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Understanding Kidney Diet Basics


When you're managing kidney disease, what you should eat—and how much—depends on how well your kidneys are working. Talk to your doctor or dietitian, especially at stage 3 or stage 4 of chronic kidney disease (CKD), to understand what to eat and drink and your recommended portions. Following a kidney-friendly diet may help keep your kidneys working as long as possible.

4 kidney diet tips for early stage CKD

  1. diet-tip-1

    You'll have specific protein needs

    You’ve probably heard that diets high in lean proteins, like chicken or fish, are healthy, though for a person in CKD stages 1–4 that’s not necessarily the case. Protein creates a waste product called urea. CKD makes it hard for your body to remove enough urea from your system—so you can feel tired and lose your appetite. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about the right amount of protein for you.

  2. diet-tip-2

    Salt is something to watch

    With CKD, it’s hard for kidneys to maintain your body’s salt and water balance. Eating salty foods throws your body even further off balance. Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to season and spice up your food without using salt. You won’t even miss it.

  3. diet-tip-3

    Get familiar with 2 big “P” words

    Phosphorus and potassium are 2 other nutrients to learn about and monitor, since the amount you eat can make extra work for your kidneys. Your doctor or dietitian can help you choose foods to control the levels of phosphorus and potassium in your kidney diet and help you stay on track with your nutrition goals.

    Learn about phosphorus

    Learn about potassium

  4. Learn about dietitians.

    A dietitian can help you thrive

    Everybody’s chemistry is different, so it helps to have a kidney diet expert. Your doctor will refer you to a renal dietitian who can help you create a CKD diet meal plan that fits your exact needs. You’ll find there are plenty of foods to satisfy your plan—and your family’s tastes.

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Learn which foods to choose
Make meal planning and grocery shopping easier with a list of foods to choose for CKD.
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Is a dialysis diet different?

If you choose to go on dialysis at stage 5, some of your kidney-diet needs, such as the amount of protein you need, may change.

Learn more