Kidney Diet Tips

Are Flexitarian Diets Kidney-Friendly?

You may be asking, “What is a flexitarian diet?” Maybe you’ve gone through the fast-food drive-thru or your local grocery store to find plant-based food and menu items. Peoples’ interest in plant-based foods is influencing the food industry to offer more vegetarian alternatives. Maybe these food items have piqued your interest. Read on to learn how eating more fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds and beans can be kidney friendly.

What is “flexitarian?”

“Flexitarian” is a combination of “flexible” and “vegetarian.” U.S. News & World Report ranks flexitarianism as the No. 2 Best Diet Overall1. If you’ve thought about cutting back on meat and dairy and still want to enjoy an occasional cheeseburger, the flexitarian diet could be a nutritionally sound, viable option. Vegetarian diets have many well-documented health benefits such as:

  1. Prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity2
  2. Reduction of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease3
  3. Decreased use of medication4

Flexitarianism reduces the amount of meat consumption in stages:

Stage 1: 2 meatless days per week + 5 meat days with less than 6 ounces per day

                3 ounces of meat/poultry = the size of a deck of cards

                3 ounces of fish = the size of a checkbook

For example, on day 1 of stage 1, you could eat a medium-sized chicken breast and 2 egg whites.

Stage 2: You can transition to this stage after you’ve adapted to eating more plant-based food and less meat:

                  3 to 4 meatless days per week + 3 to 4 meat days with less than 5 ounces of meat per day

Stage 3: 5 meatless days per week + 2 meat days with less than 5 ounces of meat per day

So, is the flexitarian diet kidney-friendly?

The short answer is yes. People with chronic kidney disease (CKD) need to follow a diet that limits certain minerals such as potassium, phosphorous and sodium. A flexitarian diet can be compatible with these kidney-diet guidelines. Talk with a renal dietitian to find out if this way of eating can support your individual kidney health and overall wellness.

Looking for some great plant-based, kidney-friendly recipes? Try the Today’s Kidney Diet: Plant-Based Eating cookbook, available for free on



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.

Dawn Johnson, MS, RDN, LD

Dawn Johnson, MS, RDN, LD

Dawn Johnson MS, RDN, LD knew she wanted to be a dietitian when she was 18 years old. Now practicing over 20 years, Dawn has worked in various settings with a focus in renal nutrition over 12 years. She is passionate about addressing, examining and resolving people’s ambivalence for change. Dawn resides in Highland, Indiana with her husband and 2 young children. During her personal time, she likes to run, visit her local library and volunteer at church.