Kidney Diet Tips

10 Kidney-Friendly Holiday Tips

We all celebrate different Christmas traditions. Some may spend time with their families on Christmas Eve. Yet others attend a Christmas morning mass. Still others relax at home. Despite celebrating the holidays in different ways, what many of us have in common is that we celebrate with food. From Thanksgiving to New Years it seems like treats and sweets are plentiful. Many meals consist of comforting foods like mashed potatoes, turkey, soup, or macaroni and cheese. Helpful tips can help you manage a kidney diet and health.

Holiday Tips

Explore these kidney-friendly holiday tips and recipes.

  1. Make it at home: Most packaged foods are high in sodium and phosphate additives. Why? To improve taste and for preservation. By making more food at home, or from scratch, you can avoid added phosphorus. You can control the amount of salt and high sodium ingredients you add when cooking. Visit for recipes lower in sodium and phosphorus. For a holiday appetizer try Cranberry Dip with Fresh Fruit. For this recipe in Spanish, Salsa de Arándanos con Fruta Fresca.
  2. Replace salt with herbs and seasonings: Salt increases thirst and water retention. Most Americans consume far more than the recommended amount of sodium per day. One reason for this is that salt is added to processed and packaged foods. To reduce sodium intake, try replacing salt with other herbs and seasonings. Some sodium-free options includes garlic and onion powder, oregano, basil or salt-free herb blends. In addition, avoid salt substitutes, which are high in potassium. Try these low salt recipes: Roasted Turkey Breast with Salt-free Herb Seasoning and  Salt Free Cajun Seasoning.
  3. Make lower potassium potatoes: Following a low potassium diet does not mean that potatoes are completely off the menu. By double-boiling or soaking potatoes overnight you can reduce the potassium by at least half. For instructions on reducing potassium in potatoes visit “Lowering Potassium in Potatoes” or the Kidney Diet Tips blog post “Making Lower Potassium Potatoes”. Low potassium potato recipes: Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Low Potassium Potatoes
  4. Choose lower potassium desserts: To avoid consuming excess amounts of potassium limit chocolate and nut based desserts. Try these kidney-friendly dessert recipes: Warm Bread PuddingApple PieChewy Peppermint CookiesGingerbread Apple Cobbler, and Snickerdoodles.
  5. Read the label for sodium: Even though cooking at home is best, busy schedules and physical ability can make preparing your own meals difficult. When purchasing packaged foods always read the label. Most people following a kidney-friendly diet are prescribed a maximum of 2000 mg of sodium per day. This can be divided into about 500 to 600 mg of sodium per meal (for 3 meals per day). For snacks, about 100 to 200 mg sodium.
  6. Read the label for phosphorus: Detecting how much phosphorus is in food can be challenging. The main reason is because phosphorus is not required to be on the nutrition facts label. To identify hidden sources of phosphorus in food read the ingredients list. Avoid foods containing additives with the word “phos.” Examples  include phosphoric acid, polyphosphate and sodium polyphosphate. Remember, ingredients are listed on the nutrition facts label according to weight in descending order (from high to low). Therefore, the higher an ingredient is on the list, the more that food item contains of that ingredient or additive. For more information on phosphate additives read “Hidden Phosphorus in Your Diet and How to Control It”. In addition, for more information on label reading visit the Kidney Diet Tips blog post “Food Label Reading: Become the Expert”.
  7. Enjoy your food: With an abundance of nutrition information circling the internet it is easy to forget to listen to what your body really wants and needs. If you find yourself frequently overeating, reaching for seconds, or eating past the point of satisfaction, try tuning in to how you are feeling. Are you hungry? Satisfied? Overly full? Are you eating because you are bored or sad or distracted? Sometimes slowing down and checking in with yourself is the best way to nurture your body. Try to make mealtime family time. Limiting distractions, such as the television, will help you tune in to your body and enjoy your food.
  8. Bring your medications: Whether you are traveling out of town for the holidays or going on a short day trip, remember to bring your medications. If you are taking a phosphate binder bring them with you to restaurants or gatherings where food will be available. Try using a keychain that can hold medications or a pill box that fits easily in a bag or purse.
  9. Stay active: It is easy to feel sluggish around the holidays. Whether you are moving more slowly due to an abundance of food, or feeling stuck inside because of the weather, try to keep moving. Regular exercise is important for overall health and wellbeing. In addition, it  keeps our hearts and muscles strong and can help reduce stress and increase energy. If you are not currently active or are looking to start an exercise regimen remember to check with your doctor. For more information about chronic kidney disease (CKD) and exercise read “Exercise for People with Chronic Kidney Disease”.
  10. Ask your dietitian: Everyone is different and nutrition is not one size fits all, so if you are in doubt about what is right for you, ask your dietitian and/or physician.

Bonus tip: Spend time with loved ones: Remember to relax and enjoy your holiday. And most importantly cherish time with family and friends.

Celebrate your holidays the kidney healthy and happy way.

Happy Holidays!

Krista Blackwell, RD, LDN, CNSC

Krista Blackwell, RD, LDN, CNSC

Krista believes eating well is an essential component of living a long, healthy and happy life. She has been with DaVita for over one year and has been working as a clinical dietitian in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area for almost four years. Krista is a certified nutrition support clinician and is taking classes for a master’s of science in applied nutrition. She enjoys being part of a strong team of renal medical experts at DaVita. In her free time Krista loves traveling, cooking, reading and staying active.