Few things tickle our appetites and sense of nostalgia like the idea of a freshly baked pie cooling on the window ledge at Mom’s house. Michelle, a DaVita dietitian from Texas, has modified a traditional blackberry pie recipe to create the tasty and kidney friendly More Momma’s Blackberry Mountain Pie.
“I feel like I’m doing my best when I can help a dialysis patient or family member understand the renal diet; and how there are still many wonderful foods they can eat,” Michelle says.
More Momma’s Blackberry Mountain Pie is a perfect example of Michelle’s commitment to teaching people with chronic kidney disease how to satisfy their sweet tooth and still follow the kidney diet.
A super food superstar, blackberries pack a flavor punch and are naturally low in cholesterol, fat, sodium and, most importantly, potassium, which is limited for some on the dialysis diet. Michelle also replaces dairy with rice milk, which is lower in phosphorus and potassium than cow’s milk, also important for people following a kidney diet.
Michelle first modified the recipe when she was pregnant. “I found out I could not have dairy when breastfeeding my baby,” she says. “Instead of milk, I used rice milk, and instead of butter, I used margarine.” Michelle adds that she now keeps butter on the ingredient list because “it just tastes better,” and is actually quite low in phosphorus, despite the fact that it’s dairy.
Michelle’s upbringing was the perfect background for becoming a dietitian. “My mom raised us eating very healthful, home-cooked meals, so I was always interested in food and its relationship to disease prevention,” she comments. A talent for wholesome food clearly runs in the family, because the inspiration for this recipe was Michelle’s own grandmother-in-law, who goes by the affectionate moniker “More Momma.”
Raised in Virginia, Michelle’s career in the nutrition field has taken her all over the country. After college at Florida State University, she worked as a clinical dietitian in hospital outpatient dialysis clinics, which led to jobs in Chicago and eventually Texas. “When I moved to Chicago, I decided to look for only renal positions, as it was what I enjoyed doing,” she states.
A registered dietitian with DaVita for the past six years now, Michelle finds her job endlessly rewarding. “I love when patients are happy to receive good labs, or when I’m able to help them get their medications,” she says. “Being a renal dietitian allows you to really get to know your patients, since you see them multiple times a week.”
She also loves the supportive environment at DaVita. “My teammates are awesome to work with!” she enthuses. “Everyone pulls together and helps each other out.” As for the dialysis center, Michelle thinks it’s beautiful. “I’ve worked in a lot of different clinics in three different states, and this one is by far the best.”
Michelle’s approach to working with her patients is a combination of offering a compassionate ear, and empowering them to become proactive about their health. “I try my hardest to listen to each patient’s concerns, and I find it important to educate with visual tools,” she notes. She brings in actual food labels in order to teach her patients how to look for phosphorus and phosphorus additives.
Although phosphorus is an important mineral found in many foods that help with bone development, too much of it is dangerous for people with kidney disease. Phosphorus is limited in the kidney diet because kidneys are no longer able to eliminate it from the body. High phosphorus levels can lead to problems with bones and heart function. Michelle helps her patients learn to identify foods that naturally contain phosphorus. She also teaches them the different names for phosphorus additives that are in processed and prepackaged foods such as: phosphoric acid, dicalcium phosphate and monocalcium phosphate, among others that can appear on package ingredient labels. “It seems to hit home with the patients when they can visually see an ingredient label,” she adds.
While Michelle stresses the benefits of preparing homemade meals as opposed to dining out or eating processed foods, she recognizes that this is often much easier said than done. She finds creative ways to teach patients the ins and outs of kidney-conscious shopping and cooking. “We are getting ready to do a grocery store tour with our patients, and they are very excited,” she says.
But even dedicated health care professionals including Michelle and her teammates at DaVita know how to take time out for fun. One of her fondest memories working at the dialysis clinic is when they had a Phosphorus Baseball game three years ago that included both patients and staff. “Each team came up with their own names – The Bone Crushers and the Renagel® Renegades,” she says. “The team who finally won received t-shirts with their team name and colors.” Evidently, Michelle wasn’t the only person who was moved by the event, because to this day, the winners still wear their team shirts.
You can hit your own home run with Michelle’s delicious recipe for More Momma’s Blackberry Mountain Pie. This scrumptious dessert is sure to be a crowd-pleaser and it’s lower in potassium and phosphorus so it’s a pie that can be enjoyed on the dialysis diet.