How to Navigate Thanksgiving with Chronic Kidney Disease

Thanksgiving dinner table with sliced turkey and sides, overhead shot

I absolutely love the changing of colors on the trees, the crisp chill in the air, and the chance to
break out cozy sweaters and fuzzy socks! All these symbols of Fall mean that Thanksgiving
and the start of the holiday season are around the corner!

Many people with CKD may feel that the holiday meals are a lost cause – too high in sodium,
sugar, too large portions, or too many events to be able to manage healthy choices.

Here are some of the top questions I get around this time of year and tips I use to help my
clients stay healthy and safe while still being able to celebrate.

My family brines the turkey. I definitely can’t eat any of that…Right?

Brining chicken and turkey is a popular method for getting a juicy, flavorful bird without drying it out. And YES, that brine is salty! However, according to Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, 4 ounces of white meat turkey that was brined for 12 hours had 150mg of sodium, and 4 ounces of dark meat had 235mg of sodium.

In comparison, some side dishes made with creamed soups, gravy from a jar or can, or boxed
stuffing made with broth can be as high as 460mg for just ½ cup serving! So we can choose
wisely and keep our portions moderate, and most of all, we can eat mindfully.

Try following the Mediterranean diet during Thanksgiving.

There are several Mediterranean dishes and concepts that can be incorporated into our holiday
meals. Something as simple as bringing a veggie party tray for appetizers, grilled or roasted
vegetables as a side, or lentil soup or salad to go with other dishes.

Don’t forget herb-roasted squash or cauliflower! All delicious options that work with a healthy eating plan and won’t leave anyone feeling sluggish and terrible after the meal.

I am invited to a holiday meal but am not cooking – how should I navigate this?

When in doubt, if you feel the meal is going to be too high in sodium or sugar, keep your
portions small and consider eating your salad or veggies before you go.

Even a quick smoothie of spinach, berries, and pea protein can help you from overeating while still being able to try the foods you want to and more importantly, enjoy the company of your friends or family.

Remember that people are there to see you – not just to see you eat.

My favorite quote (more of a mantra) to remember as we navigate the holidays and social events, is “progress, not perfection“ Expect that there will be ups and downs, good choices and bad. Every bite is an opportunity to change your health.

Happy Holidays!
Nadia Khambati, RDN, LDN