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Ask the Dietitian: What can I have for Thanksgiving if I'm limiting potassium?

Q: “I’m struggling to figure out what I can serve for Thanksgiving. My family and I really love sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, but I need to watch my potassium. I feel like if they are on the table, I won’t be able to stop myself from eating them and I don’t want my family to be upset if we do not have them. I just don’t know what to do, help!”

A: The holidays can be a joyous time and celebratory and a time that brings on a lot of stress. Navigating holiday meals while being on a special diet for a medical condition can feel challenging. With a little bit of planning and some changes to how the food is prepared, success at the holiday dinner table is possible!

Find a Good Recipe

There are many kidney-friendly holiday recipes available online through some of the dialysis companies, the National Kidney Foundation, AAKP, and more. Here is one from our cookbook for Sweet Potato Pie (see below)! You may find that one of these recipes becomes a new holiday favorite!

“Dialyze” Your Root Vegetables

Did you know you can remove some of the potassium from foods by soaking and boiling them? This method allows you to enjoy higher potassium foods with less guilt and less chance of raising your blood potassium level. Portion sizes are still important, so even if you have “dialyzed” your root vegetables keep your serving to about ½ cup. You can learn how to lower potassium in your root vegetables by watching this video.

Build Your Holiday Plate

Build your holiday plate in a similar way you build your everyday plate with protein, fruit/vegetable, and grains. If your favorite food or foods are on your diet’s caution list, then focus on the portion size. Your plate may have turkey on it with a small amount of gravy, larger amount of salad and green beans, a roll, and a small portion of mashed potatoes. Or maybe your plate has small portions of ham, cornbread, sweet potatoes, and greens. It’s the portion sizes of your foods that will have the biggest impact.

Plan and Prepare

It is also important to focus on choosing the right food for you in the days prior to and after the holiday meal to ensure that you can include reasonably portioned foods you normally only eat on special occasions. So, relax, enjoy, and eat the pie!

Sweet Potato Pie

Makes: 8 servings

Per serving: Calories 335, Protein 5.5 gm, Sodium 195 mg, Potassium 160 mg, Phosphorus 85 mg


1½ cups dialyzed, mashed sweet potatoes

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

½ cup white sugar

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

3/4 cup milk

2 large eggs, separated

2 tsp grated lemon zest (optional)

2 TBSP margarine or butter, softened

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 cup white sugar

1 baked, 9-inch pie shell, cooled


1. Dialyze sweet potatoes. (See directions below)

2. Cook, drain well and mash.

3. In 3 quart metal mixing bowl, stir together gelatin, sugar and spices. Stir in milk.

4. Beat in egg yolks and margarine.

5. Mix in sweet potatoes and corn syrup.

6. Place bowl over saucepan of boiling water and cook 15 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture is hot and sugar has dissolved.

7. Remove from heat and chill 2 hours until mixture mounds when dropped from spoon.

8. In medium-sized bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat in 1/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. at a time.

9. Fold beaten whites into cool potato mixture.

10. Turn into pie shell. Chill several hours or up to 2 days.

Dialyzed Vegetables

Certain vegetables are high in potassium. Using this special recipe can lower the potassium in these vegetables.

1. Use fresh, unpeeled vegetables.

2. Peel and eye, place them into cold water so they won’t darken.

3. Slice vegetables 1/8 inch thick.

4. Rinse in warm water a few seconds.

5. Soak for a minimum of 2 hours in warm water. Use 10 times the amount of water to the amount of vegetables.

6. Rinse under warm water again for a few seconds.

7. Cook for 5 minutes, but with 5 times the amount of water to the amount of vegetables.

8. Place 1 serving portion in small plastic bags, freeze.

9. Each serving may be cooked in a variety of ways: French fried, mashed, boiled, home fried with onions, scalloped, etc.

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