Blog post

How a 'food as medicine' attitude to treatment can benefit people with kidney disease

In the last decade, doctors and medical schools have started to support the concept of "food as medicine."
nutritionist writing food in background shutterstock 248483716  1

At FamilyCook Productions, we know how important home-cooking can be for managing your health. So, how great would it be if your kidney doctor included food and recipe recommendations in your treatment options? Or what if your doctor referred you to a dietician who counseled you to use healthy meals and scratch cooking as part of your treatment? Imagine if, in addition to prescribing you medicine, doctors could write you a prescription for fresh produce or for a cooking class, where you could learn to be a more confident and motivated cook.

In the last decade, doctors and medical schools have started to support the concept of "food as medicine." The idea is not a new one – the ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates believed nutrition was an important tool for doctors – but today more and more doctors are empowering people to use healthful food to improve their disease status. Some doctors are so excited about the link between nutrition and health status that they are becoming chefs to teach these classes themselves. Some of the most respected hospitals across the United States, including the Cleveland Clinic and Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center, are starting to include education about food and cooking into their clinical practice. Some new programs offer a series of sessions that support behavior changes by improving people's comfort level with cooking new, fresh ingredients. The hospitals are also encouraging people to share their struggles and successes with healthy eating.

Adopting a kidney-healthy meal plan is especially important for managing kidney disease. People with kidney disease who pay attention to their mineral and protein intake can enjoy better quality of life. In some cases, carefully monitoring meals can be so effective that you might be able to reduce the amount of medicine you are taking. But, many people with chronic diseases, like kidney disease, often rely on prepackaged meals that use ingredients they cannot control.

Resources like the American Kidney Fund's Kidney Kitchen® can help. On Kidney Kitchen, we offer a wide range of recipes reflecting global cultures, with a seasonal emphasis. Cooking "newbies" may need more help learning basic cooking skills. Doctor-recommended cooking classes or teaching kitchens for people with kidney disease could provide this kind of crucial support and skill-building. For example, cooking classes could cover basic knife skills, tips for setting up an organized cooking station and "clean-as-you-go" methods that reduce stress in the kitchen. Average level cooks could also enroll in classes that cover the basics of seasonal cooking and explain how to use seasonal ingredients.

We believe that if people with kidney disease had access to healthy cooking classes, they might be more willing and excited to cook. Armed with useful ways to cut up ingredients and use them in a range of ways, people would not be stuck cooking and eating the same foods every day and may be more eager to use resources like Kidney Kitchen to expand their family meals.

We encourage you to ask your doctor or dietitian if your care network offers any "food as medicine" programs or support. And we hope that doctors will include nutrition and cooking education in their kidney disease treatment options.


FamilyCook Productions

FamilyCook Productions is a national leader in teaching kitchen programming for obesity prevention and treatment, offering turn-key programming to hundreds of schools, community organizations, public health departments, SNAP-Ed providers, and hospitals across the U.S. FamilyCook Productions was founded by award-winning culinary author-educator, Lynn Fredericks, author of Cooking Time is Family Time (1999) and, with FamilyCook’s longtime dietitian, Mercedes Sanchez, author of Get Your Family Eating Right (2013). Fredericks and Sanchez devise a range of flavorful, easy-to-prepare, international recipes for AKF’s Kidney Kitchen®.