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Kidney Diet Tips

June 23, 2015

Summer Potassium Control

By guest blogger DaVita Dietitian Daniel Solomon, RD, LDN

iStock_000009822887_Small Produce

Summer time reminds us of picnics, cookouts, festivals, visits to the beach, traveling, and more.

Food is plentiful at many of these fun activities, but along with it comes a wide assortment of foods high in potassium – sweet potato, tomato, yogurt, banana, orange, nectarine, papaya, avocado, cantaloupe and honeydew, grapefruit, and mango to name a few. These foods can be tempting if you are on a low potassium diet.

Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte for the body.  It is more popularly known for the vital role it plays in heart and digestive functions.  Potassium is also important for proper functioning of all cells, tissues and organs.

One of the many jobs the kidneys hold is to balance potassium. However when kidney function is impaired this ability is limited or non-existent (as seen in dialysis patients). You then must rely on watching your food choices to avoid an increase/decrease in potassium levels in your blood.

Excessive potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia, which can lead to irregular heart rate or heart attack; low amounts of potassium is called hypokalemia, which can cause weakness, muscle cramps, decreased energy, and an irregular heart rate.

What is a normal potassium level?

  • 3.5 – 5.0 is the “safe zone”
  • 5.1 – 5.5 is the “caution zone”
  • 6.0 or higher is entering the “danger zone” (no affiliation with Tom Cruise or “Top Gun” the movie)

Keeping potassium levels in check while enjoying summer activities

  • Be conscious of what you are eating and the consequences of high potassium.
  • Eat a variety of foods in moderation to avoid filling up one food item.
  • Leach or use the double boil technique on foods that are high in potassium to reduce the amount of potassium in them by 30-50%.
  • Control portion size by limiting yourself to 1/2 – 3/4 cup of most food items.
  • Have an accountability partner who will keep you “in-check.” (wife, friend, brother/sister)
  • If you are on hemodialysis (HD), come to ALL your dialysis treatments to prevent potassium from accumulating to high levels in the blood.

How much potassium should you consume daily?

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 4,700 mg daily is the Adequate intake (AI) for adults, although most people do not consume this amount. For a hemodialysis patient, a limitation of 2000 mg per day is the standard recommendation.  Peritoneal dialysis (PD) and home hemodialysis patients (HHD) have more flexibility since they dialyze more often. A frequent goal is 3000-4000 mg per day depending on blood potassium levels.

Since these limitations vary for individuals, check with your nephrologist or dietitian for your specific potassium goal.

Some possible interactions

If you are taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and/or ACE inhibitors, be aware that these medications can contribute to higher potassium levels. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about these or other medications you take.

Don’t let potassium stop you from enjoying the summer; go out and have fun!


K/DOQI Update Adult Guideline Maintenance Dialysis Management of Protein and Energy Intake. National Kidney Foundation. Retrieved February 6, 2015, http://www.kidney.org/professionals/kdoqi/guidelines_updates/nut_a16.html 

Your Guide to the New Food Label. National Kidney Foundation. Retrieved February 6, 2015,http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/foodlabel.cfm

Potassium. Retrieved, February 6, 2015, http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/potassium

Potassium and Your CKD. Retrieved, February 6, 2015, https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium

June 3, 2015

Today’s Kidney Diet Summertime Cookbook


Now that summer is here it’s time to pull out your favorite summer recipes and take advantage of seasonal produce and lighter meals.

In addition to your own favorite recipes, DaVita dietitians have put together 16 fresh, easy-to-prepare recipes that are perfect for summer in the latest cookbook “Today’s Kidney Diet: Healthy Summertime Recipes“. Read more…

May 20, 2015

Outdoor Living: Tips for Barbeques and Picnics

By guest blogger DaVita dietitian Cheryl Hathaway

Happy Memorial Day!Family on vacation having barbecue

Break out the barbeque and pack the picnic coolers!  Warmer weather brings wonderful opportunities for outdoor living and great food. Whether you prefer a sizzling steak from the backyard grill or cool picnic sandwiches at the park, here are some tips to keep your outdoor celebrations fun and full of flavor.
Tips for Grilling:

  • Barbeque rubs are a simple and fast way to add flavor to grilled meats.  During grilling, the rub forms a savory crust that helps seal in the juices to keep meats moist and tasty.  Many commercial rubs are high in sodium.  However, you can easily combine salt-free spices that you have on hand at home to create a kidney-friendly rub customized to your taste preferences.
  • For those who like flavor with a little “zing”, try this recipe for “Zippy Barbeque Rub”:

Read more…

April 28, 2015

New Phosphorus Pyramid: Today’s Focus on Phosphorus for Kidney Patients

The Phosphorus Pyramid, a new tool for learning about phosphorus control, was created by researchers Claudia D’Alessandro, Giorgina B Piccoli, and Adamasco Cupisti from Italy. This pyramid does not focus on phosphorus content of foods alone. It incorporates the newer focus on phosphorus load–how much phosphorus is retained due to digestion, absorption and removal (by the kidneys, dialysis and/or phosphate binders). Read more…

March 24, 2015

Healthy Springtime Eating

Happy Spring!

Birds are singing, snow is melting (or will be soon!), plants are flowering , and trees showing their new green leaves. Springtime is a time of renewal, a great time to focus on your kidney diet. Think about updating your meal routine with some of the newest guidelines for eating healthy on a kidney diet.

Checkout the newest DaVita cookbook, Today’s Kidney Diet: Healthy Kidney-Friendly Meals in 30 Minutes or Less for some great recipes to renew your kidney diet. You’ll also find tips for stocking a kidney-friendly kitchen and a quick reference guide for what to eat based on your stage of kidney disease. Read more…

March 20, 2015

Spring into Action to Help Senior Citizens

MA Blog ImageMedicare Advantage (MA) is a federal program that helps provide coordinated health care to seniors. Currently there are proposed changes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to the MA program. These changes mean higher costs and fewer healthcare choices.

There are seniors who already face difficulties paying for medications, sometimes choosing between food, medicine, or keeping the lights on.  Think about what additional costs will mean to them–or to many others facing challenges. People with early kidney disease and/or diabetes are at risk for losing important preventative and coordinated care services.

You can help! Spring into action to send a message to Congress by clicking on the above graphic. It only takes a minute. You can make a difference–each message counts.

Check out these additional kidney resources from DaVita.com:



February 23, 2015

Staying on Track with Your Kidney Diet

So far February has been packed full of holidays and events. Super bowl XLIX, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Chinese New Year and even the Oscars. Everyone has something to celebrate!  We’ve been tempted by chocolate candies, jambalaya, King cake, Dim Sum dumplings and chicken wings. These temptations can have an impact on how you feel and your lab results. As February winds down this week, it’s a good time to refocus on healthy eating for your kidney diet.

Here are 3 ways to get back on track, plus a 1-day menu to get you started. Read more…

February 5, 2015

Kidney Diet Tip: Choosing the best milk substitute

MilkSubs-273Cow’s milk is naturally high in protein and minerals. An 8-ounce cup of 1% low fat milk contains 8 grams protein, 366 mg potassium, 232 mg phosphorus, 305 mg calcium, 107 mg sodium and 27 mg magnesium.

Because of the high levels of potassium and phosphorus in milk, people with severe or total loss of kidney function (stages 4 and 5 chronic kidney disease) are generally advised to limit milk to 4 to 8 ounces a day. Non-dairy milk substitutes such as almond, rice or soy milk are recommended instead. Read more…

January 5, 2015

Kidney Diet Tools and Resources for a Healthy 2015

iStock_000049493440SmallNew Year 2015Post by guest blogger DaVita dietitian Geri Hipple, RDN, LDN from Illinois.

Does your New Year’s resolution have anything to do with getting healthier in 2015? All too often resolutions are made only to be broken weeks, days or even hours later. Although there are many reasons resolutions fail, not having the tools and resources to succeed can be one of them.  When dealing with kidney disease and diet and nutrition issues, these resources can be a big support.

The following are just a few examples of the resources available at your fingertips on DaVita.com to help you achieve your health goals in 2015. Read more…

December 17, 2014

Tips for Making Your Holiday Recipes Kidney-friendly

iStock_000030628724SmallChristmas2014Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

By this time in December most of you are bound to have a few favorite holiday recipes in mind. The challenge is to stick to the kidney diet and still prepare favorite dishes to serve and share during holiday events.  Some substitutions and ingredient reductions, such as using rice milk instead of cow’s milk, reducing nuts to ¼ cup instead of 1 cup, can make a big difference in potassium and phosphorus content of a recipe.

The DaVita Dietitian Team created a handout of tips to help you modify recipes to make them more kidney-friendly. For even more ideas check out the DaVita.com holiday recipes. Read more…

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