A Journey to a Plant-Based Diet
One Sunday in early September 2019, I spent some quality time with my mother watching the documentary called “What the Health.” We didn’t research it before, so we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into with a plant-based diet. After watching the documentary my eyes were opened to the power of food and how it affects the body, but learning that what I eat can cause my body harm or bring healing made me realize, “if I’m going to die, I don’t want it to be my fault”.
After watching the documentary, I was prompted to do a good amount of overdue research on health and food. After reading a lot of articles and watching hours of videos, the research showed the potential healing powers of a plant-based/non-processed diet. I knew I wanted to try this out for myself. Learning that a plant based diet could possibly help prevent the acceleration or my mother’s chronic kidney disease really confirmed my choice to turn from my old eating habits and to just try something that could work. I decided a plant-based diet was the way to go for my desired lifestyle. As a mother of a hot-dog-loving 5-year-old boy and daughter to a beautiful woman who was newly diagnosed with stage four chronic kidney disease (CKD), I naturally dragged my family along for the ride. So I decided to cut out animal products to see how my body would react and not only mine but my mother’s body as well. While researching, I quickly learned that my mother could not indulge in every fruit and vegetable that I brought into the house. There were restrictions around potassium, phosphorus and fluid intake that we needed to keep in mind. So, we began to explore kidney-friendly options.
Soon enough, cooking and taste testing become a game for us! When my mother would cook, I would be her guinea pig. When I cooked, I would blindfold my son while he taste tested, and his feedback would make this process even more enjoyable. He always had the most honest reviews. Chickpea recipes initially were a favorite of ours, but we were worried about them being high in phosphorus and potassium and thought we would have to go in another direction. However, we learned that adopting a plant-based diet can offer more flexibility, since the animal protein is eliminated. We’ve found ways to continue incorporating chickpeas into our recipes while managing my mother’s diet and nutrition needs.
We googled “kidney friendly vegan recipes” and VOILA!, a link to DaVita’s
“Meatless Recipes for Kidney Diet” popped up. We had to tweak a few ingredients here and there to make everything vegan, but this has been a life saver – literally! Finding the balance between tasty and healthy was the key. Our favorite recipe from DaVita is the Crunchy Tofu Stir Fry. Honey, we have killed that recipe!
My advice for others seeking to adopt a plant-based diet, or simply add more plants into their current diet is that you can be healthy in many different ways – there is no one-size fits all solution. It may just take a little extra work, but you got this! Keep trying and testing new recipes to find what works for you.
When deciding what to eat, the key is knowing your “no-no” foods. Consult a renal dietitian and have an in-depth discussion on what foods you should avoid and discuss portion sizes. Always ask questions! Next, start with recipes that look and sound good! You want to enjoy this process. Make it fun by including family and friends. You don’t have to do it alone!
Once you have chosen your meals for the week make sure you buy enough ingredients. You don’t want to be tempted to run out and get something unhealthy that could undo your process, simply because you ran out of a particular item. Lastly, always carry more than enough food with you. I don’t know how many times I have purchased highly-processed fast food because I ran out of food on the go, or told myself, “I’m pretty sure I am going to be hungry later,” and packed some snacks, like I just became psychic or something!
After all the research was done it was really easy for me to go vegan, cold turkey. But, for my mother, a true carnivore, it was not so easy. For some this may be a longer process than others. Another tip is to not eliminate all of your favorites. Instead, try planning a “Favorites” day once week, then once a month, so you can indulge a little.
The end goal is to be the happiest, healthiest version of you. Be patient with yourself, be accepting with your progress and always have fun!
Learn more about the kidney-friendly diet by visiting DaVita’s Kidney Diet Tips blog.