Family and Friends Dancing together at the Garden Party

Celebrating Spring Holidays with Chronic Kidney Disease

By: Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN, PatientsLikeMe Contributor 

With a few Spring holidays coming up, it’s important to remember that you deserve to enjoy your holiday celebrations when you have chronic kidney disease! Holidays can be such a joyous time of year, filled with family time, laughter and good food. Along with fun, holidays can also be filled with stress, especially when it comes to chronic kidney disease. Managing your CKD can be tough but add in a few holiday meals and it can quickly become overwhelming and confusing. Instead of completely avoiding your favorite holiday foods, remember these tips and tricks to ensure a kidney-friendly holiday!

What to keep in mind for your CKD during the holidays 

Sodium – Holiday foods can go hand in hand with high-sodium foods sometimes. When it comes to sodium and kidney disease, it is so important to follow a low-sodium diet to help keep your kidneys as healthy as possible. Studies show a high sodium diet can negatively affect blood pressure and kidney health. With CKD, this is not ideal. Try these lower sodium swaps for your CKD during your holiday celebrations:

  • Instead of salt ➡️ try low sodium or no salt added seasonings like Dash seasoning 
  • Instead of using soy sauce ➡️ try using coconut aminos to flavor your Asian-inspired dishes
  • Instead of high-sodium salad dressings and sauces ➡️ try using herbs, spices, vinegars, and citrus juices to add flavor to your foods 
  • Instead of using a full teaspoon of salt ➡️ try using a pinch of ⅛ teaspoon of salt for a lower sodium intake 
  • Instead of buying high-sodium frozen meals and foods ➡️ try buying ingredients to make your own meals or look for lower-sodium options in the freezer section
  • Instead of buying regular canned foods ➡️ try buying low-sodium or no-salt-added canned beans, vegetables, etc. 
  • Instead of having large portions of high-sodium foods ➡️ try having smaller portions

Potassium – When it comes to potassium and CKD, it’s important to remember that not everyone with kidney disease needs to limit potassium. In fact, some people with CKD actually need more potassium! With that being said, it’s also important to remember what your body needs because what works for one person may not work for another. If you need to limit your potassium intake for your kidney disease, try choosing some lower potassium swaps at your next holiday meal:

  • Swap sauteed kale or arugula for sauteed spinach 
  • Use mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes 
  • Serve your dish with a roasted red pepper sauce instead of a tomato sauce 
  • Try double boiling your potatoes for your mashed potatoes or scalloped potatoes to reduce the potassium content by 50-75% 
  • Avoid salt substitutes like “Nu-salt” or “No-salt” because although they are lower in sodium, they are very high in potassium 
  • Choose lower sodium fruit options for your favorite desserts or pies like apples, cranberries, berries, or pineapple

Phosphorus – Eating a diet high in phosphorus is not helpful for those with CKD. Some holiday favorites like store-bought rolls, baked goods, and frozen items can contain phosphate additives. These inexpensive additives are added to processed foods to help preserve and stabilize them. Phosphate additives are also found in baking powder, so be mindful when baking your favorite holiday treats. You can substitute one teaspoon of baking powder with 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar, vinegar, or lemon juice.

With kidney disease, we want to ensure we keep phosphorus levels within the normal range for optimal kidney and bone health. Phosphate additives are highly absorbed in the body and can contribute to high phosphorus levels in the blood in someone with kidney disease. Phosphorus is not required to be listed on the food label, unfortunately. Instead, you can spot phosphate additives in the ingredient list by looking for any ingredient with “PHOS”. That would indicate a phosphate additive in that food, and it is best to avoid it if possible.

Protein – I am sure you can smell it now: a whole turkey roasting in the oven. Smells of sage, rosemary, and lemon wafting through your kitchen. Having high-protein foods like turkey, chicken, and ham during the holidays is very common. When you have CKD, it is important to stick to a moderate protein diet instead of a high protein diet to help manage your kidney health (4). This doesn’t mean you have to cut out your favorite meat entrees! Instead of having large portions of your favorite turkey or chicken dish, try having smaller portions and adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate instead. For example, instead of having 6 ounces of turkey breast, try 3 ounces instead, plus some extra salad and stewed apples. This will help to keep your kidneys happy and healthy! 

Alcohol – Alcohol is a popular drink during many holidays, especially holidays like New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day. However, alcohol consumption is not beneficial for the kidneys when you have CKD. Why? Because it is the kidney’s responsibility to filter out toxins and waste products from the body, including alcohol (3). This means that when you drink alcohol, your kidneys have to work extra hard. Instead of having a few drinks, try sticking to one drink during your next holiday celebration or try a zero-proof drink or alcohol-free drink instead. 

Water – Remember, it is important to stay hydrated with CKD. With that being said, studies have shown that excessive water intake and too little water intake can both be harmful for your kidney health (2). A general recommendation is at least 64 ounces of water for most people with chronic kidney disease. To get the best recommendation for you, be sure to check with your doctor and healthcare team as well as your kidney/renal dietitian. It can be so easy to forget to drink during the holidays because of how busy or stressed you may be. Try keeping a water bottle with you at all times, even when you are out running errands so that you can continue to stay hydrated.

Holiday swaps for your favorite holiday foods

  • Instead of regular mashed potatoes ➡️ try double boiling your mashed potatoes for a lower potassium side dish
  • Instead of ham ➡️ try turkey or chicken instead for a lower sodium option 
  • Instead of biscuits ➡️ try a whole grain dinner roll instead for a higher fiber option
  • Instead of canned cranberry sauce ➡️ try homemade cranberry sauce for a lower-sugar option 
  • Instead of adding salt to your holiday foods ➡️ try using herbs, spices, vinegars, and citrus juices to add flavor
  • Instead of meat-focused dishes like chicken, turkey, or ham ➡️ try having a vegetarian dish like a lentil shepherd’s pie, veggie lasagna, or whole roasted cauliflower

Kidney-friendly holiday recipe ideas

*Please note: recipes should be modified to fit your individual nutritional needs

How to enjoy your holiday meals with CKD

When you are diagnosed with CKD, it can be so scary and overwhelming to know what to eat. One thing that you may need to know is that one-holiday meal will not ruin your kidney health. Instead of completely giving up your favorite holiday foods, try changing up the recipe to make it more kidney-friendly instead. You deserve to enjoy your holiday with CKD and still keep your kidneys healthy! Visit for other tips on living for managing your CKD!


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