra fluid.

Natalie Sexton, MS, RDN, CSR, LD

Natalie Sexton, MS, RDN, CSR, LD

Natalie Sexton, MS, RDN, CSR, LD, is a registered dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition. She has worked in many different healthcare settings but found her passion in renal nutrition and education. Natalie resides in East Texas with her husband, newborn son and two dogs. During her personal time, she enjoys gardening, crafting and working on her family’s farm.