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By DaVita dietitian Rebecca Brosch, RD, LD
Most of us are looking for ways to make budget-conscious decisions. Most dialysis patients may assume that their kidney-friendly diets lead to higher food costs. Actually, similar to any special diet, it all depends on making wise choices. The following suggestions can help you lower food costs and still follow your renal diet.
Your dietitian may have already recommended that you remove the salt shaker in your pantry to help limit sodium in your kidney diet; however, there are many foods containing sodium that you’ll want to limit or avoid. Canned vegetables are a high source of sodium. Consider purchasing frozen vegetables that can help you avoid most of the sodium and the potential money waste that may occur if you purchase fresh vegetables that go bad before you eat them.
If you do purchase canned vegetables, because they can cost less or may be on sale, look for labels that say “no added salt” or “low sodium.” You can rinse some salted canned vegetables under running water for at least one minute to help reduce sodium.
Other sources of sodium are convenience foods. These are foods that you find in the middle of the grocery store aisles that are pre-packaged and usually only require heating to prepare. Although these foods can be time savers, you are paying a high price for this convenience with your money and your health. Instead of buying pre-packaged foods or fast foods, try cooking at home. You can find recipes on the DaVita.com recipe section including convenience-type foods with low sodium content. Search for “Budget” and “Easy” recipes using the “Browse tags” feature at DaVita.com/Recipes.
Some dialysis patients are instructed by their dietitian or doctor to limit potassium in their kidney diet, while others are not, depending on their dialysis type and lab values. The highest sources of potassium are from fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce can be expensive and lead to waste if you don’t eat it right away. You may want to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk quantities only when you are sure it will be consumed. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Grocery stores tend to put what is in season on sale because it is plentiful. Check out grocery store flyers for which fresh fruits and vegetables are on sale each week. Try to avoid pre-cut and pre-washed fruits and vegetables, which tend to be more expensive because you are paying for this convenience.
Canned fruits and vegetables will not spoil and some are going to be lower in potassium than the fresh variety. Draining the liquid from canned fruits can help lower potassium intake.
Frozen fruits and vegetables that are lower in potassium and recommended for your kidney diet are also a great cost savings option, as you don’t have to use them right away and can use only the portion you need.
Convenience foods often contribute to higher food costs and can wreck your kidney diet. The preservatives added to increase convenience foods’ shelf life can cause them to have higher phosphorus content, which is restricted on a dialysis diet. Milk and dairy products are high in phosphorus. Purchasing milk substitutes, such as nondairy creamers or non-enriched rice beverages, are not as expensive as you may think. In many cases the cost difference may be one or two cents per ounce more for the milk substitutes. Check the price per unit in your grocery store to compare the difference.
People on dialysis require good quality protein in their diets. Try to stay away from pre-cooked meats, for these are typically more expensive than fresh meats. Pre-cooked meats may also be high in sodium and phosphorus. You can buy an entire chicken, for example, cut it up and freeze it in sections for multiple meals. Purchasing a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself can be more affordable than buying pre-cut chicken pieces.
Eggs are a great protein source and may be the best protein bargain. You can purchase 12 ounces (a dozen eggs) for only a few dollars, which is such a value for a great protein source.
Here are some shopping strategies to help you stretch your food dollar and get the best quality food for your kidney diet:
DaVita Diet Helper™ is a great tool that can help you achieve some of the outlined shopping strategies. This online meal planning tool will provide you with kidney-friendly meal plans for up to two weeks, along with a shopping list that can be adapted based on what you already have in your pantry. This helps eliminate waste, which helps you stick to your budget. The meal plan menus can be modified to maximize items on sale. For instance, there may be a sale on ground beef. So, you could choose to make meatballs for one meal, beef tacos another day and meatloaf the next.
DaVita.com’s recipe section has more than 500 kidney-friendly recipes and more recipes are added every week. These recipes are submitted by DaVita renal dietitians and are limited in phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Here are a few budget recipe ideas for a dialysis diet:
Following your dialysis diet does not have to be expensive. You can put together budget meals that are kidney-friendly. These tools and strategies may be proof that you can be healthy and stick to your budget when you are on a renal diet.
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