Kidney failure creates different needs in the body for someone with healthy kidneys, and it therefore requires a special diet. Although following a diet can feel restrictive, by focusing on consuming foods recommended for people with kidney failure, you can enjoy a broad range of healthy, delicious foods. People with kidney failure should consult with their doctor and dietitian to get individualized direction on their diet. Many cookbooks and websites offer recipes using kidney-friendly foods.
Recommended Dietary Guidelines
Dietary recommendations for kidney failure focus on limiting these five nutrients: sodium, potassium, phosphorus, protein and fluid. Food labels can help identify some appropriate foods. For sodium, look for foods that have a daily value of less than 20 percent per serving eaten. Potassium and phosphorus are not usually listed, but if they are, look for less than 20 percent of the daily value per serving eaten. For protein and fluid, there is no percent you should look for. A doctor or dietitian may make specific recommendations for protein and fluid intake.
Fruits and Vegetables
Appropriate foods for kidney failure include low potassium fruits and vegetables. Low-potassium fruits include apples, pears, peaches, pineapple, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, apricots, mandarin oranges, plums, lemons, limes and cranberries. Low-potassium vegetables include green beans, raw cabbage, cooked cauliflower, celery, corn, lettuce such as iceberg and romaine, raw spinach, cooked sweet peppers, raw broccoli, cooked summer squash and onions.
Grains and Starches
Grains and starches contain some sodium, potassium and phosphorus. When choosing grains and starches, choose low sodium, potassium and phosphorus grains such as bagels, white or whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, pasta, white or brown rice, English muffins, and rice or corn-based, ready-to-eat cereals. Other grains and starches that are higher in sodium, potassium, and phosphorus may be eaten in smaller portions. Asking a doctor or dietitian can also help clarify which foods are appropriate.
Dairy, Beans and Nuts
Many dairy products, beans and nuts contain significant amounts of potassium and phosphorus. Sodium may also added to these foods as part of processing or seasoning. However, smaller portion sizes and eating these foods less often is appropriate for people with kidney failure. Some dairy substitutes, dairy foods that fit in a kidney diet are mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, rice or almond milk, some brands of Greek and regular yogurt and cottage cheese. Beans and nuts that are lower in potassium and phosphorus in small amounts and include macadamia nuts, sunflower seed butter, almonds, pecans and chickpeas.
Protein foods are only limited in kidney failure when the person is not on dialysis. About 50 percent of protein intake should be from complete protein foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, tofu, and soy products.
Beverages may need to be limited; water and other drinks still play an important role in a kidney-friendly diet, however. Apple, grape and cranberry juice are good options. Other drinks like herbal and iced tea, coffee and clear sodas are all acceptable for a person in kidney failure.
- A Clinical Guide to Nutrition Care in Kidney Disease; Laura Byham-Gray, Jean Stover, Karen Wiesen
- National Kidney Disease Education Program: Tips for People with Chronic Kidney Disease - Potassium
- National Kidney Disease Education Program: Tips for People with Chronic Kidney Disease - Phosphorus
- National Kidney Foundation: Kidney Kitchen
- Davita: Kidney-Friendly Recipes
- Fresenius Medical Care: Recipe Center