Kidney Diet Tips


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Kidney Diet Tips: What’s the Best Kind of Squash?

Food lists can make deciding what to buy for your kidney diet easier, but can also be a source or confusion. Squash is one example, since it appears on both low and high potassium food lists. Today’s post gives you some squash facts to help select the best choices for your kidney diet.

Squash varieties fall into 3 major categories—Asian squash, summer squash and winter squash.

Asian squash includes bitter melon, silk squash, fuzzy melon, opo squash and winter melon.

Summer squash includes chayote, globe, pattypan, scallopini, yellow squash and zucchini.

Winter squash includes acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, delicate, hubbard, pumpkin, kabocha, spaghetti and turban squash.  Winter squash is readily available in the fall and winter, but what really sets it apart is winter squash is thick skinned and difficult to cut compared to summer squash.

 Summer squash is usually recommended for kidney patients on a low potassium diet. Nutritionally, Asian and summer squash ranges 90-250 mg potassium, 23-35 mg phosphorus, and 0-5 mg sodium for 1/2 cup cooked squash. It’s very low in carbohydrate with 2-5 grams for 1/2 cup. 

Winter squash is high in potassium with ranges from 250-445 mg, 17-46 mg phosphorus and 0-14 mg sodium for 1/2 cup cooked squash. The exception  is spaghetti squash, the only low potassium winter squash with only 91 mg potassium and 11 mg phosphorus for 1/2 cup cooked. Although thought of as a starchy vegetable, surprisingly most winter squash contains only 4-11 mg carbohydrate for a 1/2 cup serving. 

If you are on a chronic kidney disease diet that does not require potassium restriction, winter squash is the most nutritious squash choice. In addition to being rich in potassium, it is a great source of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, vitamin C and fiber. Winter squash also contains the health promoting phytochemicals lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin which may act as antioxidants and help control inflammation.  

Summer squash is easily prepared in many ways— bake, boil, broil, grill, fry, microwave, or stir-fry with your favorite low-sodium seasonings. It’s quick to cook and different varieties work in multiple recipes. My favorite is yellow crookneck squash, but when hard to find in the winter I substitute zucchini in my favorite recipe. 

Winter squash requires a longer cooking time and is more suitable for baking or microwaving. In the summertime I slice acorn or butternut squash into 1/2” slices and cook on the grill. One tip for winter squash is to pierce with a fork and microwave for 2-4 minutes to soften the skin before cutting or peeling.

Most grocery stores carry summer and winter squash year round, but the best bargain is offered when the vegetables are in season. Consider buying extra and freezing it for later. Look for squash at your local farmer’s markets as it’s most likely the freshest. has several squash recipes that are kidney-friendly and tasty. Here is a sampling for you to try: 

Chicken and Summer Squash Bow-tie Pasta 

Chicken and Summer Squash Vegetable Kebabs

Grilled Summer Squash

Primavera Sauce for Pasta

Salmon and Summer Squash with Dill Vinaigrette

Southern Squash Casserole

Zucchini Pancakes


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.

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.