A guide to identifying dialysis-approved foods and talking to family about your health needs
Turkeys, cranberries, apple pie, casseroles—there’s bound to be a diverse spread of dishes at your Thanksgiving table. But as a peritoneal dialysis or home hemodialysis patient, how do you select food choices that keep your kidneys happy this holiday season?
In this guide, we explore the importance of sticking to your dialysis diet, successfully navigating the Thanksgiving table, traveling with dialysis, and helping family and friends help you so you can have a wonderful holiday.
Why is it Important to Watch What You Eat?
Monitoring the foods you eat is important for everyone, but particularly so for dialysis patients. Sticking to your dialysis-friendly diet makes your treatment much more comfortable and effective, and can even mean the difference between life and death.
We know–it’s hard to hold back when you see the Thanksgiving spread. But with a little advanced preparation and dialysis diet education, you’ll have no trouble enjoying the holidays.
It’s important to watch your phosphorous levels, as phosphorus can make it difficult for dialysis treatments to filter the blood. Excess phosphorus can cause weak bones, heart problems, joint pain, and skin ulcers in dialysis patients.
Potassium builds up in the blood between dialysis treatments. Avoiding potassium can prevent muscle weakness and even heart failure in dialysis patients.
Sodium causes the body to hold on to more fluids and raises your blood pressure. Consuming less sodium and drinking less fluid can help you feel more comfortable before and after dialysis.
Navigating the Thanksgiving Table
Keeping your phosphorus, potassium, and sodium intake down is key! But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the good stuff. There are many substitutions that are both dialysis-friendly and flavorful.
Dialysis-friendly vegetables include:
- Green and string beans
- Yellow squash
However, you don’t want to add these vegetables to your plate:
- Cooked asparagus
- Winter squash
- Tomatoes and tomato sauce
- Cooked spinach
Consuming an adequate amount of protein is important for home hemodialysis patients. Consult with your dietitian about how much protein you should eat, but generally most patients need a minimum of 6 to 9 ounces every day. That Thanksgiving turkey is safe to eat so long as it is seasoned with herbs and low-sodium flavorings. Do be mindful of your gravy intake, as it still counts as a fluid!
Nuts, seeds, and dried beans on the other hand should be avoided, as they are high in phosphorus and potassium.
Typically, it is advised to avoid dairy, which is high in phosphorus. Some low-phosphorus dairy products include:
- Butter and tub margarine
- Heavy cream
- Ricotta, brie, and cream cheeses
- Non-dairy whipped topping
However, some of these high-fat foods are not recommended for individuals with heart disease. Plan ahead by talking to your dietitian about your dairy intake before the holidays.
There are no restrictions on your grain intake, including cereals and breads, for dialysis patients unless you’re watching your weight. Do avoid foods that say “whole grain” and “high fiber” because these have higher levels of phosphorus than other grains.
Suitable Thanksgiving beverages include the following in moderation:
- Apple cider
- Cranberry juice cocktail
- Grape juice
- Ginger ale
Be sure to discuss your dessert choices with your dietitian if you are diabetic. They may recommend high-calorie desserts like pies, cookies, sherbert, and cake.
What About Leftovers?
The Thanksgiving feast doesn’t have to end after Turkey Day! There are many dialysis-friendly ways to prepare delicious and healthy leftovers.
- Turkey sandwiches
- Turkey and vegetable stir fry
- Homemade turkey pot pie
- Turkey salad
- Turkey and dumplings
Turkey Day Traveling with Dialysis
If you will be traveling over the holidays, be sure to notify your care team of your plans several weeks in advance. Traveling is often much easier for home hemodialysis patients, but it is still important to prepare.
Make sure that you have enough supplies and equipment for the length of your stay away from home. It may even be possible to arrange for your supplies to be transported before your trip. Don’t forget to talk to your hosts about setting up a clean, dialysis-friendly space to perform your treatments. Your care team can assist you in coordinating everything you’ll need for your trip.
In case of an emergency, it is important to know where the closest dialysis clinics are to your holiday stay. Carry all your medical information and the phone number for the clinic with you just in case.
Friends and Family of Dialysis Patients: How You Can Support Your Loved One
During the holidays, as with any other time of the year, it is important for friends and family of hemodialysis patients to recognize that the stresses and complications associated with kidney failure can be extremely difficult, even if your loved one doesn’t show it. Many hemodialysis patients do not want to feel like a burden to their families, so they do not always speak up about their needs.
As a loved one of a hemodialysis patient, there are several proactive steps you can take to ensure that your friend or relative receiving dialysis gets the physical and emotional care they need this Thanksgiving.
If you are hosting Thanksgiving, be sure to talk to your loved one and even the care team about their dietary needs and restrictions while you’re planning the menu. Having a variety of dialysis-friendly food options can help prevent medical emergencies for the patient and make them feel included.
Reach out to the care team to learn more about what the spatial requirements are for your loved one to perform dialysis treatment in your home. Set aside a space for their treatment before guests arrive.
Talk to your loved one about how they’re doing. Sharing feelings and experiences in an open and honest way helps maintain the closeness and health of your relationship.
With a bit of careful planning and consideration, you can create a safe, healthy, and supportive environment for your loved one undergoing hemodialysis. For more information on managing peritoneal or home hemodialysis treatment during the holidays, contact us at www.cincinnatihomedialysis.com or call us at 513-791-2137.
-Cincinnati Home Dialysis