Imagine the intoxicating smell of homemade bread! Now imagine baking perfect garlic bread without having to take the time or effort to knead it. You don’t even have to bake the bread the same day you make it. Thanks to DaVita dietitian Kris from Michigan, you can now easily bake up four loaves of savory garlic bread that’s kidney-friendly. What’s more, there’s absolutely no need to knead! And as an added bonus in today’s tough economy, you’ll be getting better bread for less “dough.”
Today Kris is happily working as a DaVita dietitian, but initially she’d planned a career as a veterinarian, since she loves animals and science, especially biology. However, after taking a long hard look at the cost and years of education required, she changed to speech and language therapy, and later to home economics. “I attended Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, as an undergraduate. Then I completed my master’s degree in community nutrition at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois,” says Kris.
“I love to cook and initially desired a position in a county home extension office. I’ve always gravitated toward opportunities to work with people on a long-term basis, such as in weight management and personal and corporate wellness,” explains Kris. “My family planned to move to Michigan, and I interviewed for an opening with the nephrology department at a Grand Rapids hospital. The position presented a huge learning curve, as we worked with chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage 4 and early stage 5 outpatients, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis (PD) clients. We also followed our dialysis inpatients, including those newly transplanted, and worked with the transplant patients after discharge. It was exciting to see how people’s lives could change.”
Kris says that the most challenging aspect of her job today is juggling the many priorities that come up. The most rewarding aspect is “seeing lives change for the better, or if that is not possible, knowing we teammates have enabled someone to spend more quality time with their families and friends. I truly enjoy getting to know patients, and I make a difference by seeing them as individuals with their own stories, versus taking a cookie-cutter approach to dietetics.”
Practicality is the key to this dietitian’s approach. “I try to be as practical as possible,” Kris explains. “Many years ago, we provided every patient with a structured menu plan. But, surprise! The majority of our patients do not pay much attention to this information — many of them are financially stressed and/or have low literacy skills. It’s more practical to meet them where they are, encourage change in the priority items, dose binders accordingly and nibble away at the other issues.”
The single most important thing patients can do to improve health, according to Kris, is realize they are personally responsible. They should be active members of their health care team and not feel dialysis is a short-term fix. “In order to feel better and make the most out of life, people should expect to work on lifestyle habits that may have contributed to kidney failure,” she adds.
An approach that has proven effective at her center is stocking the unit vending machine with renal-friendly, high-protein bars. “Many of our staff like them,” states Kris, “and our patients are also regular purchasers. We had to bargain with our vending machine owner, but he could see that the product was the first to sell out, and eventually stocked two sections with the bar, instead of just one. It is a much more nutritious choice than junk food for teammates and patients alike.”
Kris has been with DaVita for six years and in renal dietetics for nineteen years. She enjoys the wealth of excellent teaching resources that allow her to meet the needs of a variety of patients and their learning styles. Kris comments that the center has a colorful past history — it has been owned by four different corporations during her tenure. “We still have quite a few teammate ‘old timers’ who have stayed through the rough waters to see continual improvements made in patient care over those years. Some of our patients are also old friends, having been at our unit over the whole time. One of our most beloved patients celebrated her 90th birthday with us! We are an inner city unit with a diverse population. Life is never boring here.”
No Need to Knead Garlic Bread is just the latest in a collection of recipes that Kris shares with folks looking for appetizing foods that are kidney-healthy too. Her Quick ‘n’ Easy Cheese Dip is low in phosphorus, yet rich in protein and flavor, making it the perfect accompaniment to low-salt tortilla chips and raw veggies. Kris also modified a recipe for Greek Turkey Pitas so that it’s just right for those on the dialysis diet.
The next time you’re looking to perk up your eating plan, try one of the inviting kidney-friendly recipes from DaVita dietitian Kris from Michigan.