Pancakes often land on the “LIMIT” side of many renal diet lists due to their sodium and phos content. Generally, speaking pancakes are not really the best choice. However, if you know what to look for or if you know how to modify your pancake recipes, they are definitely a food you can use! I scoured several varieties and brands of pancakes (from scratch, mix, frozen, and restaurant), contacted several companies, and took the NCCDB analysis of a few basic recipes to find out which pancakes really would be the best for people watching their sodium, potassium, and phosphorus intake. This took a really long time (as in, my infant almost grew into an adult by the time I finished this…). Turns out what is on a company’s websites isn’t actually always up to date…
So who are the best players in the pancake world?
Lowest in sodium based milligrams of sodium per calorie:
Lowest in phosphorus based on milligrams phos per calorie*:
*Note: This does not take into account the many mixes and pancakes that did not have phosphorus information available! See addendum to this post added 11/19/2016. We might have found another “winner, winner, winner” pancake recipe to try.
(Based on per pancake (most pancakes are assumed to be 4″ except for mini pancakes). If you want to see nutrient content per serving, shoot me an email and I’ll send you my file. See note #6 below on why I chose to compare on a pancake-to-pancake basis)
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Homemade sourdough pancakes really are the best option (*See addendum below… there might actually be something just as good, especially if you don’t have sourdough starter on hand). However, if you want to use a mix, I’d use the Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free mix and use rice milk or almond milk instead of regular milk. If you want a frozen pancake product, the Pillsbury Buttermilk Pancakes are a reasonable option. I think that I could make a really good pancake mix product using the Ener-G Baking Soda Substitute, but I haven’t tried it yet so I don’t know. That will be a post for another day.
A couple notes about this chart:
- The data for “Whole Wheat Pancake” and “Basic Pancake” found under the “homemade” column was taken from the Nutrition Coordinating Center Food & Nutrient Database (NCCDB) at the University of Minnesota. I like this database because it does a full micro-nutrient profile for all their foods. The homemade pancakes were surprisingly sodium-packed so I’m not sure what recipe they used. This could easily be cut back by using less salt and baking soda in the recipe.
- The nutrients profile for pancakes made from a mix are for the pancakes prepared per package directions. Some of the mixes could be made to have less calories, potassium, and phosphorus if you used substitutes such as almond milk or rice milk instead of regular milk. Here is quick comparison of cow’s milk, almond milk, and rice milk, since the liquid in your pancakes is a huge contributor of phos and potassium. Rice milk is clearly your best bet. The flavor difference will not be noticeable if you use an alternative milk product, so you might as well save yourself some potassium and phosphorus:[wpdatatable id=2 table_view=regular].
- Needing high protein for dialysis, consider adding an unflavored protein powder like Unjury™.
- I did not include the phosphorus and potassium content of every single product. If you see an “–” it means the company doesn’t analyze for that nutrient OR they never replied to my email requesting info about these nutrients.
- All product information is taken directly from the company websites or was sent to me by the company and is current as of September 1, 2016.
- REALLY IMPORTANT: This chart is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison because pancakes differ in density and thickness. For example, for 1/3 cup of Aunt Jemima’s original mix (47 gm) makes four 4″ pancakes, while 1/3 cup of Aunt Jemima’s Buttermilk Complete Mix (45 gm) makes approximately three 4″ pancakes. See? The Buttermilk Complete Mix pancakes are much more dense pancakes. I converted the nutrient data so that it represents nutrition information per pancake. Again, remember the pancakes are not created equal. Why did I do it this way? Because, most of us think in terms of individual pancake, not weight of pancake. No one asks you, “How many grams of pancakes do you want this morning?” They just ask, “How many pancakes?” I mean, really, when was the last time you weighed your pancakes? Me, never. They get cold too fast. The calories and carb content can you a good perspective of the pancakes’ density.
- You can sort the chart and print it and download it and play with it to your heart’s content.
- Finally – DISCLAIMER: I am no pancake expert. Not even close. This chart is not meant as medical advice, but it does make a good point that if pancakes are a regular part of any patient’s diet, there are “good, better, best” choices. Homemade pancakes, made with zero or minimal salt are your most economical kidney-friendly choice. Using baking substitutes such as rice milk or almond milk can further lower potassium and phos. As I mentioned previously, EnerG Baking Soda Substitute is an option to decrease sodium (you can buy it on Amazon or directly from the company). And (ahem) it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to try making your pancakes using sourdough (like our KidneyGrub Sourdough Pancakes of course!)
*Addendum: After posting this, a fellow renal dietitian,Elizabeth McClary, MS, RDN, LD from Houston, TX, provided this recipe from bakerbettie.com to our dietitian listserv. I substituted rice milk for regular milk and did the following calculation PER PANCAKE: 93 kcal, 17gm carb, <1 gm fiber, 33 mg Phos (wow!), 43 mg potassium, and 87 mg sodium (this drops to 28 mg if you leave out the 1/4 tsp salt. I haven’t tried these, but given the flavor profile might be a good option.
Author: Jessianna Saville, MS, RDN, CSR, LD
(Questions or comments? Shoot me an email or comment below. Jess@PNSdiet.com. Want to find a dietitian to help slow your kidney disease? Checkout renalnutrition.org.)