Are you getting hungrier as the days get shorter?

It happens every year around this time. The season changes from summer to fall, and people begin to crave comfort foods. Not surprisingly, many of us tend to eat more over the winter months, says Katy Wilkens, manager of nutrition and fitness services at Northwest Kidney Centers.


For some people, the result will be a few extra pounds. But for people with kidney disease, the concern is more about the kinds of food rather than about possible weight gain. When facing food cravings, it’s important to make thoughtful and healthy choices.


First and foremost, if you have kidney disease or not, limit the amount of prepared, processed and restaurant food that you eat. These foods are high in salt. Too much salt causes high blood pressure, and high blood pressure damages your kidneys, heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure causes about two-thirds of all strokes and half of all heart attacks.


Most of the salt we eat doesn’t come from the salt shaker. More than 75 percent of the salt in our diet comes from packaged, processed food and restaurant meals or fast food.


Healthy eating happens at home

The truth is that people who make their own meals at home eat less salt and have a healthier diet overall. Only about 11 percent comes from home cooking or salting food at the table.


Try making some of our low-salt recipes at home — there are hundreds to choose from.


Also, keep low-sodium snacks on hand:

  • Unsalted pretzels, popcorn and chips
  • Dried cranberries, grapes, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries
  • Cucumber slices, carrot and celery sticks
  • Rice cakes and protein bars


Getting more physically active will counter urges to eat more. Activity also improves digestion and energy while lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels.


While shorter days and cooler weather can be a challenge, there are fun opportunities to get a workout at this time of year:

  • If able, try the outdoor activities the Pacific Northwest is known for, such as skiing, snowshoeing and hiking.
  • Walking and stretching are good choices, perhaps in a nearby shopping mall. Some malls open early for walkers.
  • House and yard work. Raking, sweeping, mopping and vacuuming all contribute to your overall fitness.
  • Northwest Kidney Centers offers patients free access to elastic exercise bands and exercise balls. Pedlar bikes are available to patients while they dialyze. Our nutrition and fitness team designs exercise regimens specifically for patients.


With the winter months directly ahead, stay healthy by taking control of your diet and staying active.