People with kidney disease can continue to live productive lives: working, enjoying friends and family, and staying physically active. You may need to make some changes to your diet and lifestyle to help you live a healthier and longer life. Because heart attack and stroke are more common among people with kidney disease, these changes are good for your heart and for your kidneys.
Following a healthy lifestyle is good for people with kidney disease, especially if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or both. Talk with your dietitian, diabetes educator, or other health care professional about which actions are most important for you to take. As you will see, many of these actions are related.
What you eat and drink may help slow down kidney disease. Some foods may be better for your kidneys than others. Most of the salt and sodium additives people eat come from prepared foods, not from the salt shaker. Cooking your food from scratch gives you control over what you eat.
Your provider may suggest you see a dietitian. A dietitian can teach you how to choose foods that are easier on your kidneys. You will also learn about the nutrients that matter for kidney disease. See factsheets about sodium, protein, phosphorus, potassium, and how to read food labels.
The steps below will help you eat right as you manage your kidney disease. The first three steps (1-3) are important for all people with kidney disease. The last two steps (4-5) may become important as your kidneys become more damaged.
Why? To help keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day.
|Look for Food Labels that Say|
Very low sodium
Reduced or less sodium
Light in sodium
No salt added
Why? To help protect your kidneys.
|Animal-protein foods||Plant-protein foods|
Why? To protect your blood vessels, heart, and kidneys.
Lean cuts of meat, like loin or round
Poultry without the skin
Low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese
As your kidneys become more damaged, you may need to eat foods that are lower in phosphorus and potassium. Your health care provider will use lab tests to watch your levels.
Why? To help protect your bones and blood vessels.
|Foods Lower in Phosphorus||Foods Higher in Phosphorus|
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Breads, pasta, rice
Rice milk (not enriched)
Corn and rice cereals
Meat, poultry, fish
Bran cereals and oatmeal
Beans, lentils, nuts
Why? To help your nerves and muscles work the right way - if potassium is too high or too low, your nerves and muscles will not work normally.
|Foods Lower in Potassium||Foods Higher in Potassium|
Carrots, green beans
White bread and pasta
Rice milk (not enriched)
Cooked rice and wheat cereals, grits
Brown and wild rice
Whole wheat bread and pasta
Beans and nuts
Having kidney disease also means you may need to change what you drink.
Most people don't benefit from drinking water when they are not thirsty unless they have kidney stones. Drink as much water as you normally do.
If you are told to limit phosphorus, choose light-colored soda (or pop), like lemon-lime, and homemade iced tea and lemonade. Dark-colored sodas, fruit punch, and some bottled and canned iced teas can have added phosphorus.
If you are told to limit potassium, drink apple, grape, or cranberry juice instead of orange juice.
You may be able to drink small amounts of alcohol. Drinking too much can damage the liver, heart, and brain and cause serious health problems. Talk to your health care provider first.
Page last updated: April 3, 2013