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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Improving the understanding, detection, and management of kidney disease.

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How Often Do You Read Food Labels?

Food labels tell you how many calories and how much fat, protein, sodium (salt), and other nutrients are in one serving of food. For those at risk for kidney disease—with diabetes or high blood pressure, it's important to use the food label to eat healthier to better manage your conditions.

For people with kidney disease, health professionals may recommend limiting certain nutrients like sodium, phosphorus, or potassium to make healthy food choices for their kidneys. However, the amount of phosphorus and potassium is not always listed on the label.

If you have kidney disease, you can use the nutrition label to know how much sodium is included in one serving. Additionally, phosphorus is added to many packaged foods, so look for words with PHOS on the ingredient list if you've been told to watch your phosphorus. If you have been told to limit potassium, look for "potassium" on the ingredient label. Many low sodium foods use "potassium chloride" instead of salt. You can learn more about reading food labels for people with kidney disease here: http://nkdep.nih.gov/resources/nutrition-food-label-508.pdf

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Nutrition Labels Can Help to Eat Healthy
and Control Food Portions

Two women eating picnic lunch

Reading food labels also is important if you are trying to control your food portions and manage your weight. Keep in mind that the serving size on the food label is not a suggested amount of food to eat. It is just a quick way of letting you know the calories and nutrients in a certain amount of food. Try the ideas below to help you control portions at home:

  • Take the amount of food that is equal to one serving, according to the food label, and eat it off a plate instead of eating straight out of a large box or bag.
  • Avoid eating in front of the TV or while busy with other activities. Pay attention to what you are eating, chew your food well, and fully enjoy the smell and taste of your food.
  • Eat slowly so your brain can get the message when your stomach is full.
  • Try using smaller dishes, bowls, and glasses. This way, when you fill up your plate or glass, you will be eating and drinking less.
  • your intake of higher-fat, higher-calorie parts of a meal. Take seconds of vegetables and salads (watch the toppings and dressing) instead of desserts and dishes with heavy sauces.
  • When cooking in large batches, freeze food that you will not serve right away. This way, you will not be tempted to finish eating the whole batch before the food goes bad. And you will have ready-made food for another day. Freeze leftovers in amounts that you can use for a single serving or for a family meal another day.

For more tips on food portions and reading nutrition labels, visit: http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/PDFs/justenough.pdf

Page last updated: October 10, 2012