Kidney Diet Tips

Renal Diet Updates: Vegetarian Diets and Whole Grains

Restrictive, confusing, and hard to follow is what most people think when they talk about the daunting task of following a renal or kidney diet. The bad news, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there and it can be hard to navigate. The good news, your renal dietitian is here to clarify and give you an assortment of food choices to choose from. Today, the kidney diet is individualized and includes a wide variety of healthier food choices such as whole, fresh foods, less processed foods, vegetarian protein sources, and whole grains.

Once thought to be off limits to dialysis patients, a variety of vegetarian protein sources are now welcomed and encouraged in the renal diet due to their potential health benefits. In fact, following a vegetarian diet may reduce blood phosphorus levels in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients and may reduce inflammation in end stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. While vegetarian protein sources are high in phosphorus, the amount of phosphorus absorbed by the gut and in to the blood stream is actually much less, making these foods a healthy option for you to consume as a part of your individualized renal diet plan.

Due to their high protein to phosphorus ratio, foods like soft tofu, beans, seitan, tempeh, peanut butter, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are included in the renal diet. Special attention should be paid to potassium levels and you may need to adjust your intake of fruits and vegetables. Vegetarian protein sources that are lower in potassium like tofu, seitan, lentils, pinto beans, and kidney beans may be preferred as well. It’s a good idea to always read nutrition facts and ingredients on labels for potassium and sodium content and check ingredient lists for added phosphates.  

Whole grains, also once taboo to dialysis patients, are now encouraged as they include B vitamins, are higher in fiber, and have a lower impact on blood sugar compared to refined carbohydrate sources. Oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat pasta are just a few whole grains to choose from to add variety to your renal diet.

Most foods can fit in a healthy and balanced renal diet plan, including vegetarian protein sources and whole grains. Always be sure to speak with your nephrologist or renal dietitian about how to safely include these items in your individualized meal plan. For some vegetarian and whole grain recipes check out these selections from DaVita’s collection:


Moe SM, Zidehsarai MP, Chambers MA, et al. Vegetarian compared with meat dietary protein source and phosphorus homeostasis in chronic kidney disease. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2011;6(2):257-264.

Uribarri J, Woodruff S, Goodman S, et al. Advanced glycation end products in food and practical guide to their reduction in the diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(6):911-916.

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.

Jen Powers, MS, RD

Jen has always had an interest in nutrition and a passion for health and helping people. She has been a Registered Dietitian for 8 years and has specialized in renal nutrition for the past 5 ½ years. Her philosophy on nutrition is based on Intuitive Eating principles and evidenced based practice. Some of her interests include hiking with her dog, yoga, cooking, traveling, and spending time with loved ones.