Kidney Diet Tips

Managing Diabetes and Kidney Diets: Mealtime Suggestions

Uncontrolled diabetes can be dangerous, especially for the kidneys. The kidneys can be damaged by high blood sugar levels. This damage is permanent and can lead to a condition known as chronic kidney disease (CKD).


There are 5 stages of kidney disease. Stages 1 through 4 CKD is diagnosed through blood and urine tests. Stage 5 is known as End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and requires dialysis or a kidney transplant in order to survive. If you are diagnosed with CKD, there are steps you can take to manage the progression of the disease. These steps often include a combination of diet, lifestyle changes and medication.

When deciding how to manage the progression of CKD and diabetes, diet changes can be a good place to start. With CKD, you will typically need to monitor your intake of protein and sodium. As CKD progresses you may need to monitor your intake of certain minerals such as potassium and phosphorus. Fluid control may also be a focus of your diet.

There are many things to consider when managing a diet for diabetes and CKD. Protein, sodium, phosphorus and potassium are just a few. Add in carbohydrates and the diet can quickly become overwhelming. Thankfully, there are many resources to assist you in your journey to managing your health. For instance, DaVita has an entire website page dedicated to Diet & Nutrition. On this page, you will find recipes, cookbooks, videos and other related resources.

Making Meal Time Easier

One of the hard things about making diet changes is knowing what to eat and how to prepare meals. Here are some suggestions to make meal time a little easier when you are following a kidney diet.


Protein is found in both animal and plant based foods such as ham, turkey, chicken, tofu, walnuts and peanut butter. The National Kidney Foundation recommends limiting protein intake for people diagnosed with CKD. The reason is to help protect the kidneys from further damage and to reduce toxic waste build-up in the blood. For people with diabetes, this restriction may be especially difficult. Because many protein foods are low in carbohydrates, many meal plans for people with diabetes tend to be higher in protein. Finding a balance is key. Be sure to consult with your doctor or dietitian to determine your  protein goal.


Phosphorus is a mineral found in foods such as milk, cheese, dark colas and processed foods. It is not required to be listed on a product’s nutrition fact label. Therefore, it may be hard to identify which foods are high in phosphorus. Reading the ingredient labels can provide some insight on if a food contains phosphorus. Ingredients containing the word “phos” such as calcium phosphate or phosphoric acid indicate a phosphorus additive is present in the product. Be sure to read ingredients when watching your phosphorus intake.


Don’t forget to fill half of your plate with low potassium fruits and vegetables! Potassium is another mineral that may be limited as CKD progresses. Potassium is found in foods like bananas, oranges, tomatoes and potatoes. Potassium can be reduced in some foods like potatoes by special preparation methods. This includes soaking or double boiling vegetables. However, not all of the potassium is removed. It is still important to  limit your intake if necessary. If too much potassium is consumed and the kidneys are unable to reduce the amount of potassium present, dangerous consequences can occur.


A low-sodium diet is also recommended for managing the progression of CKD. In addition, a diet low in salt and sodium may be beneficial for people with diabetes who are at greater risk for high blood pressure. Examples of high sodium foods include canned soups, ramen noodles and processed lunch meats. To reduce your sodium intake, try limiting your use of table salt. In addition, read food labels and choose low-sodium items such as crackers without salt or fresh meat or poultry without additives. Cooking at home instead of eating out can help lower sodium intake.


Grains and grain products such as rice, pasta, cereals and bread are major carbohydrate sources in your meal. In addition to grains and starchy foods, fruit, milk and sugar-containing foods add to your carbohydrate intake. Individual needs vary with each person based on factors such as body size and physical activity. For people diagnosed with diabetes, it is especially important to be aware of foods that contain carbohydrate. In the body, carbohydrates break down into sugar that raise blood glucose. By controlling the amount of carbohydrates consumed at each meal and snacks, blood sugar is better controlled.

By being aware of your nutrient needs, you will be better able to limit your intake of potentially harmful foods, monitor your portion sizes, and control your blood sugars. You can speak with your physician or dietitian regarding your individualized meal plan as nutrient needs and carbohydrate limits can vary.

Go to to find recipes modified for diabetes and chronic kidney disease diets.


  2. Carbohydrate Counting & Diabetes. (2014, June 01). Retrieved December 06, 2018, from
  3. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2018, from

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.

Jessica Fink MS, RD, LDN

Jessica Fink MS, RD, LDN

Jessica Fink has been a Registered Dietitian for two and a half years, recently in the renal specialty. She also works in the acute care setting managing a variety of nutritional needs. Jessica previously worked as a Health Inspector with a focus on food safety. She enjoys Zumba, cooking nutritious meals, and spending time with her daughter.