Discusses changing your diet to help protect your kidneys when you have kidney disease. Gives general ideas about how to follow the diet your doctor or dietitian recommends. Covers restricting salt (sodium), protein, phosphorus, and potassium.
Kidney Disease: Changing Your Diet
When you have
kidney disease, your kidneys are no longer
working as well as they need to. Changing your diet can help protect your
kidneys. It can also help you control other diseases, such as diabetes and high
blood pressure, that can make kidney disease worse.
can give you some general ideas about how to follow the diet your doctor or
Note: These diet tips
are not for you if you are on
dialysis or have had a kidney transplant. Follow the
special diet your doctor gave you.
Most people who have kidney disease need
to limit salt (sodium), fluids, and protein. Some also have to limit potassium
There is no one diet that is right for everyone
who has kidney disease. Your doctor or dietitian can tailor a diet for you
based on how well your kidneys are working.
It may be hard to
change your diet. You may have to give up many foods you like. But it is very
important to make the recommended changes so you can stay healthy for as long
You need to get enough calories to be healthy and have
energy. If you have a hard time eating enough, talk to your doctor or dietitian
about ways to add calories to your diet.
Your diet may change
over time as your disease changes. See your doctor for regular testing, and
work with a dietitian to adjust your diet as needed.
How to eat when you have kidney disease
These are general food guidelines for people who have kidney disease.
Be sure to follow the diet your doctor or dietitian gave you.
Eating too much protein can
stress the kidneys. But if you don't get enough, you can become weak, tired,
and more likely to get infections. To get the right amount of protein:
Know how much protein you can have each day.
Limit high-protein foods to 5 to 7 ounces a day, or less, if your doctor or
dietitian tells you to. A 3-ounce serving of protein is about the size of a
deck of cards.
Learn which foods contain protein. High-protein
foods include meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Milk and milk products, beans,
nuts, breads, pastas, cereals, and vegetables also contain protein.
Don't add salt to your food.
Read food labels, and look for
hidden sodium. Avoid foods that
list salt, sodium, or monosodium glutamate (MSG) on the label. Buy foods that
are labeled "no salt added," "sodium-free," or "low-sodium." Foods labeled
"reduced-sodium" and "light sodium" may still have too much sodium.
Avoid salted snacks such as pretzels, chips, and popcorn.
Avoid smoked, cured, salted, and canned meat, fish, and poultry.
This includes ham, bacon, hot dogs, and luncheon meats.
a salt substitute or lite salt unless your doctor or dietitian says it is okay.
Most salt substitutes and lite salts are high in potassium. Use lemon, herbs,
and other spices to flavor your meals.
Limit how often you eat food from restaurants. Most of the sodium we eat is hidden in processed foods and
restaurant food, especially at fast-food and take-out places.
If you need to
Know how much fluid you can drink. Each day,
fill a pitcher with that amount of water. If you drink another fluid during the
day, such as coffee, pour an equal amount of water out of the pitcher. When the
pitcher is empty, you're done drinking for the day.
Remember that soups and foods
that are liquid at room temperature, such as gelatin dessert (for example, Jell-O) and ice cream, count as
Be aware that some fruits and vegetables contain a lot of
water and will count in your fluid intake. Examples include grapes, oranges,
apples, lettuce, and celery.
Count the liquid in canned fruits and
vegetables as part of your daily intake, or drain them well before
If you need
to limit potassium:
Choose low-potassium fruits such as apples,
blueberries, pears, and plums. You can also eat canned fruits, such
as fruit cocktail, peaches, and pineapple.
Choose low-potassium vegetables such as asparagus, bean sprouts,
cabbage, cucumber, green beans, and lettuce.
If you need
to limit phosphorus:
Follow your food plan to know how much milk and
milk products you can include.
Limit nuts, peanut butter, seeds,
lentils, beans, organ meats, and sardines. Also limit cured meats such as
sausages, bologna, and hot dogs.
Avoid colas and soft drinks with
phosphate or phosphoric acid.
Avoid bran breads and bran cereals.
Don't skip meals or go for many hours without
eating. If you don't feel very hungry, try to eat 4 or 5 small meals instead of
1 or 2 big meals.
If you have trouble keeping your weight up, talk
to your doctor or dietitian about ways you can add calories to your diet.
Healthy fats such as olive or canola oil may be good choices. Unless you have
diabetes, you can use honey and sugar to add calories and increase
Don't take any vitamins or minerals,
supplements, or herbal products without talking to your doctor first.
Check with your doctor about whether it is safe for you to drink
alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, have no more than 1 drink a day. Count it as
part of your fluids for the day.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Tushar J. Vachharajani, MD, FASN, FACP - Nephrology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.