Kidney Diet Tips

Planning Holiday Meals: Sodium and Potassium Tips

The leaves are falling, temperatures are dropping, and the holidays are here. Holiday meals and seasonal feasts with endless amounts of delicious food, drinks and desserts will likely flood our tables. Many of these tasty treats may be high in sodium and potassium, which can be a concern for people with kidney disease. Now is the time to be mindful of what you are putting on your plate. Plan ahead with these tips to keep your kidney diet on track through the fall and winter months.


Sodium is often used to enhance taste, or it can be used as a preservative. Salad dressings, gravies and marinades often have high levels of sodium. Holiday meals may contain more sodium than you usually eat. Excess sodium intake in the diet may increase thirst, causing patients who are on a fluid limit to drink more fluid. Excess fluid build-up in the body can increase blood pressure. The recommendation for kidney patients is to limit sodium intake to 2000 mg per day.

 Strategies to Meet Sodium Goal

It is helpful to check food labels for sodium. The label will list how many milligrams (mg) of sodium a serving size of the food contains. Some pre-packaged foods may advertise terms such as “low sodium”. “Low Sodium” means a serving size of the food contains 140 mg of sodium or less, “Very Low Sodium” means a serving size of the food contains 35 mg of sodium or less, and “Sodium Free” means the serving size of the food contains less than 5 mg of sodium.

When cooking be mindful of how much salt you are adding to your food. One teaspoon (tsp) of salt has 2300 mg of sodium.


The kidneys help to maintain potassium at a normal level- between 3.5 and 5.5 mEq/L. If kidney function decreases, it becomes more difficult for them to maintain that normal range. Potassium may start to build up within the bloodstream, which is known as hyperkalemia. Symptoms of hyperkalemia include weakness, numbness, nausea, and slow heartbeat. If too much potassium builds up within the body, the consequences could be fatal. The recommendation for kidney patients on a low potassium diet is around 2000 mg potassium a day. During holiday meals be extra cautious to keep up with potassium intake.

 Foods High in Potassium


  • Dried fruits – raisins, dates, prunes, figs
  • Oranges, bananas, apricots, kiwi, nectarine
  • Pomegranate, mango, papaya
  • Cantaloupe, honey dew, grapefruit
  • Juices – orange, prune, coconut


  • Artichokes, avocado
  • Dried peas, beans
  • Cooked greens
  • Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, winter squash
  • Potatoes (unless double boiled to remove potassium)
  • Tomato and tomato products
  • Vegetable juices


  • Bran cereal
  • More than 1/2 cup dairy per day
  • Nuts, nut butter, seeds
  • Low sodium soup/broth containing potassium chloride
  • Molasses, chocolate, real licorice candy
  • Salt substitutes containing potassium chloride
  • Cream of tartar (more than 1/4 teaspoon per serving)

Potassium in Potatoes

Maybe many of your favorite holiday meals side dishes contain potatoes. One large baked potato with the skin can contain 800 to 1000 mg of potassium. There are two ways to reduce the potassium in the potatoes by 50-75%.

Soak method: Peel and slice, chop, or grate potatoes. Cover potatoes with warm water and let them soak for a few hours. Drain the water and refill with fresh water. Boil the potatoes for at least 10 minutes until tender.

Double boil method: Peel and slice, chop, or grate potatoes. Cover potatoes with water, bring to a boil, and drain the water. Refill with fresh water and boil for at least 10 minutes. Drain water once potatoes are tender.

Serving size is 1/2 cup of potatoes.

Salt-free Seasonings and Herbs

Eating lower sodium meals means adding extra flavor from herbs and spices. Consider experimenting with some of the seasonings below.


Tips for Holiday Travel

Holidays often include travel. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Take your medications on your regular schedule
  • Choose fresh and low-sodium foods to reduce thirst cravings
  • Pack snacks that work for you so that you are prepared
  • Grocery shop and prepare your own meals while away when possible


 Low Sodium and Potassium Recipes  

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.

Katerina Melekos, RD

Katerina Melekos, RD

Katerina is a registered dietitian nutritionist based out of New Jersey. Her passion is helping people rediscover the joy of healthy eating and making the complicated science of nutrition accessible to everyone. When she is not working with in an outpatient dialysis clinic, she practices Intuitive Eating -helping people make peace with their bodies, while cultivating a healthy relationship with food. In her free time Katerina loves spending time with her family and playing with her dogs.