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Tips for Healthy Holidays

Being on a restricted diet can feel overwhelming. It can be even more difficult in a social situation, since many parties and events center around food. "We are committed to giving patients delicious dishes with bold flavors," says Robin Russell, lead dietitian for FMCNA's North Texas region. "But too much of a good thing can be as harmful as eating the wrong things."  Robin suggests that people on dialysis think about balance - visually and nutritionally - as they fill their plates:

Colors:  Aim for an assortment of colors on your holiday plate, like greens, oranges, and browns.  A colorful plate can also help balance nutrients like protein, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and carbohydrates.

Textures:  A mix of crisp and crunchy with smooth and creamy can help avoid too many fried foods, potatoes, rice or dairy

Flavors:  Choose foods that complement each other, like sweet, tart, savory.  Variety can help balance nutrients.

Portions:  Avoid over-filling your plate by leaving some space between foods.  Eating to excess can not only make you feel stuffed, but can lead to dangerous blood levels of potassium, sugar and phosphorus; too much sodium will make you more thirsty.

Party Survival Tips

Most of us are tempted by food around the holidays. However, for people on special diets because of health reasons such as kidney disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, it can be harder to enjoy festivities while limiting foods that are less healthy. “Many of us are concerned about gaining weight from all the food around us during the holidays,” says Jessica Seymour, R.D., L.D.N., a dietitian with Fresenius Medical Care. “But for people with certain chronic illnesses, this isn’t just a matter of putting on a few pounds. Eating the wrong foods can be harmful to their health. With a little planning, however, they can enjoy social events while still making smart eating decisions.” Here are some helpful tips so you can enjoy holiday parties – and the food that comes with them.

Before the party:

  • Talk to your host to find out what is on the menu. If needed, offer to bring something you can eat and enjoy.
  • Make family and friends aware of your diet so they are able to serve foods that are healthy for you.
  • Talk with your dietitian about the foods that are important to you. He or she will help you learn how to include foods that are not usually on your diet.
  • Have a snack before the party, so you are not starving when you arrive.
  • Keep a food record so you can plan your sodium, fluid and potassium intake around the special event.
At the party:

  • Limit temptation—move away from the buffet table!
  • Know your diet so you can make wise food choices. Choose lower sodium, potassium and phosphorus foods from what is offered.
  • Some fruits are high in potassium and phosphorus. Talk to your dietitian, who can help you make smart choices.
  • Eating too many of the low potassium fruits, such as cherries, blueberries, strawberries and grapes, can cause you to have too much potassium in your blood. This can stop your heart!
  • Avoid salty foods, as they can make you thirsty and want to drink more fluids.
  • Sauces and gravies are usually salty and full of fat. Limit the amount you have by putting them “on the side.”
  • At a buffet or cocktails, keep a plate with a napkin on it in one hand, and a cup in the other. This will help to limit the urge others may have to tell you to eat and drink more.
  • Eat enough food, but not too much—make conversation away from where the food is stationed.
  • If you are able to drink alcohol on your diet (talk to your doctor or dietitian), make sure you limit it, and avoid mixers that are high in potassium and phosphorus.
  • Take your phosphate binders. Your dietitian can help you know when to take this medication and if you need to adjust them to the amount of food you will eat.

When planning your own party:
  • If you’re cooking or planning the food for a party, use renal-friendly substitutions in your recipes, such as:
    • Non-dairy creamer instead of milk.
    • Leave out salty ingredients.
    • Soak potatoes.
    • Add extra spices and herbs for more flavor.

  • Ask your dietitian to recommend a kidney-friendly cookbook or visit our Recipe Center for more ideas.
  • Food safety is very important:
    • Wash your hands before eating.
    • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.