As the old adage goes, “you are what you eat.” In honor of National Kidney Month this March, protect your kidneys by cleaning up your diet, starting in your kitchen. Take inventory of your pantry and refrigerator, jump start your spring cleaning and make the following simple swaps to keep your kidneys healthy with the National Kidney Foundation’s 8 tips to make over your pantry.
- Commit to whole grains. Whole grain breads, cereals, rice and pasta are available in most grocery stores and are a good source of dietary fiber. Fiber can reduce cholesterol and may also lower your risk for heart disease. Whole grains may make you feel full with fewer calories which can help with weight control. Look for the word "whole" on the food label. Clean out the refined grain products like granola bars, muffins, cakes and pies. Instead reach for whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, steel cut oats and bran flake cereal.
- For cans, no salt is king. If you buy canned foods, make sure you read the labels for the “no salt added” varieties of vegetables, beans and soup. Eating less salt can help prevent or control high blood pressure.
- Buy fresh. Whenever possible, buy fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned. Processed foods contain higher levels of sodium and phosphorus which when consumed in excess can be bad for your kidneys. If you buy canned fruit, look for the ones packed in their own juices instead of in heavy syrup. Heavy syrup can raise your blood sugar levels. Look at labels and try to avoid foods that contain “phos” as an ingredient.
- Sub (stitute) the tub. Replace butter and margarine with olive or canola oil. These liquid plant oils are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats which may lower cholesterol and also possibly benefit blood sugar levels.
- Spice things up! Stock up on spices and herbs and use these in place of salt and fat to add flavor to your foods.
- Go lean. Replace red meats with leaner, lower fat protein choices such as fish, poultry, egg whites and legumes. Get rid of processed meats like ham, hotdogs, sausage and bacon.
- Ditch the processed sweets. Eliminate the processed sweets and high calorie desserts in your pantry and opt for fruit as a snack or dessert instead. Fruit salad is a great way to consume a variety of nutrients. Another healthy snack or treat idea is to make a fruit parfait with low fat yogurt.
- Slash the dairy fat. Certain varieties of milk, cheeses and yogurts can be high in fat so swap out full fat dairy products for fat free or lower fat varieties. Dairy products provide many important nutrients in your diet but can be high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Swapping to lower fat versions can help keep your cholesterol levels healthy.