Kidney Diet Tips


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Secrets for Success: Renal Diet Tips from Patients

Years ago, when I started working in dialysis, one of the first people I had the pleasure to meet was a gentleman who had been on hemodialysis for almost 20 years. He was very kind, a real “people person” and he enjoyed chatting with me. At times, he would offer me little “tips and tricks” he had learned that helped him to manage his renal diet more easily. I remember that he told me “When you take the time to care and to listen, you will find that you learn every bit as much from your patients as they will learn from you”.

Since that time, I have often asked patients who do well with their lab values and who keep their fluid weight gains under control to share with me their tried and true tips. I can then share this practical “know-how” with other patients who struggle in these areas. Who better to offer suggestions than those who are motivated with their self-care and who manage successfully their diet guidelines day in and day out?

It is with sincere appreciation to these wonderful people that I offer a few of their “not-so-secret” secrets and tips for success:

  • To satisfy a chocolate craving and not go overboard with potassium and phosphorus: spread a little chocolate icing over shortbread cookies or graham crackers.
  • Frozen applesauce is a refreshing thirst quencher.
  • For a lower phosphorus macaroni and cheese, substitute cream cheese for half of the regular cheese in your recipe.
  • Bake meat, rice and vegetables together in an aluminum foil packet. Makes for easy prep and clean up on days when you feel tired.
  • Place a 16-ounce water bottle in the freezer overnight. In the morning, put the frozen bottle in a lunch tote and take it with you. Keep it in the tote where it will melt slowly and you take small sips instead of drinking it all at once. This helps you pace your fluid intake.
  • Flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars can be combined to make delicious low sodium meat marinades or dressings for salads. These are also a nice gift idea when shopping for a loved one who has kidney disease.

The advice given to me by that gentleman all those years ago has proven to be spot on. I have learned so much by listening to my patients. Many times, just by my passing along one or two of their insightful suggestions, another patient tries them. This gives them a taste of success and a feeling of some positive control over their health and well-being. This, along with support and encouragement from their health care team, helps them take another step forward with a bit more confidence. And that makes all the difference. I hope some of these tips are helpful to you. May we all keep listening, caring and sharing to uplift and encourage one another along the way.

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.

Cheryl Hathaway, RDN, CSR, LDN

Cheryl Hathaway, RDN, CSR, LDN

Cheryl lives in Lancaster, PA and has been a Renal Dietitian for over 25 years. She appreciates that her job allows her the opportunity to help her patients feel their best and keep as active as possible with good nutrition. In her downtime, Cheryl enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, following Carolina Panthers football and going on weekend getaways with her husband Mike.