Kidney Diet Tips

A Fresh Food Start for Your Kidney Diet

Happy New Year!

This is my favorite time of the year to not only reflect on the past year, but to start changes that will make 2013 even better. Today, my focus is on fresh foods in the kidney diet as a healthy change. The whole nation is experiencing a transformation in how we think about our food, with a renewed focus on

  • where and how food is grown
  • how it goes from the farm to food distributors, then to our tables
  • the amount of food processing and impact it has on personal health and the health of our country

This food transformation has an impact on kidney diet and food recommendations. New research on the best foods for kidney diets and health outcomes will further influence recommendations made by kidney health professionals in the future. Gaining control over how and what we eat means choosing fresh foods and preparing food at home instead of relying on takeout, fast foods, convenience foods and restaurants. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, used in policy making, education materials and nutrition programs, is a valuable resource with guidance for building healthy eating patterns and making healthy choices.

For kidney patients, a fresh food start means lower sodium, phosphorus and potassium intake from processed foods, and more control over what goes in or stays out of the foods consumed. Think about ways you can make a fresh start with your foods in 2013. Here are some of my suggestions.

  1. Do an inventory of the foods you eat and identify those that do not fall into the fresh category. Decide on substitutes or changes that will bring more fresh foods to your plate.  
  2. Shop at local produce stores and farmer’s markets to buy local fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and other local items like flavored oils, vinegars, honey and spices. Not only are these items less likely to contain additives, you may save money by buying in-season local foods.
  3. Eat home-cooked meals most of the time, and use as many unprocessed ingredients as possible. Fresh ingredients have fewer food additives, including phosphates and potassium chloride, plus you control the amount of sodium by your choice of ingredients.
  4. Use leftovers for the next day’s lunch or a homemade frozen dinner for a quick meal later.
  5. Plan your weekly eating—use recipes, shopping lists and menus, and recycle the ones that work best for you.
  6. Learn how to preserve food. Home canning and freezing are easy once you learn the techniques, and you have control over ingredients and freshness.
  7. Follow through on your fresh eating plan by tracking. You can use one of the many web programs or apps to track your meals and help stay on target.


Eating fresh requires a certain time commitment and some planning, but you and your family are worth it! Plus you may find yourself enjoying this healthier way of eating. Try one or more of these 4 fresh food ideas to get started and make a difference in your kidney diet and health.

  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables and prepare within several days if possible. Another option is to buy frozen-fresh produce with no added salt or sugar—it’s more nutritious than produce processed with a list of ingredients and packaged or canned with added salt or sweeteners. If you are limiting potassium, pick from fruits and vegetables on the lower potassium list, and limit the portion and frequency of those higher in potassium.
  • Grow your own fresh herbs to add extra-fresh flavor during or immediately after cooking. Start plants from seed or buy starter plants at your local plant nursery or grocery store. If you have a green thumb you can use the abundance to make your own dried herbs and herb-seasoning blends.
  • Make broth or stock from fresh, additive-free chicken, beef or pork or use lower potassium vegetables like carrots, celery,  onions, peppers and turnips to make vegetable stock. It’s very low in sodium and high in natural flavors. Use homemade broth in recipes and to make fresh soups and sauces.
  • Try your hand at making homemade breads, rolls, tortillas, pitas, pizza dough and pancake mix. You can freeze extra bread for the next week or longer. Find a recipe for refrigerator rolls or pancake mix  that can be stored in the refrigerator and cook during the week.

Best wishes for fresh and healthy eating in 2013! Share your fresh eating tips for kidney diets.

Additional Kidney Diet Resources

Visit and explore these diet and nutrition resources:

DaVita Food Analyzer

DaVita Dining Out Guides

Today’s Kidney Diet Cookbooks

DaVita Kidney-Friendly Recipes

Diet and Nutrition Articles                                                      

Diet and Nutrition Videos

Kidney Smart® Virtual Classes

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.

Sara Colman, RDN, CDCES

Sara Colman, RDN, CDCES

Sara is a renal dietitian with over 30 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 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.