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3 Tips for Following a Kidney-Friendly Diet with Chronic Kidney Disease

By: Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN, PatientsLikeMe Contributor  

When it comes to following a kidney-friendly diet, there is a lot of information out there about what to do. But sometimes this advice is not always accurate or up to date which can lead to more confusion and overwhelm. It is always best to use evidence-based information when making decisions about your diet and healthcare. Be sure to speak with your doctor, healthcare team, and dietitian before making any changes to your diet. As a registered dietitian who specializes in renal nutrition, here are my top 3 tips for following a kidney-friendly diet when you have CKD.

Top 3 tips for following a kidney-friendly diet with CKD

  1. Be wary of Google: Gone are the days of the overly restrictive “renal diet”. Here to stay is the new and improved kidney-friendly way of eating! If you have ever googled what to eat with CKD, you know that all of the information you come across is completely conflicting.  One site tells you beans and nuts are 100% off limits and one site tells you they should be included. What are you supposed to believe!? There is a reason for this! Most of that information you find on Dr. Google is outdated and inaccurate. For example, the advice to avoid foods high in potassium for everyone with CKD is completely untrue. Some people with CKD need to include more potassium in their diet, not less. If you aren’t sure if you should avoid potassium on your kidney-friendly diet, it’s best to check with your doctor and dietitian first. You might also see information about “high phosphorus foods” when in reality, those foods are not high in phosphorus. Foods without phosphate additives are not typically high in phosphorus due to the limited absorption of organic phosphorus.  Another reason is that many sites and groups want to make eating for your CKD a one size fits all approach when it’s not! Working with a kidney dietitian is your best way to know how your kidney-friendly diet can be customized to fit what your body needs.
  1. Remember that an “all or nothing” approach to managing CKD isn’t necessary: Have you ever tried a fad diet or a “quick fix” diet before? Maybe you’ve told yourself “I am going to give up x, y, and z forever to reach my goals”. These are great examples of an all-or-nothing approach. Now, have these ever worked for you? Giving up foods entirely can lead to a greater chance of binging on those foods. This can also lead to having an unhelpful relationship with food. Both of which can make it extremely difficult to manage your goals in the long run. Newer research has shown us that a kidney-friendly way of eating can include many foods and should be diverse, full of variety, and enjoyable. Yes, there are foods that support kidney health more than others. However, a kidney-friendly way of eating should be doable for LIFE! If it’s not, then it’s likely not going to work for you. Ask yourself: if you have to give up every food that you love, is that a sustainable way of eating for you? How can you include the foods you love into your kidney-friendly way of eating so that it can be sustainable for you? 
  1. Include more plant foods in your diet – your kidneys will thank you: A more plant-based diet has been shown to significantly improve overall health, including your kidney health. Choosing plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds has been shown to benefit blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar health/insulin resistance all of which have an impact on your kidneys. A plant-based diet looks different for everyone. There is no one size-fits all approach to eating for CKD, but including more plant foods in general can be extremely helpful. Some of my clients try to add 1-2 more servings of fruits and veggies each day whereas other clients try to make one meal/day vegetarian. I would suggest experimenting and finding what works best for you!

The bottom line

There is no one size fits all approach to eating for your kidney disease. What works for one person, may not work for you! Working with your doctor, healthcare team, and dietitian is the best way to figure out the best way of eating for you. To find a renal dietitian in your area, you can search for one using the National Kidney Foundation database:

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