Kidney Diet Tips

Lower Sodium intake: A Gradual Change

“Oh I don’t add salt to my food” is something registered dietitians hear often when talking to people about lower sodium or limiting their salt intake. Most people think that by skipping the salt shaker they no longer need to be concerned about sodium. But actually, adding salt from a shaker is only a small part of the problem. According to the American Heart Association, over 75% of the sodium people eat comes from packaged, processed and restaurant food.

Lower Sodium Meal Adjustment Tips

People often say that low-sodium diets are bland and have no flavor. The key is decreasing sodium intake but still eating flavorful foods.

You can Shake the Salt Habit When You Have Kidney Disease. Here are some helpful tips to limit high sodium foods and help you adjust to lower sodium meals that still taste great.

Reduce or try to eliminate ready-to-eat meals and side dishes from your cooking – whether it’s canned, boxed or frozen items. Ready-to-eat items contain sodium in the form of preservatives to extend shelf/freezer life. Some items exceed the recommended daily intake in just one or two servings. Canned soups, vegetables and beans are extremely high in sodium unless a low-sodium option is available. While lower sodium versions are available, they may contain added potassium chloride to replace the flavor. So if you are on a lower potassium diet, be mindful of this. If you do use canned foods, rinse the contents before using to help remove some of the sodium.

Boxed meals or side dishes often require only water and cooking, but ingredients are usually high in sodium. Instead of these mixes, consider pasta, rice and other inexpensive grains. Sometimes you can save even more by purchasing in bulk. Dried beans and legumes are also very inexpensive, low in sodium, and pack a lot of nutrition in a single serving.

Low Sodium Recipes

Go to for a variety of recipes to create your own meals and side dishes that will be much lower in sodium.

Some of my favorites include:

Learning to read food labels and knowing where the sodium content is listed is essential. A good rule of thumb is to avoid food with more sodium per serving than the calories listed. Maybe the best tip of all: the foods without a nutrition label (fresh fruits and vegetables) are almost always sodium free.

Cook at home as often as possible and utilize fresh or dried herbs and spices to create flavorful dishes. Onions and garlic add beautiful flavors to food and both are naturally low in sodium.

Choose cuts of meat, poultry and fish that are processed as little as possible. Sodium is often added to store bought marinades, pre-marinated chicken breasts and also breading. Add the flavor yourself with a homemade marinade or salt-free seasoning or breading blend.

The cooking method will also effect the sodium content of your meals. Choose to bake, roast, sauté or grill your meals.

Dining Out

When dining out, request sauces and dressings on the side so you can control the amount you put on your food. Avoid salty condiments such as ketchup, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, pickled items and salsa, or limit to only a small spoonful. Choose fresh pico de gallo, mayonnaise, mustard or vinegar and oil. Stay away from mixed dishes.  Order steak, chicken or fish with separate sides. Choose menu items that state the meat is grilled or sautéed. Sharing a meal is another recommendation to help control portion size and calories. Therefore, it just makes sense that it would help decrease sodium as well.

Click here for more DaVita kidney diet tools and resources.


Sodium and Chronic Kidney Disease/

Shaking the Salt Habit to Lower High Blood Pressure/

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.

Annie Jacobson, RDN, LN

Annie Jacobson, RDN, LN

Annie Jacobson, RDN, LN has been a registered dietitian for 10 years with the last year spent in the renal specialty. She previously worked in long-term care, gaining a specialty certification in Gerontological nutrition. Annie loves talking to anyone and everyone about nutrition, but only if they ask first. Her passions are family, fitness and nutrition. She recently joined a CrossFit gym and admits she is a little addicted!