It’s one thing to come up with a substitute for a popular dessert like caramel corn that is appropriate for people following the kidney diet. It’s another thing entirely to come up with a substitute that’s as delicious as the original, and actually helps in the management of kidney disease.
DaVita dietitian Suzette from Missouri says she was looking for “a caramel corn substitute or a treat made with popcorn” to serve during Halloween when she was inspired to create the delicious and renal-friendly Sugar and Spice Popcorn. The use of cinnamon and nutmeg in place of salt and excess sugar is an especially delicious bonus.
“We served it as a Halloween treat in our dialysis center,” says Suzette. “It was well-received.” Suzette’s tasty innovation was so well-liked, in fact, it merited its own card in the DaVita recipe index. It was this very same desire to be of service that pushed Suzette into the world of dietetics to begin with.
“I became a dietitian because I learned first-hand how a person can feel better and perform optimally with healthy eating,” Suzette recalls. “It was so exciting that I then wanted to share this with others.”
Originally from Canada, Suzette received her M.A. in Nutrition Science from Syracuse University and says she was called to the renal specialty early on. “I like the continual feedback from labs and accessibility to patients for education and counseling,” she observes. “I also wanted to work in an area of dietetics that would be challenging and require a team approach.”
In the short year that Suzette has been at the Missouri DaVita clinic, she’s already come to cherish “the friendliness of my coworkers and their willingness to work as a team.”
One of the challenges inherent to kidney care that really speaks to Suzette is finding “new ways to reach patients and motivate them to make changes” for the better. As a result, Suzette keeps her focus on making personal connections with each patient and goes out of her way to provide support and validation at every point in the recovery process.
“I try to meet patients where they are at and encourage small steps towards goals so that they do not become overwhelmed and feel like giving up,” Suzette says.
Education doesn’t have to be boring, and Suzette proves this with her interactive and practical approach to teaching her patients about the importance of good nutrition. “My patients responded well to a meal comparison,” she notes. “I brought in two different breakfasts: one from a fast food restaurant high in phosphorus, and one easy meal to make at home that was lower in phosphorus.” The patients were surprised to see that the lower phosphorus meal was just as good as, if not better than, the fast-food alternative. “This seemed to make an impression that lasted, and also provided ongoing education opportunities in the following months.”
For Suzette, the most rewarding aspect of her job is “when a patient has a breakthrough in understanding and becomes motivated to make a change.” Well, if Suzette’s commitment to service is her own reward, let’s consider her delicious and kidney-friendly Sugar and Spice Popcorn our bonus.