Kidney Diet Tips

Holiday eating on a low sodium diet for kidney patients


Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…but be sure the snow-white seasoning called salt isn’t falling on your plate this holiday season.

Much of the sodium we consume comes from prepared and processed foods and salt-containing seasonings in addition to the salt shaker. For people with chronic kidney disease or those on kidney dialysis treatments, too much sodium could ruin the holidays. Excess sodium can raise blood pressure and cause swelling due to water retention. It can also increase thirst beyond control—leading to fluid overload and difficulty breathing.

Here are some sodium facts and low sodium suggestions to help kidney patients on a low sodium diet enjoy the holidays.

Salt makes you thirsty so limit salty foods, especially if you’re on a fluid restriction.

A little extra salt in or on your holiday foods does make a difference.

1 teaspoon salt = 2131 mg sodium 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1066 mg sodium

1/4 teaspoon salt = 533 mg sodium 1/8 teaspoon salt = 266 mg sodium

75 mg—the average sodium content of 3 ounces fresh, unsalted beef, turkey, chicken, pork

240 mg sodium in 3 ounces self-basting frozen turkey, cooked (that’s without the gravy!)

580 mg sodium in 3 oz frozen fully cooked baked turkey

820 mg sodium in 3 ounces honey baked ham

Bread lovers beware! Bread is a major sodium contributor if you eat more than a couple of pieces a day unless you buy special low sodium bread. A slice (1 ounce) of loaf bread has 150 to 200 mg sodium—not including salted butter or other spreads or toppings. Consider a bread maker or bread baking book with low sodium recipes as a Christmas gift.

Go for low or reduced sodium gravy instead of regular salted gravy which has more than 300 mg sodium for 1/4 cup.

If you do use sodium containing seasonings or condiments, limit to a small portion.

Increase the salt-free herbs and spices and rely on low sodium seasoning such as lemon juice or zest, vinegars, fresh chilies and fruit sauces and jams.

Pick fresh foods whenever possible—the sodium is likely to be much lower.

Cook at home often instead of eating out. Prepare a low sodium dish to take to holiday celebrations.

Read labels and compare brands at the grocery. There’s often quite a sodium difference between two comparable products.

Don’t let sodium ruin your holidays. Paying attention to what you eat and focusing on healthier low sodium, kidney-friendly choices makes a difference in health and energy level.

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.