“...I feel like I’m fighting for my life”
Were the exact words of Jamie Davis when his doctor told him he had kidney disease. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease. His kidneys were working at only 36%. You may have felt the same way when you heard the news about your condition.
Like Jamie, you may feel confused. Why is this happening to me?
Or angry, because you did not deserve this.
And frustrated, because you don’t really know what you can do about it...
To make matters worse, the doctor said that if Jamie didn’t start a kidney-friendly diet, his kidneys might fail completely. He would then need to prepare himself for dialysis. Only, the doctor did not have time to explain what a kidney friendly diet actually is!
Back home, Jamie did what any of us would do and went looking for answers online.
He thought that it was going to be as easy as clicking the search button, but it was more confusing for him knowing different sources were contradicting each other. With that, he didn’t know which one to believe in order to get started.
But luckily, after going through countless blogs, forums and groups, he managed to find RenalTracker in one of our blogs. From there, he took action and applied for a slot, hopped on a call with us, and told us what his goal was: To get the support he needs to start a kidney-friendly diet to avoid dialysis.
And that’s where our coaching program began – by letting him know what a kidney-friendly diet is and what it consists of.
His first question was: What’s the difference between a kidney diet and a regular diet?
An important difference is the nutrient restrictions. If you’re healthy, this means the diet is balanced, adequate in nutrients, moderate in all foods, and includes a variety of foods and can focus on calorie control.
A kidney diet is usually low in Sodium, Potassium, Protein, and Phosphorus (SPPP). So, just in case someone asks you the difference between the two, you already know what to tell them
But we’ll shortly talk about SPPP later. For now, I’m going to tell you exactly what I told Jamie on how to get started.
Let’s start with the most pragmatic, you can actually apply them by next dinner time.
1. Use smaller plates, bowls, or cups
Think of it this way, if you use a smaller plate, it gives you the illusion that the food you have in front of you is a lot. When in fact, you are actually taking in smaller portions than how you used to eat.
2. Measure your food
If you don’t have measuring cups, you can use your hands to measure your food.
If you look at your hand, the size of your meat, fish, and poultry should only be 3-4 ounces which is the size of your palm.
For butter, margarine, mayonnaise, and oil, you can compare it to the size of your fingertip-size index finger.
If you like salad dressing, sour cream, cream cheese, peanut butter, and hard cheese, you need to limit it to 1-2 tablespoons. You can compare it to your thumb for this.
For cereal, casseroles, fresh fruit, raw vegetables or even salads, you only need one cup which is the size of your palm.
For pasta, rice, beans, potatoes, cooked vegetables, pudding, and ice cream, you can only have half a cup of each. Which should be about the size of your one cupped hand.
Lastly, your tiny cravings for chips, crackers, and pretzels, should only be limited to 1 ounce which is your two cupped hands.
But it’s important to consult your dietitian first regarding these because some of them may not be advisable for you to use or to eat.
3. Eat lighter
If you find yourself at a gathering or buffet where there is a lot of food displayed on the table, I just want you to remember to only pick kidney-friendly foods (which I will discuss next time).
Pick the kidney-friendly ones and don’t forget the first two tips I gave you which is to use smaller plates and measure your food.
4. Limit your Sodium, Potassium, Protein, and Phosphorus (SPPP)
For this part, I cannot give you a specific list as to what certain foods you need to limit because this still mainly depends on what stage you’re in. So again, always consult your dietitian first.
However, I will give you an idea as to what you should be eating:
The best way to cut down on your sodium intake is to choose fresh ingredients when cooking. You need to also replace some foods with unprocessed, low-sodium ones, like the following:
Limiting protein foods to smaller portions is essential in protecting your kidneys. But you must consult a dietitian about how to choose the right protein for you.
Remember that there are two general types of protein to choose from:
1. High-value proteins refer to the protein you get from animal sources like the following:
2. Low-value proteins refer to the protein you get from plant sources. Vegetables, cereals, beans, bread, rice, and pasta or noodles are some good examples.
To maintain a healthy diet, it’s important to strike a good balance between these two.
Salt substitutes are often high in Potassium. Be sure to read the ingredient label or check your provider about using salt substitutes. Also, drain fruits and vegetables before eating.
In general, any food that contains more than 200 mg potassium per serving is high in Potassium.
So, you’ll have to find lower potassium foods (USDA values per 100 g). Like:
As suggested by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), the ideal phosphorus intake limit for people with kidney conditions is 800-1000 mg daily. But limiting this nutrient is easier said than done.
You see, most of the things that we enjoy are actually high-phosphorus food items, especially milk and dairy products such as ice cream, puddings, or yogurt. Meat and protein foods are also phosphorus-rich. But don’t worry, as there are low-phosphorus alternatives, such as these:
*USDA values per 100 g, Almond Milk values from 1 cup (262 g) serving
If you want to know more alternatives, I’ll show you how you can access them in the end.
5. Replace your pantry
I want you to say goodbye to the junk food, chocolate, cookies, and etc. Get rid of the foods that you used to love eating and replace them with kidney-friendly foods.
Trust me, you will feel a lot better when you do.
Now, those were the 5 Tips on How to Start a Kidney-Friendly Diet. Of course I’m not expecting that you’ll get it right the first try, all I’m asking you to do is to really try your hardest, like Jamie did.
Fast forward to 3 months after -- He not only lost 33 pounds, but he was able to improve his GFR from 36 to 57! He feels so much lighter and better. He’s now more confident than ever when it comes to dieting.
At every step of the process, it was important for both of us that he had something most patients who don’t have: self-assured confidence that what they were doing was right.
During the last visit to his doctor, he was so happy to report the good news! Here’s a screenshot of his email he sent us:
And not just him, here are a few others who have successfully avoided dialysis as well through our coaching program:
You can achieve the same results like Jamie, all you have to do is take action.
Here’s what you can do starting today:
If you want to know more about how he did it, you can click here to watch: How to avoid dialysis like jamie