Portions matter!

Doing recipe analysis for the renal diet is a far more complicated endeavor than I realized when I started out in renal nutrition.  The renal diet is a complex system and each “food group category” has a maximum allowable amount for potassium, sodium, and phosphorus and a minimum amount of protein. You can’t ignore carbohydrates, fibre or fat either since many kidney patients also have to deal with diabetes and cardiac disease.

So every once in a while a recipe comes along that looks great and has a lot of renal-friendly ingredients but when I do the analysis the potassium, sodium or phosphorus is just too high.  Recently I was asked to look at a recipe for a honey-mustard sauce. Both honey and mustard are usually okay for kidney patients but the amount of prepared mustard was just too much to have a low sodium recipe. Sometimes even the amount of spices can push a recipe over the edge!  I have learned that cinnamon is a pretty decent source of fibre (not a surprise when you consider it is the bark of a tree!). I have also learned that a “serving size” to a chef is at least 4 times bigger than a “serving size” is to a dietitian!

Which brings me to portion size.  I spend a lot of time talking about portion size especially when it comes to potassium but it is important for all aspects of your nutrition.  Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight, restrict sodium, potassium, phosphorus, fat or increase your fibre – portions matter. It is extremely easy to eat on the go without paying attention to your portions.  Eating while cooking (or testing the meal as I like to call it) can add up when you really calculate it out.  We call this “mindless eating”.

The key to getting your portions right is to pay attention!  Every once in a while, measure out your portions or check how much your soup bowl really holds. Or keep a food record for a few days (sometimes that is an eye-opening experience). Try not to eat while you’re doing something else (reading, watching TV, driving).  Eat the food you serve yourself on your plate, take your time and enjoy it.

Use the online nutrition information at restaurants before you eat out. Thinking of the Superbowl weekend, a patient of mine asked just how bad a pound of wings could really be.  The answer: really bad.  At that particular chain restaurant he went to – 1300kcal and 1300mg of sodium!

Sometimes it’s nice to find a recipe that takes care of the portions for you!  Try this easy stuffed pepper recipe that my neighbour makes:

Stuffed Peppers

4 red, green or yellow bell peppers
1 cup cooked white rice or couscous
2 cup cooked ground beef (or try using leftover chopped roast beef, roast pork or chicken)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 cup no salt added chicken stock
1/2 small red onion, chopped
(If you don’t require a potassium restriction, add a peeled, diced tomato to the mix).
Fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp parmesan cheese

Slice off tops of bell peppers, remove seeds and discard. Chop up the bell pepper tops and place into a large bowl. Add rice or couscous, chopped meat, dried basil, parsley, chicken stock and red onions. Toss to combine and season with fresh pepper. Stuff each pepper with filling, sprinkle with parmesan and place in a square baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender.

5 thoughts on “Portions matter!

  1. Hi
    I like this recipe!
    I am becoming more conscious about portion size as I try and keep my kidney healthy.

    Does your dietitian’s lab contain “standard” size measuring cups? Have you got a picture?
    How about scales. What do you use in the Lab? Recommendations and pictures on this site would also help.

    Also how do you test for each of the electrolytes? I recently found a series of devices that could give me a “level” of electrolyte in a particular food. They are expensive, but might be worthwhile since i can check levels between monthly blood work to see if my diet is actually have an effect on my serum electrolyte level.


    1. Hi Bryan,
      We’re going to pose some of these questions to our team of dietitians and see what they say – we’ll get back to you soon.
      Kidney Community Kitchen team

      1. Here is the answer from the dietitians:

        Hi Bryan,
        It’s great to hear that you are motivated to care for your kidney health. I am not sure I fully understand the information that you are looking for based on your above comments and questions. Hopefully the following information is of use to you.
        Most recipes from the https://www.kidneycommunitykitchen.ca/ website use imperial units of measure (i,e., tsp. for teaspoon, tbsp. for tablespoon, cups, etc.). If you are more comfortable with metric units of measure and need conversions, the following website provides such info:
        If you are wondering about the portions upon which the “Renal and Diabetic Exchanges” are based, it may be best to arrange a face-to-face appointment with a Registered Dietitian. It’s a lot of info to cover in an email response. Your nephrologist should be able to arrange a referral to a Registered Dietitian for you. In brief, the exchange system includes 6 food groups (i.e., grains & starches, fruit, vegetables, milk, protein, fat), all with their own specific nutrient provisions. Nutrient provisions for each food group exchange meet specific criteria for potassium, phosphorus, sodium, protein, etc. to help plan meal plans that contain appropriate amounts of nutrients to manage kidney disease. For example, fruit exchanges contain no more than 200 mg of potassium per 1/2 cup (125 ml) serving.
        I recommend the following website as a resource to determine the amount of nutrients in foods: Canadian Nutrient File at https://webprod3.hc-sc.gc.ca/cnf-fce/.

  2. Je viens de, apprendre que je, ai une insuffisance rénale, je, ai 75 ans, je suis diabétique depuis 7 ans et hypertexte tendue depuis 2002
    Croyez moi je me sens perdue
    Quoi manger? C’est, est un vrai casse tête
    Je suis tombée sur votre site sur Google
    Je prends du plaisir à lire vos conseils et commentaires
    Je, essaie de faire de mon mieux pour comprendre comment pallier entre diabète et y ta et encore insuffisance rénale
    Pas facile du tout
    Merci de M, avoir acceptée

    1. Merci pour vos commentaires. Si vous êtes diabétique et atteinte d’une maladie rénale chronique (MRC), il s’avère que les diètes liées au diabète et à l’insuffisance rénale sont peu compatibles. Cependant, avec une planification minutieuse, vous pouvez suivre votre régime rénal tout en contrôlant votre glycémie. Nous sommes heureux de savoir que ce site vous est utile.

      Merci et bonne fin de semaine !

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