Falling into healthy eating habits is easy if you plan ahead. Make a grocery list for the week and shop with specific meals in mind to avoid loading the cart with junk foods. While you’ll have to re-stock your produce and protein supply, many pantry staples, such as rice and pasta, have a long shelf life so keep this in mind when planning and shopping. Fill your plate and your stomach with healthy nourishment to get you and your family through the work or school day. It’s hard to perform without proper fuel, so here are 5 healthy, kidney-friendly meals that can be on your kitchen table in 30 minutes or less.
- Baked fish with rice or pasta. This is a light and delicious but filling dinner that won't take all day to cook up. For the fish, choose a variety such as salmon, tilapia or cod. Season with lemon pepper and fresh lime or lemon juice. Other alternatives are marinating with low sodium salad dressing or real maple syrup with crushed pineapple (that last one works really well on salmon). Bake at 350 - 400 degrees F for 10 minutes per inch of fish or until it is flaky.
For the rice or pasta, stay away from flavored instant mixes since they are loaded with salt. Instead, cook one cup of pasta, couscous or instant rice with two cups of water and season it yourself. You can use a salt-free herb mix such as Mrs. Dash or try mixing some minced onion, chopped garlic from a jar with other fresh or dried herbs and spices and fresh lemon juice. Do this for a few weeks and your taste buds will adapt to the new, fresh flavors and stop craving the sodium.
- Burgers and Salad. Pass up the local fast food joint, put on your apron and make your own quick, but healthy meal instead. Using lean fresh ground beef veal, chicken or turkey mixed with herbs, spices, eggs and low sodium breadcrumbs and form your hamburgers. Depending on the weather and your taste preferences, cook the burgers in the oven, the grill or even use a George Foreman indoor grill. If you have kidney disease or are on dialysis, when buying meat be sure to ask if there are any phosphorus additives. These may not be listed on the label, but do your best to avoid them.
You can even go naked! Forego the bun and use bagged salad mix as a base for your burger. Prefer a more traditional burger? Serve the salad on the side and add a little fresh fruit such as blueberries, raspberries, mandarin oranges, or sliced apples to add some color to your plate.
You can also swap the burgers for grilled chicken strips. Season the chicken cutlet with low-sodium teriyaki or a combination of lemon juice, flavored vinegar and olive oil. Cook the chicken, slice and serve over the salad. This salad makes a great lunch as leftovers the next day.
- Enchilada or quesadilla. Depending on your individual taste, these can be made with your choice of chopped chicken tenders (they cook very quickly), beef or shrimp. Add strips of bell peppers, red onion and zucchini for a nutrient and fiber boost. Just sauté the chicken or shrimp and vegetables in some canola oil, then fold into a flour tortilla or place the ingredients between two tortillas and heat on each side in a frying pan.
- Flank steak and corn on the cob. Marinate the steak with lime juice and garlic overnight. Broil it for a few minutes on each side and then slice and eat. For the corn, you can use fresh or frozen corn and microwave it or boil it up in a pot. Corn only needs to cook for five minutes after the water boils.
- Stir fry meat and vegetable medley. Cut chicken, sirloin or shrimp into small pieces. Cook in one tablespoon of peanut, canola or sesame oil. Then add jarred crushed ginger or garlic and vegetables. Sliced eggplant, cabbage, green beans, celery, carrots (in moderation), onions, and baby corn are lower potassium choices. Start with the vegetables that take the longest to cook, such as carrots and onions. The whole dish will be done in 10-15 minutes, when the vegetables are tender-crisp.
Important tip: Don't use salt substitutes when replacing salt in your recipes. These usually contain potassium chloride which is not healthy for those with kidney disease.