Celebrity chef brings ‘bold flavor’ to dialysis facility

Photo by Sherri Kolade
Food Network Chef Aaron McCargo Jr. (standing) speaks to about 30 dialysis patients and family members Nov. 30 at a Dearborn Heights dialysis clinic, discussing kidney-friendly meal options.

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Food Network Chef Aaron McCargo Jr. isn’t shy about sharing his kidney-friendly recipes to people who are on dialysis treatments and looking for bolder-flavored meals.

McCargo — star of Food Network’s “Big Daddy’s House” television show and national spokesperson for Fresenius Medical Care North America — spoke about 30 minutes Nov. 30 at Fresenius Medical Care Garden City, 27201 West Warren Ave. in Dearborn Heights, to several dozen dialysis patients about healthy meal options.

McCargo spoke at several area FMCNA dialysis facilities.

“I really want to give you guys an opportunity to be able to go home and recreate these meals,” McCargo said of recipes he created. “I understand how hard it can be to follow this strict diet and put something good on the table.”

A dialysis diet limits a person’s intake of protein, liquid, and sodium, which can lead to fluid retention. Dialysis patients also are advised to limit or avoid foods that have high levels of potassium and high levels of phosphorous. High potassium levels can cause muscle and heart problems and high phosphorous levels can weaken bones.

McCargo said when dialysis patients are told what not to eat it can be discouraging.

“This is unrealistic in so many people’s eyes when you tell them, ‘You know I am on dialysis, I can’t have broccoli, I can’t have tomatoes, I can’t have bacon. Bacon? That is enough for me to jump out of a window on the first floor,” McCargo said to a laughing audience. “I don’t want to hurt myself; the fifth floor is a little high. But it is amazing when you hear the word ‘no.’ It is tough.”

McCargo said people of different ethnic backgrounds have come to him throughout his career and asked him to create foods from their cultures into easy-to-make recipes.

“Whenever I get a request I don’t just take it and throw it out of the window,” McCargo said. “I take it home and I work on these recipes.”

During McCargo’s discussion he engaged the audience with humourous anecdotes and asked them to tell him about the foods they ate outside of their diet restrictions.

After the event, McCargo said that he knows up close what dialysis looks like because his sister-in-law is on dialysis.

“I know so many people who have diabetes and different stages of diabetes but I never really took into consideration the diet restriction of people who are on dialysis until Fresenius Medical Care asked me to team up with them,” McCargo said. “As I talked to dieticians and did research, I really began to see how much they have removed from their diet.”

McCargo said after undergoing several hours of dialysis treatment several times a week it would be hard for a person to consistently make creative meals.

That’s where he comes in, he said.

“I am blessed to have this opportunity to hone in on the truth of making a delicious meal without crutches,” McCargo said. “It is easy to make something with salt. It tastes good. But it is hard when you take that away.”

McCargo said dialysis patients can have a better lifestyle while on dialysis by eating flavorful foods and, with FMCNA, he hopes to change the perception of kidney-friendly diets.

“I know it is going to be a great breakthrough for those who are on dialysis to know that they can get back in the kitchen, have a fun time cooking again and enjoy foods,” McCargo said.

FMCNA dialysis patient and Dearborn Heights resident Richard Nader said he looks forward to trying out McCargo’s recipes.

“Cooking with dialysis can be a challenge,” Nader said. “I am on dialysis but I am also a diabetic. So I have to walk a fine line. I look at foods and I blow up.”

Yvonne Calleja, director of operations for Fresenius Medical Care, said sometimes kidney patients think their diet, with its many restrictions, is bland.

“We teach them that you can add renal-friendly spices to your meals to make eating more attractive,” Calleja said. “There are a lot of things they can have and make eating more enjoyable for the whole family.”

For more information on McCargo’s recipes go to www.ultracare-dialysis.com

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)