Lights, Camera, Renal-Friendly Food!

March 3rd, 2017

St. Paul’s dietitians to create video series to help dialysis patients prepare renal-friendly meals at home

Being on hemodialysis can turn your day-to-day schedule upside down, with patients needing to visit St. Paul’s for treatment three or more times a week, with each sessions taking fours hours or more.

But even when back in the comfort of their home, patients face the challenge of following a way of eating that often involves limiting sodium, fluid and adjusting the amount of phosphorus and potassium eaten. With little or no kidney function, constant care must be taken to follow their individualized diet to prevent fluid and waste build up between dialysis treatments and to feel their best.

Dietary restrictions can make the basic act of feeding yourself overwhelming, in addition to struggles with practical meal ideas and limited time and energy to prepare meals.

In 2014, St. Paul’s Renal Patient Advocacy Group came up with the idea to develop special hands-on cooking classes for dialysis patients, to help showcase kidney-friendly recipes in a fun an interactive environment.

With the support from an Enhanced Patient Care grant (EPC) from St. Paul’s Foundation, the first renal cooking classes were created by St. Paul’s dietitians Beverley Lau and Tanya Leung.

The themes of the cooking classes included pasta night, Thanksgiving and summer vacation in the form of 3 course meals – all free of charge for patients. In addition, the dietitians offered taste tests of kidney-friendly version of pizza, Chinese new year dumplings and fish cakes and set up education booths that had dietary information, recipes and meal ideas. All of which were a hit with patients.

Yet despite the positive feedback hemodialysis patients were providing on the cooking classes, there were barriers that were affecting attendance. “It’s difficult for dialysis patients,” says Tanya. “They’re already coming to St. Paul’s three times a week, so we need to understand that it can be tough to come an additional night, even if it’s for something they enjoy. Some would need to arrange for a ride, for example. Some would have significant mobility issues.”

With the expansion of kidney transplantation program at St. Paul’s Hospital, Anja Webster, the dietitian with the program, saw the cooking classes as an opportunity for her patients. Patients often see their kidney transplant as a new start and are eager to participate in activities that promote their overall health – one of which is nutritious eating. Anja, with the help of kidney transplant social worker, Miriam Maxcy has been able to consistently and successfully recruit patients to take part in cooking classes and teach topics such as healthy heart eating, the importance of food safety and food preparation skills.

After understanding the barriers for patients coming to cooking classes, Tanya and Beverly had the idea to do a cooking video series, bringing the knowledge of cooking skills to patients wherever they may be.

The content will run on TVs in the Renal Department and on wider platforms such as YouTube.

The first three videos will be on breakfast ideas, and on simple ways of cooking fish and chicken. Filmed from the overhead camera angle often employed by cooking shows, many of the dishes will come together onscreen in less than a minute.

“Part of this approach is that we want patients to see that these meals do not take long to prepare and that they will still be delicious, healthy and renal-friendly,” says Tanya. “Time-saving meals are important because so much of a dialysis patient’s time is already consumed by their treatment schedule.”

Recipes for the video project have already been selected and filming is expected to begin in early summer.

Thank you to those who gave to Lights of Hope, as it is your donations that are funding this innovative project through the Enhanced Patient Care grants program.

You can help more renal patients at St. Paul’s right now with your generous donation.

Donate now

St. Paul's Foundation