Kidney Disease

Frequently Asked Questions

16. What changes in diet can help with kidney disease?

The steps below will help you eat right as you manage your kidney disease. The first three steps (1-3) are important for all people with kidney disease. The last two steps (4-5) may become important as your kidneys become more damaged.

STEP 1: Choose and prepare foods with less salt and sodium.

Why? To help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Aim for less than 2300 milligrams of sodium each day.

  • Buy fresh food more often. Sodium (a part of salt) is added to many packaged foods. Most of the salt and sodium people eat come from prepared foods, not from the salt shaker.
  • Use spices, herbs, and sodium-free seasonings in place of salt.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts label on food packages for sodium. A Daily Value of 20% or more means the food is high in sodium.
  • Try lower-sodium versions of frozen dinners and other convenience foods.
  • Rinse canned vegetables, beans, meats, and fish with water before eating.
  • Do not use salt substitutes.
  • Get more tips on choosing and preparing foods with less sodium.

STEP 2: Eat the right amount and the right types of protein.

Why? To help protect your kidneys.

STEP 3: Choose foods that are healthy for your heart.

Why? To protect your blood vessels, heart, and kidneys.

  • Bake, roast, stew, grill, broil, or stir-fry foods instead of frying.
  • Cook with nonstick cooking spray or a small amount of olive oil instead of butter.
  • Trim fat from meat and remove skin from poultry before eating.
  • See Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH to Learn about a heart healthy diet.

STEP 4: Choose foods with less phosphorus.

Why? To help protect your bones and blood vessels.

  • Many packaged foods have added phosphorus. Look for phosphorus—or for words with “PHOS”—on ingredient labels.
  • Deli meats and some fresh meat and poultry can have added phosphorus. Ask the butcher to help you pick fresh meats without added phosphorus.

STEP 5: Choose foods that have the right amount of potassium.

Why? To help your nerves and muscles work the right way. If potassium is too high or too low, your nerves and muscles will not work normally.

  • As your kidneys become damaged, you may need to eat foods that are lower in potassium. Ask your health care provider or dietitian if you need to eat less potassium.
  • Salt substitutes can be very high in potassium. Read the ingredient label for potassium chloride. If you need to limit potassium, choose foods that don't have added potassium chloride. Do not use salt substitutes. Drain canned fruits and vegetables before eating.

Get more tips on choosing foods with the right amount of potassium.

Get tips on reading food labels.