Holiday web

Staying Healthy During the Holiday Season

while on Dialysis


The Holidays stir up warm, cozy feelings often representing a time for community and family. As the decorations come out and the weather changes, we gather with loved ones to celebrate all the season has to offer. During this time of year we share stories, our lives and meals in a greater capacity than any other season. Meals and the food shared, in of itself, takes on a life of its own and become much more than just nourishment. It is the way we nurture connections while celebrating traditions and cultures.

Like many others, the Holiday season is a time where maintaining established healthy and nutritional goals becomes a challenging task. For those receiving dialysis the Holidays can be a time of great difficulty. Many patients face the challenging task of maintaining their specialized nutritional goals while attempting to balance the season and the foods that come with it.

Here are helpful tips that will allow the patients to continue to participate in holiday festivities without setbacks to their goals:

In partnering with their clinic’s Registered Dietitians, patients and their families are able to ensure those favorite seasonal foods are enjoyed while maintaining their nutritional goals. A Dietitian will assist in researching the food(s) nutritional values and develop a plan-of-action that will allow the patient to balance their health and continue to participate in holiday festivities without setbacks to their goals.
Knowing the serving sizes for all food groups that will be consumed during meals or treats is one of the best way to avoid setbacks. Ex. a serving of protein, is about the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. That’s a good-sized serving of beef, chicken or fish. For more information or education on serving sizes, speak with the clinic’s Dietitian.
Consuming beverages during anytime can create issues for dialysis patients. During the holiday season celebrations and communion often lead to unintentional excess fluid building up in the body. Patients should continue to monitor their fluid intake and communicate their restrictions to their family and host(s). Patients can utilize smaller drinkware that can help limit fluid intake and stay in balance. Most dialysis patients should limit intake of fluids to 32 ounces a day.
Sodium (aka salt) can be a tricky item to monitor as it is a key ingredient in nearly everything we consume. Remember to look beyond the saltshaker and evaluate the entire table. Ask the following questions:
  • How much salt was used in the preparation of each dish or treat?
  • How much sodium is in each serving of sauces and condiment?
  • Will the dressings and sauces be served on the side
Potassium is important for the proper function of muscles, including the heart. Consuming too much potassium can be dangerous for those with kidney disease or end-stage renal failure. For this reason, patients should limit Potassium food consumption to the recommended amount based on the guidance of their Dietitian. Potassium can be found in many common food items like fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, nuts, and legumes can help you. During the holidays, foods like sweet potatoes or yams, pumpkin pie, creamed spinach, pecan, and mashed potatoes are staples during meals and in many treats. These are also food items that are very high in potassium. By limiting or exchanging these items for lower potassium alternatives like rice, green beans, stuffing, and apple pie make for better balanced choices that won’t upset your goals.
Be aware of foods that contain high amounts of Phosphorous. These items include processed meats, dairy products, and nuts which in addition to high levels of Phosphorous. Phosphorous is not only contained to foods that are consumed but also beverages. Taking account of beverage choices is an additional way of monitoring Phosphorous intake. Remain mindful that foods high Phosphorous like processed meats, dairy products, and nuts will also be high in Calcium and Potassium. Foods like fortified juices and cereals will also contain high amounts of Calcium. Most dialysis patients take Phosphate binders., which acts like sponges and helps control blood phosphorus levels.

Through these helpful tips and monitoring food consumptions, patients are empowered to make careful choices and a better assessment holiday foods while enjoying the Holiday season. It’s important that patients and their families do not let their specialized dietary inhibit the social side of holidays.

And remember, when in doubt, the clinic Dietitian is always available for guidance and assistance!