Renal (Kidney) Disease Diet—For People Not on Dialysis
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What Is a Renal Disease Diet?
A renal disease diet restricts your intake of:

Why Do I Need to Follow a Renal Disease Diet?
If you have kidney disease, your kidneys are not filtering your blood as well as they should. This may cause certain nutrients to build up to unhealthy levels. You can ease the load on your kidneys by reducing your intake of these nutrients. This will reduce your risk of kidney-related complications. It may also delay the progression of your disease.

Food Choices on a Renal Disease Diet
On this diet, you will limit or avoid a range of foods. You will need to work with a dietician who specializes in kidney disease. The dietician can create a meal plan that is right for you.

Sodium is found in table salt and many other foods. Most canned and processed foods contain high amounts. When the kidneys are not fully functioning, extra sodium can result in:

To decrease your sodium intake:
  • Avoid high-sodium foods and condiments.
  • Do not add salt to foods while cooking or eating.

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

Potassium is found in many fruits and vegetables. It is essential for proper muscle functioning and heart rhythm. When you have kidney failure , potassium can build up in the blood. This causes problems with heart functioning. You will need to limit the amount of potassium you consume each day. Avoid high potassium foods. Examples include potatoes, tomatoes, citrus fruits, avocados, bananas, and dried fruit. You may still be able to eat your favorite high-potassium food if you limit yourself to a very small portion size. Your dietitian can help with this.

Phosphorous is another mineral that needs to be limited on this diet. If phosphorous builds up in the blood, it can draw calcium out of the bones. This causes your bones to weaken. Phosphorous is found in protein-rich foods. Examples include: dairy products, meat, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Whole grains and cola also contain phosphorous. You may still be able to consume these foods, but you will have to limit the amounts.

Also, your doctor may have you take a medicine called a phosphate-binder. This soaks up extra phosphorous and then passes it out in your stool.

When you have renal disease, your kidneys cannot process the waste products from protein as well as they should. Your dietitian will give you a daily protein limit. The below charts list some common high protein choices and their serving sizes:

High-Protein FoodsAmountFish1 ounceShellfish1 ouncePoultry1 ouncePork1 ounceLamb1 ounceBeef1 ounceEggs1 largeEgg substitute¼ cup
Many protein foods are also high in phosphorus and/or sodium. These foods should be limited or avoided. Your dietitian will tell you how many servings of these foods you can consume each day.

High-Protein Foods With PhosphorousAmountCheese1 ounceCooked, dried beans and peas½ cupMilk1 cupEvaporated milk½ cupSweetened, condensed milk½ cupNut butters2 tablespoonsOrgan meats (eg, beef liver)1 ounceSoy milk1 cupTofu¼ cupYogurt1 cupHigh-Protein Foods With SodiumAmountBacon4 slicesCanned tuna and salmon1 ounce or ¼ cupCottage cheese, low fat¼ cupDeli-style roast beef, ham, turkey, bologna, liverwurst, salami2 ouncesFrankfurters and sausages2 ouncesVeggie burger2 ounces
Depending on your stage of kidney disease, you may need to limit your fluid intake. Consuming too much fluid can result in fluid retention. This can lead to:
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Edema

What Can I Eat?
With these restrictions, it is hard to know what you can eat. It is essential that you work with a dietitian. She can determine which foods you can eat and the amounts. Here is a list of foods that you can still enjoy while on this diet:
  • Limited amounts of high-protein foods
  • Low-potassium vegetables
  • Low-potassium fruits and fruit juices
  • Refined breads, cereals, and grains (eg, bagels, white bread, corn cereal, rice cereal, couscous, pasta, white rice)
  • Grain snacks (eg, white crackers, graham crackers, unsalted popcorn, unsalted pretzels, unsalted tortilla chips)
  • Healthy fats (eg, olive oil, canola oil, tub margarine)
  • Desserts (eg, sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, vanilla wafers, sherbet)

  • Track your food intake in a food log.
  • Read food labels for nutrient information and serving sizes.
  • Choose whole foods over processed foods. Processed foods tend to be high in salt and low in nutritional value.
  • Make sure you are eating enough calories. If you need to add calories, try adding healthy fats and simple carbohydrates. Examples include jam, maple syrup, and honey.
  • Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
  • Work with your dietitian. Be sure to go to all of your appointments.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

American Association of Kidney Patients

Dietitians of Canada

Kidney Foundation of Canada

Clinical practice guidelines for nutrition in chronic renal failure. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: Published 2000. Accessed January 21, 2010.

Kent PS. Integrating clinical nutrition practice guidelines in chronic kidney disease. Nutr Clin Pract. 2005;20:213-217.

Last Reviewed March 2014

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