6 Renal-Friendly Ways to Eat Healthy During the Holidays

renal meals

You’re trying to figure out what your plans are for the holidays. Who’s hosting the holiday dinner? What restaurant menu has the best options for everybody attending? Or if you are on the hook to make the big meal or bring a dish to the feast, how do you make it healthy?

When you’re living with renal disease, you’ve got to think about your food choices a little differently than others, especially during the holidays. But you can still enjoy good food and all of the festivities. Here are six ways to make your Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner renal-friendly:

1. Cook at home more often

A lot of people dine out more often during the holidays, but when you have renal disease aim to cook at home more often. Why? Fast food and restaurant meals are often made with added sodium and phosphorus, which you should avoid or limit. And that’s easy to do when you cook at home using fresh ingredients or enjoy one of these Renal-Friendly meals.

2. Swap the salt for herbs and seasonings

Before renal disease, you may have thought salt was a universal ingredient to bring out the flavors in foods. But you want to avoid or limit sodium to protect the remaining kidney function you have left. And you can, without sacrificing taste. Just season your food with herbs and spices instead, using  garlic, basil, rosemary, oregano, or other herbs and spices. Here’s an example. Try the Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce, Lentils with Onion & Garlic, Vegetable Blend.

3. Give potatoes a chance

You might think this is an off-limits food when you have renal disease, because it’s high in potassium. And that’s a problem during the holidays when it’s a staple food at the dinner table. But it doesn’t have to be. If you double-boil potatoes, or soak them in water overnight, you can cut the potassium content in half. Or try one of the Renal-Friendly breakfast meals made with sweet potatoes.

4. If you choose to eat dessert, choose wisely

During the holidays, it’s not hard to find chocolate treats and desserts or baked goods made with nuts. But those aren’t Renal-Friendly desserts, because they tend to be high in potassium. Fortunately, you can still indulge your sweet tooth with lower-potassium desserts like apple pie, bread pudding, cobbler, or snickerdoodle cookies.

5. Read the food label first

If you’re grocery shopping or ordering from a restaurant menu, read the food label or check for nutrition facts about your meal. Restaurant chains are required to provide nutrition facts onsite and/or online. What should you look for? Sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. These are three primary ingredients you need to avoid or limit when you have renal disease.

6. Make meal time a social event

Who says you have to stuff your face and eat until you feel the need to loosen your belt? That’s no way to enjoy the holidays. Take time to enjoy your food. Chew every bite. Savor the textures, tastes, and flavors. And instead of rushing to shovel in the next bite, have a conversation and enjoy spending time with your family and friends.

Don’t forget to take medications for renal disease, especially if you’re traveling during the holidays. Make time for exercise, like taking a walk after dinner. And if you’re not sure what to eat or what to avoid to protect your kidneys, ask your doctor or dietitian for help.