Happy Holidays

Food is an important part of any holiday or celebration.  As I was thinking about what to write about for my Christmas blog post, I was trying to think of how to articulate why food is so important to the holidays and to almost any celebration.  For me, Christmas Eve is the smell of tourtiere (and my brother complaining about having to eat it) and Christmas day could never be the same without turkey and stuffing.  And regardless of what holiday you celebrate, food plays a huge role.  Preparing food and eating together is a part of almost every culture’s rituals for celebration.

Unfortunately having kidney disease can make celebrating the holidays much more difficult! Trying to maintain family and religious traditions while balancing the sodium, potassium, phosphorus, protein and fluid in your diet takes planning and skill.

Limiting potassium can be especially difficult over the holidays. Even over-eating low potassium foods can tip the balance! An extra serving of mashed potatoes or a bit of scalloped potatoes can throw a huge wrench in your holiday eating!  For more information on potassium check out the fact sheet Potassium and chronic kidney disease.

A few noteworthy items to watch out for over the holidays:

  • Eggnog – high in both potassium and phosphorus – try hot apple cider or mulled wine instead
  • Potatoes – even the double boiled variety can add up! If potatoes are essential to your holiday celebrations then make your servings small. Try the cranberry risotto at www.kidneycommunitykitchen.ca for a delicious alternative.
  • Nuts – often salty and always high in potassium and phosphorus – it’s difficult to eat “just one”! Choose unsalted pretzels or popcorn instead.
  • Turkey! Watch out for the “self-basting” or “frozen, seasoned” turkeys – these are loaded with salt and phosphate. Choose fresh or frozen turkeys with nothing extra added. Then save those bones to make a fantastic turkey stock!
  • Oranges are very high in potassium – ask Santa to put a clementine or mandarin in your stocking instead.
  • Chocolate – high in potassium and phosphorus – choose sugar cookies, shortbread, sorbet, apple pie, lemon tarts or pound cake.
  • Buffet tables – it’s very easy to overeat – fill your plate once!

One of my favourite holiday foods is the bright and lovely cranberry! Very low in potassium, it’s festive and pretty and incredibly versatile! If you don’t like cranberries try another low potassium favourite – raspberries.

Traditional cranberry sauce is wonderful with turkey but try these other ideas:

  • Add chopped cranberries to bread stuffing for chicken, turkey, duck or pork
  • Add a few chopped cranberries to cabbage salads or rice for colour and flavour
  • Add cranberries to apple or pear crisps and pies
  • Serve leftover cranberry sauce with pancakes, or fold into Cool Whip and top homemade waffles or pancakes
  • Press cooked cranberries through a sieve and sweeten slightly; serve under grilled chicken breast or pork chop
  • Add cranberries to muffins, biscuits, cakes and cookies
  • Mix cranberry juice with white wine or sparkling water for a colourful spritzer – toss in a few whole cranberries for garnish

Or try these yummy and decadent Cranberry Shortbread cookie bars!

Cranberry Shortbread cookie bars
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sifted icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped dried cranberries

Heat oven to 325 degrees with the rack in the center. Combine butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon until combined but not too creamy. Stir in dried cranberries. Pat dough evenly into an 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan. Bake until just beginning to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Place pan on cooling rack until cool enough to touch, about 20 minutes. Run knife around edges, remove shortbread, and transfer, right side up, to work surface. Use a sharp paring knife to cut into bars.

Optional:  Try using 1tbsp grated orange zest instead of the vanilla for orange cranberry bars!

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