Eating for kidney health doesn’t have to mean food that’s less satisfying or takes hours to prepare. DaVita renal dietitian Wai Yin from South Carolina shares four convenient recipes that are guaranteed to be a treat for your taste buds, while also fitting into a renal diet.
This DaVita dietitian even makes breakfast less boring – and easy to enjoy, even when you’re on the go – with her recipe for Breakfast Trail Mix. The next time you’re whipping up a salad, consider topping it with Wai Yin’s Easy Honey Mustard Balsamic Vinaigrette. A mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard, honey and black pepper, it has a sweet and spicy flavor that makes any salad a standout.
Wai Yin’s Turkey Pinwheel Sandwiches are a quick way to make any lunch more interesting, thanks to a yummy blend of thin-sliced turkey, spring mix, roasted red peppers and cream cheese, all wrapped up in a flour tortilla. And her Pineapple Punch is sure to be a hit at your next big bash or when unexpected guests drop by.
A native of Hong Kong, Wai Yin graduated from theUniversity of Alabama. When asked why she chose to become a dietitian, she replies, “I love food and I love science. Nutrition is the best combination of both subjects.”
The idea to go into the renal field came about during an internship. “I had an excellent renal preceptor during my internship,” Wai Yin explains. “He opened my eyes to renal nutrition and introduced me to how we can apply evidence-based science in practice.”
As a DaVita dietitian, Wai Yin says that the most challenging aspect of her job is “motivating patients to take charge of their own health.” She brings a compassionate approach to her interactions with patients. And her advice to those working with renal patients is straight-forward: “Always be pleasant and understanding. Always be empathetic,” she advises. “Try to limit using ‘I understand how you feel;’ instead, use ‘I can only imagine how you feel.’ Listen before educating.”
“Seeing improvement of patients’ quality of life by improving their nutrition and osteodystrophy outcomes” is the most rewarding part of the job for Wai Yin.
With this renal dietitian and her patients, the learning goes both ways. She says that what she enjoys most about working with her patients is learning from them. “They may be our patients, but they are also a well of knowledge,” she explains. “I learn a lot of life lessons from them. And most of all, because we are located in a rural area, I learn a lot of gardening tips from them.”
Wai Yin believes that the single most important thing patients can do to improve their health is to keep track of their own health records and understand what and why certain procedures need to be done. “As a dietitian, I always ask my patients with diabetes to check their blood sugar at different times of the day and make sure to record them. Bring that record when they go to see their doctors,” she advises. “That way, the doctors can manage their diabetes a lot better. The patients need to help the doctors and other health care providers to help them. They need to be a partner with the health care team.”
One technique that Wai Yin has found to be effective with her patients is to challenge them to do food analysis. “I take their 24-hour food record, turn it around and have them analyze it,” she explains. “Or, I have them analyze my 24-hour food record.”
After 6 years of working for DaVita, Wai Yin appreciates what the company offers its dietitians. She appreciates “the tremendous resources for dietitians. Also the respect dietitians receive in general in the company. This is hard to find in other places.”
When asked about the most surprising thing she’s learned since starting work at DaVita, Wai Yin replies with a grin, “I have gained skills in investigating and being a lie detector!”
While Wai Yin strives to inspire her patients, she in turn is inspired by them. “I am privileged to have a chance to learn about patients’ life stories. A lot of them are very inspirational. They make me reflect on my own situation and realize there are a lot of people out there who face more challenges and have more difficult circumstances than me,” she says.
“Dealing with mortality on a daily basis also makes me cherish life and my time spent with my family (especially the older ones) more,” Wai Yin reveals. “That was the main determinant for me to take my then 14-month old daughter by myself and endure a 22-hour trip back to Hong Kong and China to see my grandmother and my family. I am so glad I did that, because my grandmother finally got to meet her great-granddaughter, and she felt complete. She left us 10 months afterwards, and her last words to my mother were ‘Madeline is such a good girl – take care of her.’”
The DaVita center where Wai Yin works is located in a rural area of South Carolina, and she appreciates both the location and her patients there. “People here are so nice, and they surely don’t mind telling you stories about their whole lives if you have time,” she says. “Patients here are straightforward and simpler. They let you know whether they are doing what they’re supposed to do, why and why not. Most of them are good patients. They listen and do what you ask them to do to take care of their own health.”
We think Wai Yin must hear a lot of life stories, since the center where she works is a large one with 123 patients. It’s obvious that she’s happy to be there, working with her team mates and her patients. “We have a wonderful team and an excellent Medical Director,” she says.
The next time you’re looking for a new recipe to add to your kidney-friendly collection, remember these four quick and easy recipes from DaVita renal dietitian Wai Yin: Turkey Pinwheel Sandwiches, Easy Honey Mustard Balsamic Vinaigrette, Breakfast Trail Mix and Pineapple Punch.