Our latest recipe, Pork and Corn Dressing, is more than just kidney-friendly -- it's also delicious. Considering the source, that makes perfect sense. While it can be tempting to wax poetic about one's noble calling, Amanda, a DaVita dietitian from Michigan, is much more down-to-earth.
"I would love to write a great story about becoming a dietitian to save lives, or help the under-served, or make great discoveries in research and development … However, truth be told, it was (and still is) about my love of food," Amanda laughs. "My first awareness of how important food was in my life was in second grade. Every week, we had a new bookmark at the library, and one week there was a purple fuzzy bookmark. Oh, how I really loved that bookmark -- purple AND fuzzy! Wow!"
Amanda enjoys a good laugh, and her love of food is directly informed by her interest in using it to heal in creative and fun ways. "The bookmark said, 'You are what you eat.' I remember laughing to myself all day long and thinking, 'Well, today I am a big carrot,' because I had eaten carrots."
It makes perfect sense that Amanda's recipe is designed for a quick and renal-friendly family meal, and even that her children helped inspire her crock pot variation, because she shares that love of healthy food at home, too. "Last night, my daughter read, "Chocolatina," a book about a little girl who loves chocolate, and in the book is a description of her relationship with chocolate, and in the narrative the author cleverly writes, 'You are what you eat,' as Chocolatina discovers her relationship with food. My memories were triggered as my daughter let out a large burst of laughter."
It's Amanda's comfort with connecting laughter, food and nutrition that helps her be so effective as a dietitian. Not one to take herself too seriously, Amanda's approach is "probably a little less formal, as I find that my patients seem to open up more about their barriers to meeting their nutrition goals."
Originally from a small town on the eastern side of Iowa, Amanda completed her degree in dietetics at Iowa State University, and is continuing to take her education to even higher levels at Eastern Michigan University. Both education and kidney health have been strong elements in Amanda's 20 years as a dietitian. "I remember selecting low phosphorus muffins in food science as a project," she notes. "I usually picked kidney disease as a topic for class presentations. I was very fortunate to work in an acute care setting that valued patient education and spent hours educating new dialysis patients on renal modifications."
Amanda is committed to sharing everything she has learned about kidney health with her patients, because she has believes that "liberalizing the kidney diet as much as possible is best for the patient." She also connects with her patients on a personal level: "I make a difference in their lives by supporting them emotionally, as well as with their dietary needs."
Managing kidney disease can be challenging, so Amanda is committed to instilling "the gift of life in the patients so that they may have further opportunities for the future, especially with a large group of young patients."
A member of DaVita for two and a half years so far, Amanda says her clinic is characterized by "incredible teammates," and enjoys that she's part of serving her city's youth. "We have the youngest patient population -- between 18 and 35 years of age -- in Michigan."
She also appreciates that her DaVita teammates never stop learning and teaching. "On a clinical level, I have learned more about modalities that anywhere else," she observes. "It's amazing when the patients get transplants."
A hands-on dietitian, Amanda finds it especially rewarding "being with patients on the treatment floor, passing out report cards" and "seeing a smile when a patient is making their goals." One of the keys to reaching those goals is exercise. "Diet is important," Amanda says. "However, exercise or activity improves a patient's mental health as well."
Pet therapy is another excellent way to improve mental health, and Amanda went the extra mile one day by bringing her pet bunny rabbit to work! "We have an annual picnic, and I brought my bunny, Oreo," she recalls. "He is very polite and gentle, and the patients loved him. It was also funny when he got away in the parking lot, and the regional director and I were chasing him! Oreo had a great time. He has been to the nursing home and the school for pet therapy."
A busy working mother, Amanda also understands the need to make renal health as easy and manageable as possible. "Using a crock pot is great, because it is economical, and the recipes take about the same amount of time as dialysis."
This is especially convenient, considering Amanda's Pork with Corn Dressing recipe comes with a handy crock pot variation. However you prepare it, one thing's for sure: this kidney-friendly dish is sure to have your family asking for more.