Untraceable in origin, but generally assumed to hail from central or eastern Europe — pierogi have traditionally been filled with meat and garnished with bacon and sour cream. Nowadays, the pierogi can be streamlined with a choice of vegetable fillings and low-fat toppings. Continuing this new spirit of culinary adventure, DaVita dietitian, Christine, started with a family recipe and readied the venerable pierogi for its dialysis-friendly debut. Yes, Christine from Illinois offers you ... drum roll, please ... Pierogi with Sweet Cabbage and Mushroom Filling.
Christine was born and raised in Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois in Chicago. About her choice in major, she says, “I always had a strong interest in science. I also believed good nutrition had an impact on a person’s health and well-being. Later, I was impressed to learn the role of dietitians in helping patients manage diseases, such as diabetes. This led me to study Nutrition and Medical Dietetics.”
After a time as a hospital dietitian, Christine worked for two years with a nutrition support team. Then 16 years ago a position came open where she could use her clinical skills in a team approach to help patients manage chronic kidney disease, she transitioned to the renal field. She has been with DaVita at her current position for seven years. “Working in dialysis offers me the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds,” she says.
According to Christine, “The most challenging aspect of my job is keeping a fresh approach. I try to individualize a person’s eating plan according to their physical and cultural needs, and I try to communicate in a way that empowers. The most rewarding part of my job is teaching patients and their families to make appropriate choices that improve their quality of life on dialysis. It’s important that people enjoy eating while modifying their food choices, so they can feel well on dialysis and achieve optimal lab values. I feel I can make the most difference by treating each person with dignity and respect. I try to be approachable and caring.”
Christine also mentions the importance of patients educating themselves and being involved in their own care. “My patients enjoy visual presentations, food demonstrations and activities such as Phosphorus Bingo and Super Bowl Bingo. What I enjoy most about working with DaVita is my access to the many resources for patient education. There is a DaVita website just for dietitians called the Dietitian Connection that provides information I can give away to patients, and the DaVita.com website provides patients with additional recipes and dialysis information. We are so lucky to have an active Dietitian Team,” shares Christine.
Christine is constantly learning new things at her job. “I am frequently in awe of what patients can accomplish. I’m also impressed by new and interesting developments in the field of dialysis such as home hemodialysis,” she says. Her patients also provide inspiration, “Recently, one of our young patients was honored by the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities on behalf of the Snow City Arts Foundation in Chicago. She received the Coming Up Taller Award. The newspaper quoted our patient as saying, ‘Painting gives you something to think about other than your health. Painting caught my mind.’ This patient was presented the award by First Lady, Laura Bush,” beams Christine.
The best things about living in a big city are the culture and diversity it offers. Christine tells, “Our center houses peritoneal dialysis, home hemodialysis and in-center hemodialysis. We are in a quiet neighborhood, easily accessible by car and public transportation. The area is multicultural with many shops, bakeries and delis. My teammates are hardworking and enthusiastic. We like to celebrate cultural occasions such as Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and others. We like to celebrate with food. My teammates also reflect the diversity of the area. In addition to English, we have team members that speak Spanish, Polish, Russian, Italian, Hindi, Tagalog and Swahili.”
The pierogi is a multigenerational food, loved for centuries, and now deserving of its place on your kidney-friendly menu. Pierogi with Sweet Cabbage and Mushroom Filling was inspired by Christine’s family recipe and adapted for the dialysis diet especially for you.