What business does someone trained as a physician-scientist have, talking about “Tools necessary for a Kidney-friendly kitchen”, you may ask?
Well, it’s my own decade-long Experience navigating life as a Kidney Warrior (currently post-kidney transplant) and the frustrating lack of organized information on this matter in the medical literature or public domain, that has motivated me to help fellow members in the Kidney Community in this regard.
As soon as you are diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease, dietary modifications take the centre-stage along with necessary medicines for your root cause & stage of kidney disease. Team ATK has constantly stressed the importance of consulting a Registered Renal Dietitian to help you prepare a Renal Diet Plan tailored to your individual health status.
To make your food choices easier, we have also shared “Kidney-Friendly Grocery Lists” and their daily kidney-safe portions to serve as a basic guide for your reference.
However, going by personal experience, applying all of the above advice in your daily lives also needs some smart tools in your kitchen to make it truly kidney-friendly and turn you into a more efficient Kidney Warrior.
This is what our article aims to help you with, today.
There are 4 basic criteria that you should bear in mind to turn your Kitchen into a Kidney-Fortress as given below.
(Read on or click on the “bubbles” below to jump to the criteria directly)
HYGIENE IN A KIDNEY FRIENDLY KITCHEN
Cleanliness is an important consideration for everything that enters your body, whether you eat it, drink it, breathe it or inject it. This is more so if a major, essential organ of the body like your kidneys are unwell. That’s because, in normal health, kidneys efficiently eliminate ALL excess metabolic wastes and impurities in blood via urine. But Chronic Kidney Disease progressively diminishes this blood-cleansing ability of kidneys as well as blunts our body’s immune defences with time.
Hence, Kidney-friendly Kitchens must focus on maintaining the 3 things as below:
Presenting below, the tool-solutions under the three components to maintain a Hygienic kidney-friendly kitchen.
Kidney patients are asked to take care of their water intake. But are you really sure you consume safe drinking water?
Most households in countries with known groundwater contamination use at least a basic water filtration system. But it is still pretty common to rely on tap water graded as “safe for consumption” right from the faucet. However, the recent 2019 Report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), USA brings forth some concerning facts. It indicates that while your water company may supply water that’s free of infection-causing micro-organisms, the levels of dangerous chemicals are downright unsafe. Such chemicals include Arsenic, Hexavalent Chromium (from “Erin Brockovich”), Lead, Phosphates & Nitrates from fertilizers, Disinfection by-products and Radiological contaminants. Moreover, if you are a kidney patient, stuffing your body with such toxins (either by drinking it or using it to cook food ) means inviting an early onset of kidney failure. Why do that knowingly?
What to do?
The best way forward is to invest in a Water Purifier based on Reverse Osmosis or simply, RO-water purifiers. EWG recommends this as the most effective way to get rid of the common dangerous chemicals & germs found in groundwater. Consider it as a relatively economical health insurance plan.
1. R.O. water purifier
What to consider when buying this item?
- Method: Prefer RO (Reverse Osmosis) filter systems or RO combined with UV filtration systems.
- Filtered Output: The greater, the better. Anything more than 70 gallons is a good option.
- Filtration Stages: Usually 5 or more stages
- Filtered water Tank: Tankless Filters are certainly better with space constraints.
- Waste Water: Check for the quantity of water wasted. The less the water wastage, the more environment-friendly you get to be.
- Remineralization: Kidney patients may do well to prefer filters without this facility. However, having a re-mineralization facility in your filters should not be a cause of immediate concern unless there is a disturbance in blood mineral levels. (Ask your physician about this)
- Installation: Whether it is DIY or you are needed to separately call installation staff
- Cost and Warranty: Compare to suit your preferences!
Recommended RO / UV water filtration systems
2. Faucet Filter
However, if you are fairly confident of your tap water quality and would like something more pocket-friendly over RO-Water Purifiers, invest in a good quality Faucet Filter for your Kitchen and Bathroom taps. However, these do NOT completely purify tap water to make it drinkable. For those purposes, RO or RO/UV filtration systems are the better options.
What to consider when buying faucet filters?
- Material: Prefer Stainless Steel or Chrome. These are more resistant to corrosion, wear & tear. Avoid food-grade ABS plastic or any other plastic material even if it is coated with Chrome or Steel.
- Your Kitchen-Tap specifications: Faucet filters available in the market only fit standard sizes.
- Filtration capacity: Which minerals does the filter separate out? | Can the filter soften hard water?
Recommended faucet filtration systems:
Ensuring hand cleanliness before handling food is of the essence. Our fingertips are hubs of dirt, chemicals & infection-causing germs from the environment. Cooking with such unclean hands often ends up being one of the commonest causes for gut infections. And infections are something that kidney patients usually with weaker immunity, MUST steer clear from.
Wash your hands with a Soap/Liquid Handwash every time you handle food (before & after cooking + before eating), use the toilet, after changing diapers or sanitary pads/tampons, before & after dressing a wound, before & after caring for a sick person, after blowing your nose/coughing/sneezing, after touching pets or feral animals or their food & waste and handling garbage.
In 2016, the regulatory agency US FDA banned handwashes containing “antibacterial” agents like Triclosan & Triclocarban (TCC) because of their negative effects on your hormones. So always buy handwashes that are free of Triclosan & Triclocarban (TCC).
We recommends the following triclosan & TCC-free handwash products for a kidney-friendly kitchen:
Dry your hands properly all along your finger clefts with a separate hand towel (not the ones used to dry dishes or clean kitchen surfaces). Dry hands eliminate the risk of developing any fungal infections in finger folds or nails. This is especially relevant if you have a weak immune system such as in Diabetes or those on Steroid medicines.
If however, you have a nail or finger infection, a pus-filled boil or an open wound, seek appropriate medical treatment & ask a family member to help with the cooking. If the latter is not an option, use Cooking Gloves. This is both to prevent the infection from contaminating your food and save your sore/wound from potential heat exposure & damage. Choose gloves made of “Nitrile” and not the less durable, less heat-resistant Vinyl ones.
Recommended Nitrile Cooking Gloves:
RECOMMENDED NITRILE GLOVES
Soap & water are the most effective way to get rid of germs. If these are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol (printed on the ingredient label).
Recommended Alcohol-based Sanitizers:
ALCOHOL-BASED HAND SANITIZERS
Sanitizers are not as effective as soap & water for visibly greasy hands or to kill all germs. Hence they DO NOT make for an effective replacement to the traditional hand washing with soap & water.
Since Sanitizers contain alcohol (which is what kills germs), it also makes your skin dry. Overuse can cause the skin on your palms to exfoliate. Should that happen, consider using a moisturizer with Vitamin E.
1. Antiseptic Surface Cleaners
Anyone who cooks would agree that kitchen surfaces tend to get oily/greasy over time. While chimneys more or less work well to skim-out smoke & oil fumes during cooking, a lot of these oil fumes also “react” with dust particles normally floating in the environment, weigh them down and settle over inconvenient & often less visible spaces. These greasy spaces are hubs of potential allergens or even infection-causing agents in some cases. Therefore, always store your grocery supplies in grease-free spaces & containers. Use “Antiseptic Cleaners (Liquids/wipes) to maintain hygienic surfaces.
2. Faucet Filters for proper washing of uncooked, whole food
When using fresh, whole meat, fish, poultry or vegetables for cooking, always wash them thoroughly under running filtered water. This serves two purposes:
- Removes traces of dirt, infection-causing germs or their spores, chemicals (pesticides) or any unwanted residue on the surface.
- Helps wash out any salt that may have been rubbed on the surface of even freshly cut meats, to increase their longevity.
Using faucet filters are an inexpensive way to achieve the above results without “falling prey” to consuming unwanted chemicals that may be present in your tap water supply.
NUTRIENT RESTRICTION: MUST-HAVE TOOLS!
Renal Dietitians are trained to help kidney patients identify which nutrients to restrict or increase in their daily diets, and by how much, based on our individual kidney health status.
However, these lists often mention vague quantities such as “1 Cup” or “2 Teaspoons” or “1/2 Tablespoon”.
So, when it comes to incorporating these revised nutrient allowances on our daily Renal Diet, we often find ourselves in the midst of a very practical problem. Look around your kitchen and you will probably find your kitchen shelves lined with Cups, Spoons & Ladles of various shapes & sizes!
Which one size is the right fit after all?!
Secondly, even if lists from your renal dietitian mention precise quantities such as 150 mL or 100 grams, how do you really “measure” your ingredients?!
With these “implementation” issues in place, before you even know it, your mind tends to give up on your resolve to follow your dietitian’s advice “to the tee”.
Overall, it only ends up being a hostile decision for your kidneys.
Wouldn’t it just be easier to have a Separate Set of kitchen equipment just for you so that you don’t remain vague about your nutrient intake while cooking at home?
We recommend you take a look at the equipment listed below to help your cause!
Note: You may already have some of these items available in your kitchen especially if you bake, but maintaining a separate set of these solely for your use ensures stricter hygiene standards.
1. Measuring spoon-set
What to consider when buying this item?
- Utility: The more the number of “measurements” in the spoon-set, the better. A good range would include spoon-sizes of 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) to 1 tablespoon (15 mL).
- Material: Something that would not “leach-out” over time. Avoid plastic, silicone or Teflon. Prefer Stainless Steel.
2. Measuring (Graduated) Cups
What to consider when buying this item
- Accuracy: Go for 1 “graduated”, transparent cup with visible markings. Avoid approximate cup sizes with no indicated measurements.
- Precision: Precision means how small of a quantity, the cup can measure accurately. Standard measuring cups can precisely measure quantities as low as 1/4 cup (around 60 mL). For quantities, lower than that, use a measuring spoon set
- Range: The greater, the better. Standard range goes from 1/4 cup to 2 cups.
- Material: Borosilicate glass or laboratory-grade Pyrex glass are the best options. Avoid plastic or silicone. Stainless steel is a great material, but because it isn’t see-through, it scores less from the Utility point-of-view.
- Temperature Resistance: Microwave and Freezer-safe materials are the best. However, please still avoid applying sudden temperature variations to improve durability. Eg: Avoid heating a measuring cup over a stove or in the microwave right after taking it out of the refrigerator.
- Ease of Cleaning: Materials such as Borosilicate glass, Pyrex glassware and Stainless steel are dishwasher-safe and do not leach out with dishwashing liquid detergents either.
3. Thick-bottomed stainless-steel pan for Leaching
Restricting Sodium & Potassium intake forms an integral part of a kidney-friendly diet plan. So, in addition to being precise with cooking ingredients, your medical team would also recommend “Leaching“ the high Sodium & Potassium vegetables (and sometimes meat) before cooking.
Leaching requires you to use a thick-bottomed pan without a lid. Now, most of you already have these utensils in the kitchen. But just in case you live away from your family and have not had the opportunity to stock up your kitchen inventory with one of these versatile pans, get one now. We recommend using stainless steel pans for your Kidney-friendly Kitchen. Steel is well-suited for this purpose because steel is both relatively inexpensive & “chemically safe” with boiling water despite prolonged use.
What to consider when buying this item?
- Material: Always choose a material that is less likely to “leach-out” into the food/water being cooked in it. Stainless Steel and Borosilicate Glass are good choices. Steer clear of pans lined with Teflon, Silicone, Cast iron or Copper for the purpose of leaching food.
- Durability: Thickness of the base is an important consideration from the Durability point-of-view. A 5 millimetres (or 0.5 centimetres) thick base is a good reference standard.
If you still don’t have a Leaching pan, take a look at the options below:
PORTION CONTROL FOR YOUR KIDNEY HEALTH
Once you cook your food from your Renal Diet recommendations, Portion Control is another humble but helpful step towards both kidney health & body-weight management.
While admittedly, this may sound like “lynching” your food freedom further, it is completely logical and definitely worth your effort!
How is that?
Eating normal portions more than the recommended number of times per day, or a one-time huge, enthusiastic portion of “kidney-friendly low values” of specific nutrients habitually, do not take too long to add up and yield “kidney-damaging high values” of those very nutrients in our blood.
For instance, 2-3 OUNCES of a cooked portion of meat, fish or poultry (about the size of a deck of cards) taken ONCE EVERY ALTERNATE DAY (or 3-4 times per week) forms one kidney-safe portion in a CKD patient. If you take a 10-ounce huge slice of lean meat for one meal or eat a 3-ounce slice three times a day a regular basis, it would only act like a brazen insult of protein-phosphorus-and-fat on your unwell kidneys. Why do that?
So, it is best to consider investing in kitchen tools that help you stick to portion control. This is both to prevent your unwell kidneys from hasty damage as well as to keep your body weight in check. (Win-Win!)
1. Portion divider (for dough)
2. Portion dividers for solid food
3. Measuring Ladle Set for portion-sizing fluids
4. Kitchen Weighing Scale for dry weight measurements
BATCH STORAGE: REMAINING KIDNEY FRIENDLY WITH TIME CONSTRAINTS
If you are a kidney patient or the primary caregiver of one and are also employed somewhere, you are probably stressing over how to apply all the “advice” that comes rolling in for managing a kidney-friendly lifestyle. Where’s the time beyond managing to gulp the prescribed medicines, after all?
But then, home cooking is always preferable for all Kidney Patients over eating ready-made food. So, what do you do? Manage the time on your weekends and prepare for the week ahead. You read that right.
If you notice, preparing for a dish is often the more time-consuming, mundane part (unless you’re baking!) than actually cooking it.
So, Team ATK recommends two things:
Draw up a weekly menu plan for yourself. Saves time in the kitchen!
Find an hour or two on a weekend, just peel/shell/cut/chop/slice or dice the vegetables, fruits or meat/fish/egg in quantities adequate for your requirements. Segregate them as per your custom menu according to days of the week.
Consider investing in a separate set of Sealed/air-tight storage containers for yourself, enough to store/refrigerate/freeze your meal preps for the week, keep them fresh and use as per need.
1. Sealed / Air-tight Containers for storing meal preps
Storing food-preps segregated & arranged for days of the week literally cuts the cooking time by half. Not only can you comfortably prepare a fresh meal for yourself at home but you can also rustle-up something (with/without leftovers from the previous night) to carry for lunch at work despite the time constraints.
TIP: Tortilla wraps/rolls & sandwiches filled with veggies, lean meat or boiled eggs and soft cheese make for time-saving options for the lunch box!
If you wish to carry food prepared at home to work, the marketplace offers several options. Add a stainless steel tiffin carrier to your Kitchen inventory. They are a boon! Try not to go for Ziplock pouches. While they are versatile and relatively harmless in good health, pouches made of plastic or silicone are likely to leach-out chemicals into the food content over time, especially if you microwave or re-heat your food while still wrapped in such pouches.
2. Kidney-friendly “carrying options” for a packed lunch
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