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Kidney-friendly Easter and Passover meals

Is your family doing a virtual Easter or Passover dinner this year? Do not forget to include kidney-friendly foods on your plate! Faith leaders who are part of the kidney community told us how they approach special holiday meals.
Easter-themed place setting

With the spring holiday season underway, a few faith leaders who are also part of the kidney community wanted to share how they approach special holiday meals. By being flexible, making kidney-friendly substitutes, and enjoying favorites in moderation, holiday meals can still be something to look forward to.

Pastor Andre Turner, currently of Los Angeles but moving soon to Alabama, is a person on dialysis who has words of caution for everyone: "The first thing I would say to anyone in my condition is please, please, please, take your binders with whatever you eat." Pastor Turner offers this advice based on personal experience — when he did not take his medicines as prescribed to him by his doctor, he developed problems due to too much calcium building up in his blood. "I suffered with that thing and then got it down into range. Then I'd stay away from foods high in phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.

" During Easter, which is on April 12, Pastor Turner tries to stick to kidney-friendly versions of tried and true, family favorite recipes. "We stick with green leafy vegetables," he said. "On most of the holidays if I splurge I may have some oxtail or turkey. I don't really use ham."

If you have trouble making the right choices at the dinner table, Pastor Turner recommends eating with company. "If someone says we have a potluck at church, people will keep an eye out and point it out when I eat something I maybe not should be eating, like too much ice cream or soda," he admitted. "Eating around people who know you and know your condition does make a difference."

Rabbi Andy Bossov of Illinois and Pastor Karen Onesti of New Jersey are both very familiar with each other's condition. Thirteen years ago, Pastor Onesti donated her kidney to Rabbi Bossov and they have been great friends — and healthy — ever since. For Passover, which started April 8 and ends April 16, Rabbi Bossov says there are many kidney-friendly options for the Seder plate. "There are the ritual foods pertaining to the Seder service and then there are the traditional meal foods," he says. "As far as the traditional meal foods go, so long as they fit within the eater's observance pattern then actually many, many things are available to a kidney patient."

Rabbi Bossov is a fan of the American Kidney Fund's Kidney Kitchen website with more than 200 kidney-friendly recipes to try. Some of the Kidney Kitchen recipes Rabbi Bossov suggests for Passover (or year round!) are the seared broccoliroast chicken with vegetablesfish tacos (using matzo as a substitute during Passover) and the Persian polo with raisins and lentils.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rabbi Bossov reminds people to be flexible in what they feel like they should have on their Seder or Easter plates this year. "Many traditional dishes may go by the wayside," he cautions. "In many cases they're made by a particular family member — there's someone who always makes the tzimmes or always makes the matzo balls. And without being in physical proximity to those people, Seders this year will have less flavor, literally and figuratively."

Pastor Onesti, on the other hand, is hoping for a few traditional dishes. "Ham. Always an Easter ham. Even better if it is spiraled or candied," she said happily. As a living kidney donor, Pastor Onesti has fewer food and fluid intake requirements than people with kidney disease, but she still tries to eat well for her one healthy kidney. She suggests limiting portion sizes if there are foods you must have on your dinner plate but, for her, it is the little things on her plate that matter most. "We were poor growing up, so we knew it was a holiday when we had butter instead of margarine," she recalled. "And there were olives and maraschino cherries, so you knew it was a holiday."

Although Pastor Onesti married into an Italian family that always has a delectable Easter dessert pie, her Irish roots now make her prefer a treat that can be found on Kidney Kitchen. "My mother would make rice pudding, but when you have an Easter basket as a kid, rice pudding has no interest. That was for the adults mostly," she said laughing. Kidney Kitchen has a great rice pudding recipe.

If you are looking for kidney-friendly versions of some holiday favorites, or maybe even to start a new family tradition with a dish you have never tried before, check out the recipe search on Kidney Kitchen.


Ben Shlesinger

Ben Shlesinger is the associate director of government relations for the American Kidney Fund.