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Kidney Food

Kidney Food

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Kidney Food

Kidney Food and effectsWhat is Kidney Food? How often do we think about the effect a cheeseburger has on our kidneys?

Usually, we are captured by the thought of biting into this delight; dreaming of a juicy sirloin burger dripping down our chin.

The thought-the absolute excitement of this craving is so powerful that calculating the damage to an already distressed kidney is the last thing on a kidney patient’s mind.

And sure, once in a while everything in the food court is an option, but kicking the fast food habit is, to many, like quitting smoking. And the companies advertising 99 cent meals know that once we are in sight, once the craving begins, we are pliable consumers for them. Fat, sodium, carbs.

Human Beings love this stuff, but to many kidney patients this is not kidney food. In fact, this type of food can be deadly. Let’s look at some of it.

Potatoes Tomatoes Spinach

Ultra high in potassium, potatoes are off the list for many kidney patients. I know they taste good, especially grilled hash browns–the kind you get at a diner, but impaired kidneys cannot handle added potassium and potatoes are loaded with potassium. The same holds true for tomatoes, including tomato sauce. There goes spaghetti for dinner. And remember when you mom told you to eat your spinach? Well, if you are in kidney trouble, then you’d better ask your dietician about these items.


Potassium is a mineral and one of it’s main functions is nerve control. When my son was in kidney failure, his hands shook constantly and eliminating potassium as much as possible was one of my missions. I knew we were giving up other essential vitamins, but keeping the heart beating on a regular basis was priority one. Potassium does this and since excess amounts could not be eliminated through urine, we just cut it out of the diet as much as we could. Other foods high in potassium include the delicious avocado. When we moved into our home, we noticed the neighbor in the adjoining back lot had an avocado tree which may someday grow over the wall, into our yard and into our hearts. A fabulous fat to eat, kidney patients will likely avoid the splendor of avocados. They will also give up dairy, which includes ice cream and milk. Bummer, I know!

Confused Kidney Chef

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Confused Kidney Chef

Confused Kidney ChefIf you have a family member in renal failure, you will experience times when you are a confused kidney chef. Most parents start off without any confusion, but as our kids age, we seem to get closer and closer to the sidelines until, one day we simply get lost. Out of bounds, we can’t remember names, conversations or where we left the car keys. Our kids relish in this and ever opportunistic, they will use these lapses against us until one day we begin to believe that we really are losing our minds.

Though Michael was very sick and I was focused on his health and well-being, I wasn’t getting much sleep and learning to be a kidney chef was not nearly as much fun as reducing a bourbon glaze. Chief among my problem at the beginning of the nutrition cycle was the issue of protein.

Contingent on factors such as weight and gender, pregnancy and other health issues, Michael was going to need about 45-50 grams per day. Too much consumption would place an even greater burden on his kidney’s and too little would weaken him. Our choices were slim because of a kidney patient’s restrictive diet. It was no wonder I was stumped and a confused kidney chef.

Green vegetables are about 50% protein, but most of these choices were off the table because of potassium. Spinach would have been a great staple because 2 cups are over 10 grams of protein. Cross that one off the list. Same with brown rice, about 5 grams of protein per cup and the big, obvious choice for vegans everywhere, lentils.  One cup of lentils contain a whooping 16 grams of protein, but kidney patients like Michael are supposed to avoid any beans due to high amounts of phosphorus.

I don’t want to seem like a nutritionist or a dietician because I am not. I was a confused kidney chef, who had a son in kidney failure and I was trying to provide good nutrition because I knew that our only goal was to get him a kidney transplant as soon as possible. He hated vegetables as a kid, and loved chicken. His protein source was going to be chicken, lean beef, salmon, eggs. This is what I knew how to prepare and although tofu would have been another choice, he hated (hates) tofu and I had no idea how to make it taste good.

I was no longer confused.