Kidney Diet Tips

Make kidney-friendly changes to your Thanksgiving meal

Typical Thanksgiving Menu

3 ounces Turkey (pre-basted, frozen)
1/4 cup Turkey Gravy
1/2 cup Stuffing or Dressing
1/3 cup Mashed Potatoes
1/3 cup Sweet Potatoes
1/3 cup Green Peas
1/3 Green Beans
1/4 cup Cranberry Sauce
1 slice Pumpkin Pie
1 tablespoon whipped cream topping

Nutrients:  930 calories, 35 g protein, 128 g carbohydrate, 30 g fat, 112 g cholesterol, 1785 mg sodium, 1216 mg potassium, 515 mg phosphorus, 14 g fiber

Here’s a typical Thanksgiving meal with conservative portions. As you can see from the nutrients fat, sodium, potassium and phosphorus are quite high. Consider some changes to make your meal more kidney-friendly and help you to feel better afterwards!

Turkey—if available, select a fresh turkey (not brined). Most frozen turkeys are pre-basted, meaning injected with a solution that increases sodium and phosphorus content. Pre-basted turkey contains 340 mg sodium for 3 ounces compared to 60 mg sodium in fresh unsalted turkey.  Another alternative is to buy fresh turkey breast or thigh meat to cook instead of the whole bird. If you’ve already purchased or cooked a pre-basted turkey, avoid adding additional salt or salty gravy and limit to a 2-3 ounce portion.
Turkey Gravy—Make from turkey drippings or low sodium broth and limit added salt. Strain the fat before making gravy.
Stuffing or Dressing—Make it with low sodium broth or soup instead of regular. Leave out the nuts or reduce the portion.
Potatoes (sweet and white)—Leach or boil to reduce potassium (cut thin or small). Add very little if any salt. Use a healthy margarine and low fat milk substitute instead of butter and whole milk or cream for whipped potatoes.
Green Beans—Cook fresh green beans instead of making the traditional green bean-mushroom soup-fried onion casserole.  Use a kidney friendly recipe from
Green Peas—Season with pepper and simply serve. I like to mix peas with the potatoes and gravy which gives plenty of flavor.
Cranberry Sauce—Eat canned or fresh cranberry sauce, whole berries or jellied. Cranberries are low in potassium—good anytime.
Pumpkin pie with whipped topping—Bake an apple-cranberry pie instead to reduce potassium. Use a low sodium pie crust or eat only the filling to reduce sodium and fat. If you do have the pumpkin pie—make it a very small piece.
For the meal—avoid adding extra salt and limit portions, especially if you know the item is higher in sodium, potassium or phosphorus. 

Ask your doctor of dietitian if you need to take extra phosphorus binders. Most people consume more phosphorus than usual in their Thanksgiving meal. Extra binders help keep reduce the amount of phosphorus absorbed.
For more Thanksgiving ideas, checkout the Thanksgiving article on

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

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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.