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Learning to eat new foods will be part of your journey.  Make the best of it!

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The National Kidney Foundation website is a great tool to help you understand and manage all of your nutritional requirements right on your smartphone.  You’ll find helpful information, recipes, news, events and much more.

Diet and Nutrition

As a dialysis patient you will need to pay close attention to the food you eat.   Even with a kidney-friendly diet, you need to track how much of certain nutrients you take in, such as:

  • Calories

  • Protein

  • Fat

  • Carbohydrates


All of the information you need to keep track of your intake is on the “Nutrition Facts” label on your food package.  It is important that you eat and drink the correct portion sizes listed on the label. The labels will tell you how much protein, carbohydrates, fat and sodium are in each serving, and can help you pick foods that are appropriate for your diet.  


You get your energy from the calories you eat and drink.  You may need to adjust how many calories you eat based on your weight goals.  Some people will need to limit calories, others will need to increase them. Your doctor can help you determine how many calories you should have each day.



The amount of protein you should have depends on your body size, activity level and health concerns. Some doctors recommend that people with kidney disease limit protein or change their source of protein. This is because a diet very high in protein can make the kidneys work harder and may cause more damage.


Lower-protein foods include:

  • Bread

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Pasta and rice


Higher-protein foods:

  • Red meat

  • Poultry

  • Fish

  • Eggs



Healthy sources of “carbs”  are found in fruits and vegetables.  Some carbs are high in potassium and phosphorus, which you may need to limit depending on your stage of kidney disease. You may also need to watch your carbohydrates carefully if you have diabetes. Your doctor can help you learn more about the carbohydrates in your meal plan and how they affect your blood sugar.



You need some fat in your meal plan to stay healthy. However too much fat can lead to weight gain and heart disease. Healthier fats or “good” fats are called unsaturated fat. Examples include:

  • Olive oil

  • Peanut oil

  • Corn oil


Saturated fat, also known as “bad” fat, can raise your cholesterol level and raise your risk for heart disease. Examples of saturated fats include:

  • Butter

  • Lard

  • Shortening

  • Meats


Limit these in your meal plan. Choose healthier, unsaturated fat instead. You should also avoid trans fat. This kind of fat makes your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol higher and your "good" (HDL) cholesterol lower. When this happens, you are more likely to get heart disease, which can cause kidney damage.



One of the best things that you can do to stay healthy is to limit how much sodium you eat. To limit sodium in your meal plan:

  • Do not add salt to your food when cooking or eating.

  • Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables.

  • Avoid processed meats like ham, bacon, sausage and lunch meats.

  • Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables rather than crackers or other salty snacks.

  • Avoid canned soups and frozen dinners that are high in sodium.

  • Avoid pickled foods, like olives and pickles.

  • Limit high-sodium condiments like soy sauce, BBQ sauce and ketchup.


Important! Be careful with salt substitutes and “reduced sodium” foods. Many salt substitutes are high in potassium and can be dangerous if you have kidney disease.



Eating too much of anything, even healthy food, can be a problem. Here are some tips to help control portions:

  • Check the nutrition facts label on a food to learn the serving size and how much of each nutrient is in one serving. Many packages have more than one serving.

  • Eat slowly, and stop eating when you are not hungry any more. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full.

  • Avoid eating while doing something else, such as watching TV or driving. When you are distracted you may not realize how much you have eaten.

  • Do not eat directly from the package the food came in. Instead, take out one serving of food and put the bag or box away.

How is a kidney-friendly diet different?

When your kidneys are not working as well as they should, waste and fluid build up in your body. Over time, the waste and extra fluid can cause heart, bone and other health problems. A kidney-friendly meal plan limits how much of certain minerals and fluid you eat and drink. This can help keep the waste and fluid from building up and causing problems.


As your kidney disease progresses, your doctor may recommend that you limit:

  • Potassium

  • Phosphorus

  • Fluids



Potassium is a mineral found in almost all foods.  Your body needs some potassium, but too much potassium can be dangerous. When your kidneys are not working well, your potassium level may be too high or too low. Having too much or too little potassium can cause muscle cramps, problems with the way your heart beats and muscle weakness. Your doctor may also tell you to take a special medicine called a potassium binder to help your body get rid of extra potassium.



Phosphorus is a mineral found in almost all foods. It works with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones healthy. Healthy kidneys keep the right amount of phosphorus in your body. When your kidneys are not working well, phosphorus can build up in your blood. Too much phosphorus in your blood can lead to weak bones that break easily.  Depending on your stage of kidney disease, your doctor may also prescribe a medicine called a phosphate binder.



You need water to live, but when you have kidney disease, you may not need as much. This is because damaged kidneys do not get rid of extra fluid as well as they should. Too much fluid can cause high blood pressure, swelling and heart failure. Extra fluid can also build up around your lungs and make it hard to breathe. Ask your doctor or dietitian if you need to limit fluids.


Your doctor may suggest a special supplement made for people with kidney disease or a special kind of vitamin D, folic acid or iron pill, to help prevent some common side effects of kidney disease, such as bone disease and anemia.  Regular multi-vitamins may not be healthy for you if you have kidney disease so it is important that you tell your doctor of all over-the-counter medicines you are taking.

A few helpful links:

National Kidney Foundation

Kidney Times

Renal Support Network

*Always check with your doctor as to what diet is best for you and your individual needs.

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