Managing Your
Kidney Diet

Living with kidney disease likely means changing some of your basic ideas about food and nutrition. To help you stay as healthy as possible, you may have to focus on what you eat and drink in a whole new way. The good news? Different doesn’t have to be daunting. Plus, taking control of what you eat—and how
much—can really impact your overall health.
Grilled zucchini for dialysis diet


Shopping gets easier with a list of kidney-friendly foods to choose.
Foods to Choose for ESRD

Eating Well on Dialysis

To feel your best and do your best on dialysis, a carefully thought-out meal plan will play a big role. Your dietitian can help you figure out how to incorporate foods you enjoy—and still stay within your dialysis diet guidelines. 

While some of the key basics for an end stage renal disease (ESRD) diet are similar to when you were at the earlier stages of kidney disease—lower salt, potassium and phosphorus—there are two key differences: proteins and fluids.

Power up on protein with dialysis

This is the opposite of what you do when you are at the earlier stages of chronic kidney disease. Now that you’re on dialysis, your protein needs are much higher. That’s because you lose protein during treatments. 

You need 8 to 10 ounces of protein-rich foods every day

3 ounces = the weight of a deck of cards, a medium pork chop, a ¼ pound hamburger patty, ½ chicken breast, a medium-sized fish fillet.

1 ounce = 1 egg or ¼ cup egg substitute, ¼ cup tuna, ¼ cup ricotta cheese, 1 slice of low-sodium lunchmeat.


Shopping gets easier with a list of kidney-friendly foods to choose.
Foods to Choose for ESRD

High-protein snacks for a dialysis diet

Mini meals and snacks can be a great way to fit more protein into your day. 
Here are some tasty tips:
Hard boiled eggs kidney diet friendly snack
Snack on hardboiled eggs or have low-salt deviled eggs as a treat.
Pasta salad mix in bowl
Mix hardboiled eggs, tuna, salmon, shrimp or chicken into a pasta salad.
Peanut butter on toast kidney diet friendly
Spread a spoonful of peanut butter on toast.
Protein bars are kidney diet friendly
Eat protein bars or add protein powders to food. Ask your dietitian which ones may be best for you.

H2O control: limit fluids with dialysis

Once you are on dialysis, you may urinate very, very little—or not at all. So any extra fluid you take in, must be removed by dialysis. The amount of fluid you should have each day will depend on the type of dialysis you are on, as well as how much kidney function you may still have. 

Limiting fluids is crucial

Limit fluids to feel better, stay healthier

Too much fluid may cause buildup between dialysis sessions, which results in:

  • Headaches and low energy
  • Swelling in your face, hands and feet (edema)
  • Trouble breathing from fluid in your lungs
  • Heart damage from stretching your heart with too much fluid
  • High blood pressure that can lead to a stroke

That’s why it’s important to keep your fluids in check.

Fluids aren’t just what you drink

While water, tea and anything you’re drinking out of a cup is obvious, there are some foods that contain enough liquid to be “fluids.”

  • Soup
  • Gravy
  • Syrup
  • Ice cream, sherbet, sorbet (1/2 cup = 1/2 cup fluid = 4 fluid ounces)
  • Popsicles (1 twin stick = 1/4 cup fluid = 2 fluid ounces)
  • Nutritional drinks
  • Gelatin (Jell-O) (1/2 cup = 1/2 cup fluid = 4 fluid ounces) 
  • Ice cubes, ice chips (1 cup = 1/2 cup fluid = 4 fluid ounces)


On dialysis, eating less salt
will help you drink less and feel better by:

• Helping you be less thirsty and breathe easier

• Avoiding swelling in your ankles, fingers, waist or under your eyes

• Keeping your heart stronger

Five tips for limiting fluids and still quenching your thirst

  1. Drink from small cups or glasses.
  2. Eat a piece of cold or frozen fruit.
  3. A little ice can quench thirst more than the same amount of liquid. Try freezing regular or diet ginger ale or apple juice into slushes or popsicles. 
  4. Suck on a piece of regular or sugar-free hard candy, an ice cube, a lemon wedge, or frozen grapes, or chew regular or sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva.
  5. Spread out your fluids evenly throughout the day.
Best advice for dialysis diet

Best advice: Talk to your doctor or dietitian to create a kidney-friendly meal plan

If it seems hard to know exactly what to eat, you’re not alone. Everyone starts off with questions about what’s okay for meals and how much they can have. And once you start dialysis, your diet will change again. So work with your doctor or dietitian to develop a meal plan you’ll enjoy. Touch base with them regularly to see what needs to be adjusted. Knowing the ropes—for your particular dietary needs—will help you eat healthy and thrive


Shopping gets easier with a list of kidney-friendly foods to choose.
Foods to Choose for ESRD