Health Library

Renal (Kidney) Disease Diet—For People Not on Dialysis

What Is a Renal Disease Diet?

A renal disease diet limits:

Why Do I Need to Follow This Diet?

People with kidney disease have kidneys that do not filter the blood as well as they should. This may cause some nutrients to build up to unhealthy levels. You can ease the load on your kidneys by lowering your intake of them. This will lower your risk of kidney problems. It may also slow the disease.

Food Choices

You will need to limit or avoid some foods. A dietitian can help you with meal planning.

Sodium

Sodium is found in table salt and many other foods. Most canned and processed foods have it in high amounts. When the kidneys are not working as they should, extra sodium can cause:

To lower your sodium:

  • Do not eat high-sodium foods.
  • Do not add salt to foods when you cook or eat.

Use herbs and spices to add flavor to your food. Salt substitutes often contain potassium. You may also need to limit this mineral.

Potassium

Potassium is found in many fruits and veggies. It is needed for your muscle and heart health. Potassium can build up in the blood in people who have kidney failure. This causes problems with how the heart works. You will need to limit the amount of potassium you take in each day. Do not eat high potassium foods, such as potatoes, tomatoes, citrus fruits, avocados, bananas, and dried fruit. You may be able to eat some high-potassium food in very small amounts. Talk to your dietitian about how much is right for you.

Phosphorous

Phosphorous is another mineral that needs to be limited. It can draw calcium out of the bones when it builds up in the blood. This causes your bones to weaken. Phosphorous is found in protein-rich foods, such as dairy products, meat, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Whole grains and cola also contain it. You may be able to eat some of these foods in very small amounts. Talk to your dietitian about how much is right for you.

Your doctor may also have you take a phosphate-binder. This medicine soaks up extra phosphorous and it leaves the body in your stool.

Protein

The kidneys of people with renal disease cannot process the waste products from protein as well as they should. Your dietitian will give you a daily protein limit. Here are some common high protein choices and their serving sizes:

High-Protein Foods Amount
Fish 1 ounce
Shellfish 1 ounce
Poultry 1 ounce
Pork 1 ounce
Lamb 1 ounce
Beef 1 ounce
Eggs 1 large
Egg substitute ¼ cup

Many protein foods are also high in phosphorus and sodium. You need to limit or avoid these foods. Your dietitian will tell you how many servings you can take in each day.

High-Protein Foods With Phosphorous Amount
Cheese 1 ounce
Cooked, dried beans and peas ½ cup
Milk 1 cup
Evaporated milk ½ cup
Sweetened, condensed milk ½ cup
Nut butters 2 tablespoons
Organ meats (eg, beef liver) 1 ounce
Soy milk 1 cup
Tofu ¼ cup
Yogurt 1 cup
High-Protein Foods With Sodium Amount
Bacon 4 slices
Canned tuna and salmon 1 ounce or ¼ cup
Cottage cheese, low fat ¼ cup
Deli-style roast beef, ham, turkey, bologna, liverwurst, salami 2 ounces
Frankfurters and sausages 2 ounces
Veggie burger 2 ounces

Fluid

You may need to limit your fluid intake. Taking in too much fluid can cause it to build up. This can lead to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Edema

What Can I Eat?

A dietitian can help you learn which foods you can eat and the amounts. Here is a list of foods that you can still enjoy:

  • Limited amounts of high-protein foods
  • Low-potassium veggies
  • Low-potassium fruits and fruit juices
  • Refined breads, cereals (½ cup or 1 cup of low salt, dry cereal), and grains—like bagels, white bread, corn cereal, rice cereal, couscous, pasta (½ cup), white rice (½ cup)
  • Grain snacks—white crackers, graham crackers, unsalted popcorn, unsalted pretzels, unsalted tortilla chips
  • Healthy fats—olive oil, canola oil, tub margarine
  • Desserts—sugar cookies (4), shortbread cookies (4), vanilla wafers (4), sherbet

Tips

  • Track your food intake in a food journal or download a food-tracking app on your phone.
  • Read food labels for nutrient information and serving sizes.
  • Choose whole foods over processed foods that are usually high in salt and low in nutrition.
  • Make sure you are eating enough calories. Add healthy fats and simple carbohydrates, such as jam, maple syrup, and honey.
  • Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.

Resources

American Association of Kidney Patients
http://www.aakp.org

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

Canadian Resources

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

The Kidney Foundation of Canada
http://www.kidney.ca

References

Kidney-friendly diet for CKD. American Kidney Fund website. Available at: http://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/kidney-friendly-diet-for-ckd.html. Accessed June 18, 2019.

Nutrition and kidney disease, stages 1 to 4. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/nutrition/Kidney-Disease-Stages-1-4. Accessed June 18, 2019.

Renal failure, chronic: diet therapy. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center Plus. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated November 17, 2017. Accessed June 18, 2019.