Kidney Diet Tips

Changing to a Plant-Based Diet

The term “plant-based” eating does not yet have a strict definition and may cause confusion among health-focused consumers. In fact, there are many other terms for a plant-based diet, including my favorites: “plant-friendly” and “plant-forward” eating. Many people are considering changing to a plant-based diet.

What is Plant-Based Eating?

Plant-based eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants. This list include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes and beans. It doesn’t mean that you are vegetarian or vegan, or that you never eat animal meat or dairy products. It does however, mean that you are choosing the majority of your foods from plant sources and planning your meals around legumes and grains.

The history of plant-based eating dates back to the first documented cases of what our ancestors consumed. Recently, plant based eating along with vegan diets have been in the news and is rumored to be a hot topic for 2020. You may have heard or read about athletes who are vegan or vegetarian. Many of these athletes are able to meet protein goals with a plant-based meal plan. It is also possible for a person with chronic kidney disease (CKD) to meet their protein goals with a plant-based diet.

Why Choose a Plant-Based Diet?

There are a variety of reasons people consider changing to a plant-based diet. A primary one is to improve health by reducing risk of cancer and heart disease (1-2). This may be an important goal for people with CKD because the link between heart disease and CKD is well known (2). Other reasons include:

  • decrease your carbon footprint
  • decrease dietary cholesterol and fat levels
  • weight loss (3)

Whatever the reason, plant-based meal planning does have many health benefits and can fit into a kidney-friendly diet.

How Can I Make a Change?

You can start changing to a plant-based diet with one simple change, like choosing one to two meals per week that are meatless. Use kidney-friendly recipes, like Zucchini, Black Beans and Rice Supper on that includes a limited amount of beans per serving.

While beans and legumes are popular options in many plant-based meal ideas, it’s crucial to limit these for a low potassium, low phosphorus diet. You can find kidney-friendly recipes on For more information talk to your dietitian about plant-based meal plans for CKD.

For more information on plant-based eating for kidney diets read “Vegetarian Primer for the Kidney Diet” and stay tuned to Kidney Diet Tips for more posts on plant-based eating.

This is the first of a 7-part series by DaVita dietitians on plant-based eating and kidney diets.


  1. Cancer Manag Res. 2011; 3: 1–8, Published online 2010 Dec 20.
  3., 1/3/2020

Additional Kidney Diet Resources

Visit and explore these diet and nutrition resources:

DaVita Kidney-Friendly recipes

Today’s Kidney Diet cookbooks

Diet and Nutrition articles

Kidney Smart® 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.

Michele Cook, RDN

Michele Cook, RDN

Michele has been a registered dietitian for over 25 years, and has spent the past 7 years in renal nutrition. She loves being in nature, gardening, walking on trails in Central California and visiting Yosemite National Park with her girls. She enjoys cooking for family and friends and finding new recipes to try.