Kidney Diet Tips

The Struggle to Juggle: Tips for Managing Multiple Diet Restrictions

Managing multiple diet restrictions can feel like a struggle at times. It is like trying to juggle a few balls, and keep them all in the air, while someone keeps tossing more and more of them at you. The kidney diet itself, with its multiple components, can be a challenge. Many dialysis patients have other health concerns (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.) that require additional dietary modifications for optimum health. This is a lot to juggle! If you are someone who can relate, here are some tips that may help ease the struggle: 

Kick the thought of perfection to the curb

When following multiple eating plans, it is not realistic to get things 100 percent perfect every day. Go easy on yourself. Consider small, gradual changes, as these are less overwhelming and will have a positive effect when followed consistently.

Also remember that many foods can fit into a kidney friendly diet. Whole, less processed foods are the better choice over highly processed or fast foods. However, many people like to treat themselves from time to time, and there are ways to balance your day in order to enjoy a treat. If your blood work is being checked regularly, this can give your doctor and/or dietitian an idea of what you could tweak or even add to your meals.

It’s OK to start small and make little changes. One suggestion is to try substituting a fast food breakfast sandwich for one you make at home. There are many breakfast recipes on that can give you inspiration.

It can also be hard to avoid eating out when you have a busy schedule. You can still enjoy some takeout or restaurant food with family and friends by using our Eating Out Guides to help you make healthier choices.

Focus on the positive

Look for things that are common to the various diet guidelines. Lean meats, skinless poultry, fish and eggs or egg whites are protein sources recommended across the board for most diets. Whole grains and legumes are no longer considered “taboo” on the kidney diet and are also recommended for managing diabetes and heart disease. Your dietitian can guide you on how to add these foods back into your diet without causing a spike in your phosphorus level. Though not a diet guideline, regular exercise, at the level approved by your physician, is typically recommended for managing most health issues. Regular exercise helps reduce stress, which in turn can give you a more positive outlook. A positive outlook is key to focusing on the positives in life.

Work with your dietitian

Your dietitian can help provide recommendations and resources for menu planning, shopping and meal preparation tailored to your unique needs. As your lab values and health needs change, your diet guidelines will, too … and this can feel stressful. Your dietitian will help guide you as you prioritize needs and set goals that are right for you.        

Eating Well When You Have Kidney Disease, Diabetes and/or High Blood Pressure

Many people with kidney disease also have diabetes and/or hypertension (high blood pressure). Following eating plans for these conditions may be easier than you think. For example, a low-sodium diet is recommended for both people with kidney disease and those with high blood pressure. Here are some resources to help you get started.

Diet Tips for People with Diabetes and Kidney Disease

Guide to Low-sodium Foods

Today’s Kidney Diet: Diabetes- and Kidney-Friendly Eating, a cookbook from DaVita and the American Diabetes Association

Reach an understanding

By this, I mean be sure you have a good understanding not only of your diet guidelines but also the reason for them. When you have a good handle on the “why” as well as the “what,” this helps provide you with empowerment and motivation. Don’t be shy about asking your health care team for more information. They want you to succeed!

No doubt, multiple diet restrictions are a lot to juggle. Yet, with some self-compassion, positivity and understanding, things will feel less overwhelming. And remember, you are not alone. Your dietitian and health care team will help you keep those juggling balls in the air!

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.