Kidney-friendly diet for CKD

When you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), watching what you eat and drink will help you stay healthier.

Updated: August 20, 2018

When you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), watching what you eat and drink will help you stay healthier. Everybody is different and everybody has different nutrition needs. A renal dietitian who is an expert in diet and nutrition for people with kidney disease can help you find a meal plan that works for you.
As the food you eat and drink affects your overall health, you should have a meal plan if you have any chronic disease. Blood pressure and diabetes are two factors that can worsen kidney disease. Therefore controlling high blood pressure and diabetes may help prevent kidney disease from getting worse. Staying at a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet that is low in salt and fat can help you control your blood pressure. You can control your diabetes by carefully choosing your diet and avoiding the things that would spike the sugar level.
A kidney-friendly diet may also help protect your kidneys from further damage. The diet limits certain foods to prevent the minerals in those foods from building up in your body.

Healthy diet basics:

Generally for a healthy diet you need to track how much of calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates you are taking. You need to eat and drink the right portion sizes to make sure you are getting the right amounts of these nutrients. The Nutrition Facts label will have all of the information you need to keep track of your intake. Use the nutrition facts section on food labels to learn more about the content in the foods you eat. The labels will tell you how much protein, carbohydrates, fat and sodium are present in each serving of a food. This can help you pick foods that are high in the nutrients you need and low in the nutrients you should limit. You should look at the below key areas when you are concern about the nutrition facts.


The calories that you eat and drink provides energy to your body. Calories come from the protein, carbohydrates and fat in your diet. The amount of calories you need depends on your age, gender, body size and activity level. You may also need to adjust how many calories you eat based on your weight goals. Some people will need to limit the intake of calories they eat, where as others may need to have more calories. Your doctor or dietitian can help you figure out the right amount of calories you should have each day. Work with your dietitian to make a meal plan that helps you get the right amount of calories, and keep in touch for support.


Proteins are the building blocks of your body. Your body needs protein to grow, heal and stay healthy. Lack of protein can cause your skin, hair and nails to be weak. But excess of protein can also be a problem. To stay healthy and help you feel your best, you may need to adjust the amount of protein you eat as per your body's requirement.
The amount of protein you should have depends on your body size, activity level and health concerns. People with kidney disease are recommended to 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. Your doctor or dietitian can guide you about how much protein you should have and what the best sources of protein are for you.
Foods those are low in protein include:

  • Bread
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Pasta and rice

Foods those are high in protein include:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs


Carbohydrates or carbs are the easiest kind of energy for your body to use. Healthy sources of carbohydrates include fruits and vegetables, whereas sugar, honey, hard candies, soft drinks and other sugary drinks are sources of unhealthy carbohydrates. Some carbohydrates are high in potassium and phosphorus, which you may need to limit depending on your stage of kidney disease. also the amount of carbohydrates need to be watched carefully if you have diabetes. Your dietitian can help you adjust the required amount of the carbohydrates in your meal plan and guide you about how they affect your blood sugar.


Some amount of fat is also required in your meal plan to stay healthy as it gives you energy and helps you use some of the vitamins in your food. But too much fat can lead to weight gain and heart disease. Try to limit fat in your meal plan, and choose healthier fats whenever possible. Healthier fat or good fat is called unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fat can help reduce cholesterol. Examples of unsaturated fat include:

  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Corn oil

Try to eat more unsaturated fat if you need to gain weight and limit the unsaturated fat in your meal plan if you need to lose weight. As too much good fat can also cause problems, keep it in moderate.
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 and choose healthier, unsaturated fat instead. Trimming the fat from meat and removing the skin from chicken or turkey can also help limit saturated fat. You should also avoid trans fat which is a kind of fat that makes your bad cholesterol or LDL higher and your good cholesterol or HDL lower. When this happens, you are more likely to get heart disease, which can cause kidney damage.


Sodium or salt is a mineral that is found in almost all foods. Too much sodium can make you thirsty, which can lead to swelling and raise your blood pressure. This can damage your heart more and make your kidneys work harder. Limiting the amount of sodium you eat is one of the best things that you can do to stay healthy. You can do the following things to limit sodium in your meal plan:

  • Do not add salt to your food when cooking or eating. Try cooking with fresh herbs, lemon juice or other salt-free spices.
  • Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables. Drain and rinse the canned vegetables to remove extra salt before cooking or eating them if you do use them.
  • Avoid processed meats like ham, bacon, sausage and lunch meats.
  • Munch 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.

Avoid using salt substitutes and reduced sodium foods as many salt substitutes are high in potassium and too much potassium can be dangerous if you have kidney disease. Work with your dietitian to find foods that are low in sodium and potassium.


Eating too much of anything, even healthy foods, can cause health issue. Therefore, portion control, or watching how much you eat is as important as choosing a healthy diet.
To help control your portions you can do the following things:

  • 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 contain more than one serving.
  • However fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, do not come with nutrition facts labels. In that case, you can ask your dietitian for a list of nutrition facts for fresh foods and tips for how to measure the right portions.
  • It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full. If you eat too quickly, you may eat more than you need. Therefore eat slowly, and stop eating when you are not hungry any more.
  • Avoid eating while doing other activities, such as watching TV or driving. You may not realize how much you have eaten when you are distracted. Eventually you will end up eating a large portion.
  • Do not eat directly from the package the food came in. Instead, take out one serving of food when you want to eat and put the bag or box away.

Good portion control is an important part of any meal plan. As you may need to limit how much of certain things you eat and drink, portion control is more important in a kidney friendly meal plan.

How does a kidney friendly diet helps protect your kidney?

Waste and fluid build up in your body when your kidney is not functioning properly. These waste and extra fluid can cause heart, bone and other health problems overtime. . A kidney-friendly meal plan limits how much of certain minerals and fluid you eat and drink which can help keep the waste and fluid from building up and causing problems.

Your meal plan will depend on your stage of kidney disease. You may have little or no limits on what you eat and drink in the early stages of kidney disease. Your doctor may recommend you to limit potassium, phosphorus, fluids as the disease progress and gets worse.


Your body needs some potassium to make your muscles work, which is found in almost all foods. But eating too much potassium can be dangerous. Your potassium level may be either too high or too low when your kidneys are not working properly. Muscle cramps, problems with the way your heart beats and muscle weakness are the most common health issues that you may face when you have too much or too little potassium. You may need to limit how much potassium you take in, if you have kidney disease. The amount of potassium that you need to limit can be guided by your doctor or dietitian if you need to limit potassium. They can also help you learn how safely you can eat small amounts of your favorite foods that are high in potassium.

Food that are low in potassium include:

  • Apples, cranberries, grapes, pineapples and strawberries
  • Cauliflower, onions, peppers, radishes, summer squash, lettuce
  • Pita, tortillas and white breads
  • Beef and chicken, white rice

Food that are high in potassium include:

  • Avocados, bananas, melons, oranges, prunes and raisins
  • Artichokes, winter squash, plantains, spinach, potatoes and tomatoes
  • Bran products and granola
  • Beans (baked, black, pinto, etc.), brown or wild rice

Sometimes a potassium binder is recommended 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. But it can build up in your blood when your kidneys are not working properly. Too much phosphorus in your blood can lead to weak bones that break easily. You may need to limit how much phosphorus you take in, if you have kidney disease. The amount of phosphorus that you need to limit can be guided by your doctor or dietitian if you need to limit phosphorus. They can also help you learn how safely you can eat small amounts of your favorite foods that are high in phosphorus.
Sometimes a medicine called a phosphate binder is prescribed by your doctor which helps to keep phosphorus from building up in your blood.
Food that are low in phosphorus include:

  • Italian, French or sourdough bread
  • Corn or rice cereals and cream of wheat
  • Unsalted popcorn
  • Some light colored sodas and lemonade

Food that are high in phosphorus include:

  • Whole grain bread
  • Bran cereals and oatmeal
  • Nuts and sunflower seeds
  • Dark colored colas


Water is very essential for our body. Because damaged kidneys do not get rid of extra fluid as well as they should, you may not need as much water when you have kidney disease. Too much fluid in your body can cause high blood pressure, swelling and heart failure. Extra fluid can also build up around your lungs and make it hard to breathe. Limitation in fluid will depend on your stage of kidney disease and your treatment. You may need to cut back on how much you drink. You may also need to cut back on some foods that contain a lot of water. Soups or foods that melt, like ice, ice cream and gelatin, have a lot of water. Many fruits and vegetables are high in water, too. Therefore you need to watch carefully the food that you eat or drink. You can do this by keeping a measure of your fluids and drink from small cups to help you keep track of how much you have had to drink. In addition limit your intake of sodium to help cut down on thirst. At times, you may still feel thirsty. To help quench your thirst, you might try to:

  • Chew gum
  • Rinse your mouth
  • Suck on a piece of ice, mints or hard candy. Make sure to choose sugar-free candy if you have diabetes.

Special diet concerns:


It becomes difficult for you to get all of the vitamins and minerals that you need when you follow a kidney-friendly meal plan. Your dietitian may suggest a special supplement made for people with kidney disease to help you get the right amounts of vitamins and minerals.
A special kind of vitamin D, folic acid or iron pill, may be suggested 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 as they may have too much of some vitamins and not enough of others. Take opinion from your doctor or dietitian to find the right vitamins for you. Also it is important for you to inform your doctor and dietitian about any vitamins, supplements or over-the-counter medicines you are taking. This is because some of them can cause more damage to your kidneys or cause other health problems.

Following a kidney-friendly meal plan with diabetes:

It is important for you to control your blood sugar to prevent more damage to your kidneys if you have diabetes. Create a meal plan with your doctor and dietitian that helps you control your blood sugar, while also limiting sodium, phosphorus, potassium and fluids.

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