Smart dietitians arm themselves with recipes for all seasons, and Laura, a DaVita dietitian from Colorado, has her bases covered with Idle-Not Meat and Vegetable Casserole and Easy Summer Fruit Dip.
Easy Summer Fruit Dip pairs beautifully with kidney-friendly fruits such as grapes, strawberries and pineapple, and is especially refreshing on a hot day. Despite the name it's a great recipe to try anytime of the year. When the weather starts to cool, it's time to bust out the Idle-Not Meat and Vegetable Casserole, courtesy of one of Laura's patients," Deb, the gourmet cook."
"This recipe was created by Deb's mother, Ruth, on the aptly named Idle-Not Farm in Sumner, Iowa, when she didn't have time to plan ahead or prepare supper," tells Laura. "The much-beloved dish was served not only to her children, but to her sisters and parents as well, and each member of the family has their own favorite variation of vegetables and meat. All members of the family continue to make this recipe, and we thought it would be a great one to prepare during the busy holiday season."
Laura has always been one for collaboration and learning new things when it comes to food and nutrition. Throughout high school and college, Laura cooked for week long American Youth Hostel camping, hiking and rafting trips. “I felt I needed to learn about nutrition in order to feed customers well for that length of time," she explains. "I became fascinated with nutrition.”
Originally from Boulder, Laura attended college in Fort Collins. As a rookie, she worked on the renal floor, and says she was advised that the renal doctors were “mean.” She bravely walked out onto the floor and discovered the truth. “They turned out to be some of the kindest and most dedicated people I have ever met," says Laura. "The renal field was fascinating, challenging and continually advancing.”
It can be scary to be told you have to change your entire approach to food, and Laura understands this. She says the results always make the challenges of kidney care worthwhile. "The most rewarding aspect is seeing someone really ‘get it’ and do well with their labs," she explains. "Seeing their excitement is great. I feel I make a difference when my dialysis patients understand their condition and how the renal diet can make an impact. It’s very heartening to see a new patient get excited when they realize I’m actually going to make their dialysis diet better than they thought, and it’s something they can do."
And then there's the fun of sharing in her patients' triumphs. “I enjoy seeing dialysis patients make progress on things they find difficult. I also enjoy getting to know them as people and learning about their lives,” she says. "I am touched when patients tell me I’ve made a big difference in their lives. I’ve been known to ‘have a moment’ and go into the bathroom to shed a tear or two.”
In terms of her teaching approach, Laura stresses the importance of explaining things simply, so someone without a medical background can understand the renal diet. “I make sure my dialysis patients understand the implications of their choices, and help them learn to include things they like into their diet safely and appropriately," she notes.
Can patients actually improve their own health? Laura thinks so. “The most important thing dialysis patients can do is to learn all about their condition and be an active participant in their own care," she says. "Also, finding the ‘sunny side’ to things really helps."
The key to being effective with patients, in Laura’s opinion, lies in understanding and approaching issues from what is important to the individual. “For example,” Laura says, “I find out if their interests lie in fishing, or in their grandkids, eating out, enjoying specific foods -- anything at all that is important to that particular patient."
Laura has been part of the DaVita team for eight years, and she says she's still as enthusiastic about the job as she was on her first day. “DaVita is very progressive with regards to renal care," she observes. "Sometimes you can develop skills you didn’t even know you had, but someone at DaVita suspected you did, and this can turn out to be a very positive thing.”
It helps that Laura's clinic encourages friendliness and education. “I am fortunate to work with nice teammates," she says, "as well as a great physician group that has been acknowledged by their peers as leaders in the field, so I am always learning something new and on the cutting edge." The location doesn't hurt either. "I love living in Colorado!” she enthuses.
You'll love Deb's family recipe for Idle-Not Meat and Vegetable Casserole and Laura's Easy Summer Fruit Dip once you give them a try. Warm weather or cold, these kidney-friendly recipes are sure to make it a good year.