Kidney Diet Tips

The Mediterranean Lifestyle and CKD

Unlike many current diet plans, the Mediterranean diet was not invented, but discovered. It has been not only a diet, but also a lifestyle followed by many in Europe for decades. Ansel Keys from the University of Minnesota discovered the lifestyle while conducting research in Italy during the 1950s. He found an area in the Mediterranean where individuals had lower levels of cholesterol and lower rates of coronary heart disease when compared to individuals from New York. Over the years, more research has found that heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, obesity and Type 2 diabetes are reduced by people who follow this lifestyle.

Mediterranean Lifestyle

The Mediterranean lifestyle may be difficult for some of us in the United States to adapt. It focuses on mental and emotional health in addition to healthy eating. This includes a healthy balance of work, relaxation and social interaction. These factors play an important role in our mental health well-being, which may have a positive impact on our eating habits. This lifestyle may also help reduce stress which may help with blood pressure management.

Here are a few tips to help live more of a Mediterranean lifestyle:

  • Include at least one or more positive social interactions a week. Laughter and fun can be the best medicine!
  • Try to have at least one or more relaxing meals a day with other people to help slow down your eating and prevent overeating.
  • Go outside and get physical activity. The Mediterranean lifestyle encourages being outside for your workouts. Plus this allows you to get extra vitamin D from the sun. Let’s face it- outdoor exercise is more fun than mundane workouts on a treadmill or stair climber.
  • The biggest take-away is to slow down and enjoy your days. It can be a big change compared to our standard fast-paced lifestyles, jumping from one event to the next. Taking care of yourself, both your mental and physical health, needs to be a top priority to enjoy a happy life.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet way of eating includes consuming fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs, fish, olive oil, breads, nuts and pasta. This diet has limited amounts, if any, of red meats, poultry, butter, refined grains and processed foods. Strong adherence to this diet has shown many heart-health benefits due to being high in fiber, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and antioxidants.

With guidance from a registered dietitian, a Mediterranean diet may be a great choice for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and those on dialysis. This diet may help reduce phosphorus intake by limiting processed foods that contain phosphorus additives. The reduction in processed foods can allow patients to enjoy small portions of beans, nuts and dairy, which contain phosphorus.

Another benefit of the diet is a reduction in sodium intake. Processed and fast foods are often high in sodium. A Mediterranean diet focuses on fresh whole foods that are often naturally low in sodium.

Here are some kidney-friendly tips on following a Mediterranean diet:

  • Dairy – Limit to ½ c low fat dairy (includes skim or 1% milk or low fat Greek yogurt)
  • Beans and Lentils – Aim for 3 servings/week to provide a great source fiber and protein
  • Fish – Aim for 2 servings/week
  • Protein – Eat lean protein twice daily – chicken, turkey, lean beef, pork tofu, tempeh, eggs or egg whites
  • Nuts and Seeds – Limit to 1 ounce per day (a small handful). Almonds, walnuts and pistachios are great choices.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Use at least 1-2 tablespoons daily
  • Fruits and Vegetables – Aim for 5 (1/2 cup) servings of lower potassium fruits and vegetables such as apples, berries, plums, bell peppers, carrots and green beans. Your goal may be more if you do not need to restrict potassium.
  • Whole Grains – Kidney-friendly whole grains include barley, buckwheat, bulgur, wild rice and whole wheat.


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.

Samantha Carter MS, RD, LD

Samantha Carter MS, RD, LD

Samantha Carter, MS, RD, LD has been a registered dietitian since 2012 and a DaVita dietitian since 2017. She has previous experience in acute-care hospitals and long-term nursing facilities. Samantha finds her previous work has given her a passion for kidney disease and an understanding in complications associated with the disease. Besides nutrition, Samantha also has a passion for the outdoors, traveling to adventurous places, and playing sports (especially tennis and volleyball).