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Eat your way to kidney health

Did you know nutrition plays an important role in the health of your child’s kidneys? For Nutrition Month and Kidney Awareness Month, BC Children’s Hospital shares tips on how parents and caregivers can encourage kids to eat for optimal kidney health.
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​Through its shared care program, BC Children’s renal program provides care to children and adolescents with kidney disease across British Columbia. In addition to its clinic at BC Children’s, health care teams specializing in kidney care also travel to the Fraser Valley and Prince George. The team consists of a physician, nurse and dietitian who provide treatment to children in need of general renal care, children living with nephrotic syndrome, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, children experiencing renal and rheumatology challenges, children on dialysis and transplant patients.

“Ensuring we deliver excellent province-wide care is our top priority,” said Dr. Douglas Matsell, Nephrology Division head. “Currently there are approximately 500 clinic visits per year in our regional care clinics. Having staff from BC Children’s travel to other clinics in the province means children can receive care closer to their home community.”

Several times a month the health care team travels to clinics to provide comprehensive and collaborative care to children. Part of the dietitian’s responsibility is to support families in further understanding the role nutrition plays in their child’s growth and development. Achieving adequate nutrition and growth can be more challenging for children with kidney disease because as kidney function changes so does appetite and as a result, growth is often affected.

“Each child has their own unique needs depending on their underlying diagnosis and treatment,” said Kirsten McFadyen, Pediatric Nephrology Outreach dietitian, BC Children’s. “As dietitians, we work closely with the medical care team and families to provide individualized nutrition care plans for every child in our care.” 

Renal dietitians at BC Children’s suggest families follow these tips to support children in improving and maintaining kidney health. 

Lower sodium content in diet

Sodium is an important mineral for many functions, however too much sodium or salt can raise blood pressure and increase risk of kidney stones. Approximately 80 per cent of the sodium Canadians consume comes from salt that has been added to foods during processing. Some tips to reduce sodium content include:

Prepare meals at home. 
Flavour foods with herbs and spices.
Check nutrition labels for sodium content of packaged foods. The goal is that the milligrams of sodium should not exceed the number of calories.  
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*Dairy products (milk, cheese and yogurt) may contain more sodium than calories however it is important for your child’s growing bones to meet their daily calcium requirements. 

Increase water intake

Water helps remove waste from blood in the form of urine and helps prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
Ensure children drink enough water to keep urine light yellow or colourless.
Consider carrying a water bottle at all times.
Add fruit, cucumber or squeeze fresh lemon into water before drinking. 
Set a daily reminder to encourage water intake. 
Encourage children to drink water by giving them fun water bottles, straws or cups. 

Eat a balanced diet

There are many diets that promote excess of certain food groups – the goal of a kidney-friendly diet is balance. 

People generally consume far too much protein and not enough fruits and vegetables.
A balanced diet includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and moderate amounts of protein and whole grains. 
Aim for more colour on your plate by including lots of fruits and vegetables.
Kidney disease is different in every child. Be sure to talk to your child’s health care team about how to improve kidney health. Learn more about how BC Children’s renal program and nutrition services help children and adolescents living with kidney disease through nutrition.   
BC Children's Hospital
Children's Health
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