Treat your sweet tooth to a pair of kidney-friendly delights from Karla, a renal dietitian from Kansas. Both recipes are quick and easy to prepare, and feature ingredients that are low-calorie and appropriate for the renal diet. Karla’s Creamy Grape Salad is a refreshing snack with room to grow – just pop in protein powder, and you’ve got a meal that packs a protein punch. Her Frozen Cranberry Dessert is a tasty substitute for ice cream, a great alternative for people watching their dairy intake to control phosphorus on the kidney diet. Cranberries are one of the top healthy foods people with kidney disease because they’re loaded with antioxidants.
Blending great tasting food and health care is essential in kidney care, and for Karla, achieving that delicate balance is a labor of love. “I love to cook, and I love helping people learn how to take care of themselves,” says Karla. “Being a renal dietitian allows me to do both.”
The southeast Kansas native studied dietetics at Kansas State University and was drawn to the renal field because “it is challenging, fast-paced and always changing.”
Karla’s work ethic is infused with that same sense of creativity and drive, and she makes a point of “keeping up with new nutrition information and the busy lives of my patients.” Not one to just scratch the surface, Karla likes the fact that her job allows her to work with her patients on an individual basis, and “really get to know their stories.”
Good communication is another key to working in dietetics, and Karla prioritizes that on the job. “I like to get to know each patient on a personal level, and I love it when they give me insight into their daily routines and lifestyle,” she says. “This helps build trust and understanding that can only benefit the patient in his or her road toward achieving their goals.”
Karla has spent the last year and a half working at her DaVita clinic in Kansas, and is a fan of the location. “Rural Kansas is a very close-knit area where people honestly care and look out for each other,” she observes.
And since who you work with is just as important as where you work, Karla feels especially lucky. “We serve wonderful people,” she says. “I am so blessed to have such great patients who allow us to play an integral part of their lives.”
Karla’s approach with her patients is a lot like her recipes – fun, light and good for you. “I like to bring a smile, variety and, hopefully, good food and nutrition ideas to the dialysis day,” says Karla. Her innovative methods include taking patients on field trips to visit grocery stores and teaching them how shop for the kidney diet. She’s also seen “great success” with an intradialytic exercise program, which is when patients perform physical exercise during their dialysis treatments under the supervision of clinic staff.
Karla encourages her patients to be proactive regarding their health, reminding them that they are in charge. “Accept that you have more control over your health than anyone else,” she counsels her patients. “Utilize this control to your advantage.”
Managing kidney disease takes work, and Karla appreciates the efforts of her patients. “I know how challenging the renal-associated diet restrictions are to adhere to, and our patients do so well at complying with them,” she observes.
And while hard work can be its own reward, Karla enjoys sharing in her patients’ success stories. “I love to celebrate with patients when they finally reach their goals,” she says. “If a patient achieves a goal that they have worked very hard on, they get the chance to play “stump the dietitian.” They can request almost any food they want, and I will try to prepare it in a dialysis-friendly fashion for everyone to try.”
If Karla’s two recipes are any indication, no one seems to have stumped this particular dietitian yet. That’s good news for everybody, because the Creamy Grape Salad and Frozen Cranberry Dessert are two great new additions to the renal diet. Delicious, simple and kidney-friendly, these recipes are a sweet reward.