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Grocery Shopping Made Simple with a Kidney-Friendly Food List

Living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) doesn’t mean you have to stop eating the foods you love. In fact, many kidney-friendly foods are part of a healthy lifestyle the whole family can enjoy. The best foods for you will depend on the stage of CKD you’re in, blood work results, and other health conditions. Limiting sodium is key for every stage of CKD. Eating more natural, less processed foods and homemade meals can help lower your sodium intake. You should also avoid phosphorus and potassium.

Following through on dietary changes becomes easier when you set yourself up for success from the start. You can accomplish this by creating a kidney-friendly food list before you go shopping. That way, your kitchen will stay stocked with kidney-friendly foods, and eating well with CKD can be easier.

The Power of a Chronic Kidney Disease Diet Grocery List

Bringing a grocery list with you to the store will keep you on track while shopping and empower you to lead a kidney-friendly lifestyle. Plus, you’ll be able to:

  • Plan your favorite meals. You don’t have to sacrifice your favorite dishes because you are living with CKD. However, it is important to pay attention to the ingredients these meals include. For instance, if your old “go-to” recipe includes salt, replace it with flavorful spices like cumin or lemon zest. 
  • Avoid impulse purchases. Shopping with a grocery list keeps you more focused than you would be if you didn’t have one. A list of fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins will also keep you out of the aisles with processed foods. 
  • Save money. Not having a plan when you’re shopping can be costly, but a grocery list helps keep spending down. When you know what you need before you shop, you’ll avoid buying too many ingredients or unhealthy items.

 The Power of a Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Grocery List

Watch and learn from a Fresenius Kidney Care dietitian as they teach you step by step how to keep you on track while shopping and empower you to lead a kidney-friendly lifestyle.
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4 Things to Do Before Creating Your Kidney-Friendly Food List

  1. Talk to your greatest resource—your doctor. Your doctor knows your medical history well. They can refer you to a dietitian who can help you understand which foods will fit best into your lifestyle and how to read food packaging.
  2. Do your own research. Whether it’s before or after you talk to your doctor or dietitian, spend some time learning which ingredients in your favorite dishes you need to substitute with kidney-friendly options.
  3. Know where to shop. Shop the outer aisles of the grocery store to stock your kitchen with the freshest produce and dairy products. This helps control your meals’ ingredients—a benefit you won’t experience eating frozen foods, which typically have a lot of sodium and phosphorus.1 Try shopping at the nearest farmer’s market to get some of the freshest foods available. By doing this, you’ll be more likely to consume more fruits and vegetables. These food groups have plenty of low-potassium options and have the potential to lower the risk of chronic disease.2
  4. Be colorful. The more colorful the produce on your grocery list, the more nutrients you’ll consume, as different colors of fruits and vegetables provide unique nutritional benefits.

How to Shop for Kidney-Friendly Ingredients

Foods that are low in potassium and sodium tend to be kidney-friendly, so read labels and look for items with “less than 10 percent Daily Value (DV)” sodium and potassium. Keep in mind, food labels aren’t required to list potassium, so knowing which foods are high or low in potassium is beneficial.

Proteins

Healthy protein sources include fresh meats, seafood, eggs, beans/legumes, nuts, and fresh dairy. If you’re on a plant-based diet, you can get your protein from foods like soy, beans, lentils, and nut butters. It’s important to pay close attention to which ones you’re eating because some have added sodium or phosphorus. Adding all-natural, fresh meat to your grocery list and leaving off processed deli meats and salted or smoked meats are ways you can shop for the right proteins.

Fruits and vegetables

Produce options taste good, and many fit your kidney-friendly lifestyle. However, there are some you should keep off your shopping list or only eat in small portions. The star fruit, or carambola, is one to avoid because it has a neurotoxin that can be toxic for people with kidney disease. Learn what produce you can eat before including it on your grocery list.

Breads, cereals, and grains

As long as you eat the recommended amount from your doctor or dietitian, you can continue stocking your pantry with these foods. Look for whole grain options like bran cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and breads. The more fiber listed on the food label, the healthier. Dietary fiber can promote good bowel habits and help control blood sugars and cholesterol, which reduces your risk for heart disease.3 

Fluids

When considering the amount of liquids you can consume and your beverage choices, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Many beverages—including sports drinks, flavored waters, and energy drinks—contain added sugars, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium that may be harmful. Stick to plain water, clear sodas, 100 percent fruit juice, and fresh brewed tea or coffee. If you’re limiting potassium, you may need to avoid orange juice or prune juice. If you notice you’re swelling or retaining fluid, your doctor may ask you to drink less.

Desserts and snacks

The goodies you can shop for depends on your specific dietary needs. Discuss which ones match your kidney-friendly lifestyle with your doctor or dietitian before adding them to your list.

You can include desserts and snacks on your kidney-friendly food list. Low-sodium crackers, pita chips, tortilla chips, popcorn, and nuts are all great snacks. Homemade dishes are best for dessert, such as fruit-based pies or cobblers, cheesecake, and cookies. Avoid desserts made from boxed mixes or that contain mostly chocolate. If you are watching your weight or blood sugars, consider eating these options in smaller portions.

Dairy

Milk, yogurt, and cheese can be part of a healthy kidney diet. Shop for natural cheeses, avoiding items labeled “cheese food” or “cheese product.” Greek yogurt and cottage cheese can be easy and tasty snacks, and, in most cases, milk servings should be 1 cup per day. Low-fat dairy milk, almond milk or soy milk may be good options. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider about the best options for you.

Condiments, fats, and seasonings

Even without salt, there are many options to add flavor to your meals, like dried and fresh herbs and lime juice or zest. Having so many different choices could lead you to discover your next favorite recipe. If you’re unsure of how to season your foods without salt, take a look at these kidney-friendly recipes to get started.

Plant-based foods

Plant-based floods have anti-inflammatory nutrients that can preserve kidney function and slow CKD progression. Pair those benefits with the flavorful options in this food group, and you’ll see how exciting cooking with plant-based foods can be.

Make Your Kidney-Friendly Lifestyle Fun and Easy

Sticking to your lifestyle is easier if what’s in your kitchen matches it. By creating a kidney-friendly food list before you go shopping, you’ll be able to make healthier decisions and continue eating well. 

References

1 “10 Ways to Shop for Healthy Food Choices at the Grocery Store” National Kidney Foundation, published August 12, 2014, https://www.kidney.org/news/keephealthy/newsletter/Winter2012/KH_topten.

2 Jilcott Pitts SB, Wu Q, Demarest CL, Dixon CE, Dortche CJ, Bullock SL, McGuirt J, Ward R, Ammerman AS. Farmers' market shopping and dietary behaviours among Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants. Public Health Nutr. 2015 Sep;18(13):2407-14. doi: 10.1017/S1368980015001111.

3“This March, Make Over Your Pantry With 8 Simple Tips.” National Kidney Foundation, accessed March 18, 2022, https://www.kidney.org/news/monthly/8tips_moy_pantry.

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