Ask the Doctor with Dr. Leslie Spry

Q. For my New Year’s Resolution, I promised myself I would increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in my diet, while cutting out some of the junk food that I eat. Do you have any tips or suggestions to help make this easier?

A. That’s a great resolution! I would love to help support you in making it stick. I recommend following the DASH diet which is high in fruits and veggies, moderate in low fat dairy and low in salt and animal protein. The National Kidney Foundation even offers sample kidney-friendly DASH meal plans that you can follow. I also recommend that you get in the habit of trying to make your plate naturally colorful at each meal. A good thing about increasing your fruit and vegetable intake is that it’s easy to add them to the foods you’re already eating. For example, if you are making eggs, pasta or a stir fry, just throw in some vegetables. Swap sugar-sweetened desserts for naturally sweet fruits. Prep ahead of time by making a grocery list. Cut up raw veggies to have on hand as healthy snacks. You can even keep them ready to go in individual portions in the fridge which will make it easier to reach for these instead of a bag of potato chips next time you’re craving a crunchy snack. 

Q. Every January, I commit to increase my physical activity. I usually stick with it for a couple of weeks, but then I get busy and other priorities seem to interfere with my best of intentions. This year, I’m determined to really make my fitness routine become a habit. Do you have any tricks to help?

A. It's important to establish an exercise regimen. Physical activity offers many health benefits, including decreasing blood pressure, increasing muscle strength, lowering blood fat levels (cholesterol and triglycerides), improving sleep, decreasing stress, increasing insulin sensitivity and helping control body weight. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease. Regular physical activity can help to manage these conditions and also to reduce risk factors for these and kidney disease. Studies have also shown that kidney patients who exercise have better outcomes for dialysis and transplantation.

Physical activity can come in many forms, so lace up your sneakers and don't forget about ways to get active beyond the walls of the gym. Incorporating physical activity into your everyday routine will make it feel like a regular part of your day, instead of a chore. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Multitask. Next time you’re watching TV, do stretching exercises, lift free weights or use stationary cardio equipment such as an exercise bike.
  • Try to enlist someone to join you.  Spread your healthy activities to others.
  • When running errands or shopping, park further from the entrance so that you'll walk more and incorporate additional steps.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Go for a walk with a co-worker during your lunch hour.
  • Track your progress. Use an app or journal to log your physical activity.