March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Working hard to filter out and prevent buildup of fluid and waste, your kidneys are your body's lifeline to good health. Besides acting as a filtration system, your kidneys play a key role in bone and heart health, as well as in the balance of acid and alkaline in your body. What happens when they start to fall short at performing these important tasks? Once damaged, kidneys have a difficult time sweeping away the waste and fluid formed from digestion and tissue turnover, causing a buildup in the blood stream. This leads to complications such as high blood pressure, anemia, weakened bones, declined nutritional status, as well as possible nerve damage.
A gradual decline in kidney function is known as chronic kidney disease, and there are five stages depending on how well the kidneys are working. Because the kidneys are unable to filter out waste at full capacity, diet becomes extremely important. Those with chronic kidney disease may need to limit protein and fluids, in addition to restricting salt, phosphorus and potassium. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help in making these diet changes a success, especially if you have other health conditions to consider. By working with a RDN, you'll learn how to get a balance of important nutrients in your diet.
Both Mind and Action
Be positive. Our brains are a powerful tool. By switching to a more positive mindset, you'll be excited about the food options that are still available to you. Concentrate on what you can have versus what you can't have. You'll find that the list of lower potassium foods is much longer than you thought.
Real food tip: Make a vibrantly-colored, antioxidant-rich fruit salad with raspberries, strawberries, grapes and blueberries. Toss with fresh lime juice and chopped mint.
Be creative. Take old favorites and put a new spin on them. Tomatoes may be high in potassium, but you don't have to give up salsa. Try fresh fruits as a fun swap. Instead of steaming, toss broccoli or cauliflower in olive oil and roast to caramelize and bring out their natural sweetness. Skip the store-bought salad dressings loaded with salt and make your own.
Real food tip: Try new topping alternatives for your tacos. Instead of cheese, try shredded carrots. Mix light mayonnaise with lime juice as a substitute for sour cream and use charred corn salsa for tomato salsa.
Plan ahead. Before making reservations, look at the menu before you dine out. Call the restaurant to ask how they can accommodate your dietary needs. Another tip, pack safe foods in your purse or bag in case of a "snack emergency."
Real food tip: Make your own snack mix. Combine dried cranberries, rice cereal squares, freeze-dried apples and low-sodium pretzels for a crunchy and sweet snack.
Experiment. It's easy to find yourself eating the same foods every day. Excite your palate by exploring the grocery store and picking up something new. From spaghetti squash to jicama, the opportunity to discover and try new foods is endless. Speak with the store's staff and consult a registered dietitian nutritionist to make sure the foods fit into your diet plan.
Real food tip: Jicama is crisp and refreshing. To use, peel and then slice or dice. Toss jicama into your favorite stir fry dish, salad or serve as sticks with dip for a snack.