Kidney Diet Tips

What is a Kidney-Friendly Diet?

Does reading about a kidney-friendly diet have you asking “What can I eat?” Are you confused and frustrated trying to piece together information from many different sources?

Let’s get back to the basics as we review kidney-friendly diet recommendations.

Keep it Simple

In our fast-paced culture, many foods are manufactured for convenience. As a result, this leads to more additives in our food supply. Focus on including whole, natural foods such as fresh meats, fresh fruits and vegetables (low potassium if needed) and less-processed whole grains. By doing this you can lower the amount of sodium and preservatives you take in. Start with a kidney-friendly diet by eating at home and packing snacks when going out. There’s less temptation to pull through the convenience station or fast food restaurant.

“So Long” Sodium

Saying “so long” to the salt-shaker is a great first step to reducing your sodium intake. However, sodium may be hidden in foods you commonly consume. Fresh sources of meat contain less sodium than their enhanced counter-parts (think bologna, sausage, pepperoni, hot dogs). Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than fried or salt added canned items. Add fresh herbs, lemon or lime, pepper, garlic or onion powder to flavor these fresh food sources for added sodium-free goodness.

Pesky Phosphorus

There are two types of phosphorus:  naturally-occurring phosphorus and phosphorus added during the manufacturing of the food. The body absorbs these types of phosphorus differently. During digestion the gut absorbs approximately 20 to 40% of the phosphorus from vegetable sources and 40 to 80% from meat sources. However, more than 90% of phosphorus additives1 are absorbed. Simply put, your body absorbs more phosphorus from processed foods and drinks than from natural sources like unprocessed meats, legumes, whole grains and vegetables.

Portion-control Potassium

As the seasons pass, seasonal vegetables bring both low and high potassium options. If you are on a low potassium diet, monitor portions of foods high in potassium such as potatoes, tomatoes, bananas and oranges or orange juice. Working with your dietitian and close monitoring of your potassium lab value will provide more insight into balancing potassium in your diet. Low potassium fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, eggplant, summer squash, peppers, and cabbage can boost nutrients such as fiber and folate in your diet, without causing a trend up in your potassium levels.

Powerful Protein

Foods such as chicken, beef, fish and eggs help to provide protein to fuel the body and repair cells. Depending on recommendations from your doctor, the amount of protein you need may vary. However, focusing on lean sources of meat such as skinless chicken and lower-fat cuts of beef can increase protein in a heart-healthy way. Also, the way your protein foods are prepared makes a difference. Focus on grilled, baked or broiled rather than fried protein sources to pack a protein punch without added fat.

Reach Out for Help

Reach out to a registered dietitian (RD) for help navigating the kidney-friendly diet.  You might also consider attending a Kidney Smart® class if you have chronic kidney disease and are not a dialysis patient. These classes are available to the community and are available in person or online. Reach out to your dialysis dietitian if you are a dialysis patient. For more tips read “6 Tips for Adopting a Kidney-Friendly Diet“.

The next time you feel stressed by the amount of options at the grocery store and are trying to pull all the pieces of the kidney-friendly diet together, just remember to keep it simple. Focusing on simple, less processed and whole foods will help keep your body fueled and in better health.


  1. Biruete A, Jeong JH, Barnes JL, Wilund KR. Modified Nutritional Recommendations to Improve Dietary Patterns and Outcomes in Hemodialysis Patients. Journal of Renal Nutrition. 2017; 27(1):62-70. doi:10.1053/j.jrn.2016.06.001.
Haley Justus, RD, LDN

Haley Justus, RD, LDN

Haley Justus is a registered dietitian who resides in the mountains of western North Carolina. She has been a dietitian for 3 years and enjoys helping her dialysis patients make small changes to enjoy life-long benefits of health. In her free time, Haley enjoys hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband and two dogs.