Kidney Diet Tips

2014 Trends for Kidney Diets

iStock_000027651101XSmallA new year represents new beginnings, reflections on the past, resolutions, changes, and a positive outlook on what the future will bring. For people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and those on dialysis, 2014 will bring even more focus to quality of food and nutrition selections, an aspect many renal dietitians already embrace and continue to incorporate into their practice.

In my quest to create helpful resources and tools for people and families dealing with kidney diets, I like to imagine possibilities for the future.  Today I’m sharing eight kidney diet and nutrition trends I predict will continue to gain momentum this year and into the future.

  1.  Increased awareness of food additives containing phosphates, potassium and sodium
    • With the explosion of fast, convenience and packaged foods, our food supply now has more additives than ever. These are used to enhance food appearance, extend shelf life and improve other qualities.  Additives easily add up, contributing to unhealthy levels of phosphorus and sodium  exceeding the daily recommended amounts.  Some additives can increase potassium intake as much or more than high potassium fruits and vegetables. As we become smarter consumers our awareness around additives will grow.
  2. More pressure on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make phosphorus and potassium mandatory on food labels
    • Food databases provide a huge bank of nutrition information, but many foods still lack information on potassium and phosphorus content.  Newer research indicates phosphorus may be the next food element associated with negative impact on our blood vessels and hearts–even for people without kidney disease. Consumer demand for mandatory labeling for potassium and phosphorus will continue to increase in 2014.
  3. Lower sodium content of processed foods, but greater use of potassium chloride 
    • Food manufacturers have committed to improving consumer health by reducing sodium in processed foods. It’s great to have so many more choices that fit into a lower sodium diet. However, beware that the use of potassium chloride in low-sodium or reduced-sodium foods is on the rise in 2014. Some low- or reduced-sodium soups may contain over 800 mg potassium in a 1 cup serving. If you are on a limited potassium diet read the ingredient list and avoid products with potassium chloride.
  4. Liberalization of renal diet plans to include more whole grains
    • Research on the absorption of organic versus non-organic phosphates reveals phosphorus content of foods is not the only thing that determines blood levels. The presence of phytates and other compounds that bind to phosphorus  can limit absorption to 40-60% in many foods such as whole grains and whole grain products.  On the other hand, phosphate additives are absorbed 90 to 100%, contributing to higher phosphorus levels. As more foods previously considered ‘kidney-friendly’ show up with phosphate additives, dietitians are looking at each food and it’s composition to determine  health benefits instead of relying on phosphorus content alone.  The ratio of phosphorus to protein is another factor in deciding which foods to include. Counseling on portions for whole grains and monitoring the effects on phosphorus instead of a blanket restriction is already in practice and will result in a shift in kidney diet recommendations.
  5. Increased use of nutrition tracking tools and data sharing between dietitians and kidney patients
    • Mobile devices provide easier access to tools to help track nutrient targets, and allow sharing between patients and their health care team. DaVita Diet Helper is a tool designed specifically for kidney diets. With over 1,000 recipes and features for meal planning  and nutrition tracking it’s easy to know how the foods you eat match your daily nutrient targets. New summary views of foods eaten and nutrients consumed make information sharing with your dietitian easier than ever.
  6. Focus on foods with health benefits, plus more homemade meals
    • The movement to embrace eating for optimal health will continue to grow with focus on lower sodium, healthier fats, higher fiber, natural ingredients, fewer additives  and fresh foods. Collect favorite go-to kidney-friendly recipes to use in preparing healthy homemade meals for the whole family. Family time in the kitchen and at the dining room table will be embraced as a chance for loved ones to be together. Money saved when fewer meals are eaten away from home will be realized.
  7. Enhanced understanding of why more is better in some cases and not in others
    • Confusion around what to limit or include based on stages of CKD means some patients are not consuming the right amounts of fluid, potassium or protein. Those in earlier stages may unnecessarily limit beneficial fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and nuts or even fluid. In early stages of CKD there may be limited access to a dietitian and more reliance on online resources. Even for those on dialysis, the different treatment choices impact how liberal or restrictive are their meal plans. More frequent dialysis opens the door to a more liberal diet. More education through CKD classes such as Kidney Smart  plus online resources will continue to help kidney patients understand their kidney diet goals.
  8. Social sharing of recipes and nutrition information
    • Social media expands opportunities to share information, recipes and tips, and can make following a kidney diet more interesting. Connect with new friends to share and learn at, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter and other social networking venues.

I look forward to following these trends throughout 2014 and keeping you up to date on the latest kidney diet tips!

Kidney diet resources from

Sara Colman, RD, CDE

Sara is a renal dietitian with over 20 years experience working with people with diabetes and kidney disease. She is co-author of the popular kidney cookbook "Cooking for David: A Culinary Dialysis Cookbook". Sara is currently the Manager of Kidney Care Nutrition for DaVita. She analyzes recipes and creates content, resources and tools for the kidney community. In her spare time Sara loves to spend time with her young grandson, including fun times together in her kitchen.