Kidney Diet Tips

Tips for Preventing and Improving Malnutrition

Patients living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are at an increased risk for malnutrition (1). Many find that dietary restrictions limit the foods available for them to eat. A registered dietitian (RD) can help clear up diet misunderstandings and guide patients to food and lifestyle choices. This can help improve nutritional status and prevent malnutrition.

Tips to Help

Use the following tips to get started:

  1. Take time to plan meals. When you plan ahead, it’s easier to make healthier food choices. A calendar, chalkboard or white board can help you lay out meal ideas for the week.
  2. Batch cook. Cook or prepare several meals at once. Portion meals into containers and put half away in the freezer. You can reheat frozen meals when you may not have as much energy to cook. You will find great recipes on the website.
  3. Make food flavorful by using low-sodium seasoning, sauces, herbs and spices. Try one of these kidney-friendly sauce or seasoning recipes.
  4. Eat 5 to 6 smaller meals throughout the day rather than 1 to 2 large meals. Try to include a protein source every time you eat to decrease the risk of protein malnutrition. High-quality protein such as meat, fish, poultry and eggs are the best choices. Other protein sources include yogurt, milk, cheese, and nuts. These foods may be consumed safely in small amounts by patients with CKD if labs are within range. Talk to your healthcare team about your potassium and phosphorus levels.
  5. Keep snacks on hand to eat between meals. Snacks provide extra calories to help prevent malnutrition and weight loss. There are some delicious snack ideas in this Kidney Diet Tips blog post .
  6. Socialize. If you live alone, join programs where you can be around others at meal times. Plan meals with family or friends if possible.
  7. Consider nutrition supplements to provide additional calories and protein, especially if you have malnutrition. Your dietitian can help you choose a supplement to fit your dietary needs. Consume liquid supplements at the end of or between meals as they can make you feel full.
  8. Increase your physical activity as able. Your activity level is an important topic to discuss with your doctor . Let your doctor or care team know if you have any decrease in your ability to do normal activities.
  9. Ask your doctor or healthcare provider for a referral to see a registered dietitian. Your insurance may cover the cost of these visits. You will need to check with your insurance company to see if they provide coverage.
  10. Learning more about CKD at any stage can help you to take better care of yourself now and plan for the future. Register for a Kidney Smart education class for more information. These classes provide great information on CKD, including some basic diet information.


Byham-Gray, L., Stover, J., & Wiesen, K. (2013). A clinical guide to nutrition care in kidney disease. Chicago, IL: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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.

Jennifer Smart MS, RD, LDN

Jennifer Smart MS, RD, LDN

Jennifer Smart has been a registered dietitian for 14 years with 10 years of renal experience. Nutrition topics of interest include malnutrition and nutrition Informatics. She lives in Maryland with her spouse, a retired US Marine, and her very energetic son. When she is not focusing on nutrition Jennifer enjoys fiber arts, gardening, beach combing and restoring furniture.