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Kidney Diet Tips

Archive for Sodium

June 14, 2013

Kidney Diet Tip: Please Pass Over the Salt

 The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend all people reduce sodium to 2,300 mg or less. For African Americans of any age, people who are 51 and older, or those with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, the sodium recommendation is 1,500 mg or less. Meeting these  low-sodium diet guidelines would be easier to monitor if you bought only fresh, whole foods and prepared them at home. In current times, that just doesn’t seem so doable. Enjoying the convenience of packaged foods and prepared meals as well as the pleasure of eating out at a restaurant mean you really don’t know how much sodium is in the food you consume.

One of the easiest ways to cut down on sodium intake is to pass up using table salt. It may take some getting used to, especially if it’s been a lifelong habit to add salt to foods—sometimes even without tasting first. Read more…

July 13, 2012

Preventing diabetes and kidney disease: Link to canned meat

Canned meats always show up on the list of high sodium foods. Products such as Spam®, Treat®, Vienna Sausage® and Potted Meat® are processed canned meat products represented on this list. Yet, it can be tempting to use canned meat products because they are inexpensive, convenient and a familiar dish to many kitchen tables.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, investigating why the diabetes rate is so high in American Indians, reveals a link between processed canned meat products and the rate of diabetes. Nearly half of the Native American population has diabetes by the age of 55. Higher rates of diabetes mean higher rates of cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.

Researchers surveyed 2,000 Native Americans from Arizona, Oklahoma, North Dakota and South Dakota to determine potential reasons for high diabetes rates. The participants, average age 35 and without a diagnosis of diabetes, answered questions about diet, health and lifestyle factors. A five year follow-up revealed 243 of the participants had developed diabetes.

A link was discovered between intakes of processed meat. Spam® is included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food assistance program, making it readily available to Native Americans on reservations. Among the 500 people in the original study group who ate the most canned processed meat, 85 developed diabetes. In contrast, among the 500 people who ate the least amount, 44 developed diabetes.

Amanda Fretts, the lead author and a researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine and her colleagues found that this link did not show up when looking at unprocessed meat. Unlike the nearly double rate of diabetes with processed meat consumption, with unprocessed meat such as hamburger, cuts of fresh beef or pork people were equally likely to develop diabetes regardless of how much they ate.

Processed meat products range from 480 to 820 mg sodium per serving. In addition to sodium additives, some contain potassium chloride and sodium phosphate. Definitely not a kidney-friendly product!

Some of the reasons speculated for  such a higher diabetes risk include the very high sodium content of processed meat; or the fact that people who eat processed meat are heavier, with obesity leading to diabetes. Another school of thought is that chemicals in the food containers, such as Bisphenol-A, or BPA, a chemical found in plastics and the lining of food cans, may play a role. Finding the connections is not an easy task. More research and study is needed. The best advice to kidney patients and those at risk for kidney disease: leave processed meat products on the shelf.

February 24, 2012

Kidney Diet Tips: A new recipe for Sodium Girl’s Low-Sodium Recipe Rally

This week I’m stepping up to the challenge. Sodium Girl, who blogs on living salt-free and who has first hand experience dealing with kidneys, has challenged her readers to take a salty recipe and replace the high-sodium ingredients with low-sodium substitutes, creating a low-sodium dish full of flavor. I found out about the challenge a day ago, so had little time to to stew on what to create. Last night my hubby kept popping into the kitchen to check on the end result of the yummy smells and clanging pots.

I started with a couscous recipe I love from allrecipes.com. Here’s the original (and to give credit, it was created by Levedi, a cook who has shared several recipes.)

Couscous, Cranberry and Feta Salad


  • 1/3 cup couscous
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing, or to taste
  • salt to taste


  1. Place the couscous and cranberries in a heatproof bowl. Pour in the boiling water, and stir with a fork. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Fluff the couscous with a fork, and fold in the cucumber and feta cheese. Season to taste with balsamic vinaigrette and salt.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutrients (my calculations–used 1/4 tsp salt for the recipe)

243 calories, 6 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 13 mg cholesterol, 455 mg sodium, 175 mg potassium, 116 mg phosphorus, 91 mg calcium, 2.9 g fiber.

The feta cheese, salad dressing and salt to taste–all full of flavor and sodium, were my challenges. Additional challenges–the mushy cuccumber I had planned to use, and an almost empty bag of dried cranberries, plus keep it kidney-friendly with low potassium and low phosphorus ingredients. Needless to say, my creation was a bit different from the original recipe, but ended as a pleasant culinary surprise.

Here’s my low-sodium rally recipe:

Couscous, Apple and Carmelized Onion Salad 


  • 2 cups thinly sliced white onion (Maui or other sweet onion variety)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 small apple, cut, cored and thinly sliced (leave the skin on)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted sweet butter
  • 1/3 cup couscous
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and cook onions over medium heat, stirring often. When the onions are translucent and soft, cover with a lid and continue to cook until carmelized, about 15 minutes. Stir about every 3-4 minutes and adjust heat if needed.
  2. In a separate nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray, cook apple slices over medium heat until tender. Reduce heat to medium low and cover with a lid. Continue cooking until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add balsamic glaze and honey to caramelized onions and stir.
  4. Boil the water, add butter and stir until melted. Pour over couscous in a bowl. Cover and let set for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle cinnamon over couscous and stir with a fork to mix.
  6. Add onions and stir until well mixed; add apples, toss and serve.

Tip: Serve hot or cold–it’s great both ways!    

Makes 2 servings


230 calories, 4 g protein, 37 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 7 mg sodium, 155 mg potassium, 66 mg phosphorus, 32 mg calcium, 3.4 g fiber.

I loved participating in this challenge. Sodium Girl has not only proven you can live with and enjoy a low sodium, salt-free diet, she has also prompted a whole group to create and prove there is flavor without salt. Thank you Sodium Girl!

What’s next? March is National Nutrition Month. Find out what the DaVita Dietitians are doing to celebrate!

Kidney diet resources from DaVita.com

September 15, 2011

Flavored oils and vinegars: low sodium flavor for kidney diets

Do you ever find a new food or ingredient that you absolutely fall in love with and want to always have on hand? I had such an experience earlier this year when I attended a meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. Afterwords with some free time to explore, I discovered Outrageous Olive Oils and Vinegars, a wonderful shop that specializes in high quality extra virgin olive oils, flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world. I immediately thought how perfect for adding new and exciting flavors to a kidney diet or for anyone limiting sodium intake. Read more…

March 1, 2011

Meeting lower sodium guidelines on a kidney-friendly diet: breads and cereals

The new sodium guidelines in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are out so now the quest has begun for lower sodium kidney-friendly recipes and foods that are still high in flavor. Today’s post addresses 2 simple ways to reduce sodium—paying attention to your bread and cereal choices. Read more…

February 8, 2011

Newly released dietary guidelines for Americans: sodium and chronic kidney disease

Every 5 years the USDA releases guidelines on healthy eating, Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The newest release points out that many Americans lack healthy diet and exercise habits, and it addresses people with chronic diseases, including chronic kidney disease.

The wealth of topics in the guidelines are Balancing Calories to Manage Weight, Food and Food Components to Reduce, Food and Nutrients to Increase, Building Healthy Eating Patterns, and Helping Americans Make Healthy Choices. Read more…

October 13, 2010

New thin bagels and buns offer lower carbohydrate and sodium choice for people with kidney disease and diabetes


Bagel1  ©iStockphoto.com/lushmedia

New foods are constantly appearing in the market. My newest favorites are on the bread isle–thin bagels and thin buns. What a great idea–wish I had thought of it. Have you ever dug out the inside of a bun or bagel to reduce the number of carbs or calories consumed? Or eaten only half the bagel instead of the whole thing? No more–add the new thin buns to your grocery list. Read more…

September 16, 2010

How much salt do you use?

If you have kidney disease or are at risk one question to ask yourself is “How much salt do you add in cooking or at the table?” Try to evaluate by measuring all the salt you use in cooking or at the table for 2 to 3 days. Use the chart below to estimate added salt and the effect of reducing it. Read more…

August 16, 2010

Why some high sodium foods don’t taste salty

Sometimes I look at the label on a food after eating it and discover the sodium content is much higher than expected. The lesson learned is to read the label before eating or better yet, before buying foods.

But why is it that some foods that are really high in sodium don’t taste salty? For example, many people get a surprising amount of sodium from the bread products. One slice (1 oz) of white bread averages 150 mg sodium. A couple slices of toast at breakfast, a sandwich at lunch and a couple of dinner rolls easily adds up to 900 mg of sodium. A bakery size bagel and submarine sandwich roll provide 1170 mg sodium—before anything is added! Read more…

August 10, 2010

Lower sodium in processed foods: good news for people with kidney disease

The US is experiencing rising levels of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Attempts to control these diseases, which are even affecting children and teenagers, are now turning to food legislation and the food industry. Just last week the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, also referred to as the Child Nutrition Act, was passed by the US senate as an effort to provide healthier school meals to help control obesity in children. Limits on the types of beverages and vending machine snacks in schools will follow. More attention to fat, sugar and sodium in the food supply could make a difference in the health of many people. Read more…

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