By: Kellsey Reed, RDN, LDN, PatientsLikeMe Contributor
Frozen foods are often a taboo subject when it comes to chronic kidney disease. Many frozen foods can be packed with protein, sodium, and preservatives, like phosphate additives, making them seemingly off-limits for those with CKD. However, nowadays, this is definitely not the case! Many frozen food brands have started to incorporate more plant-based options into their lineup, plus many are opting for lower sodium options too! It’s just a matter of looking in the right place and knowing what to look for. Let’s break it down together below.
Following a low-sodium diet when you have chronic kidney disease is recommended. Sodium can impact not only blood pressure but kidney function as well. Excessive sodium intake has been shown to increase proteinuria, too (1). The current recommendation for sodium intake for those with CKD is 2,000 mg of sodium per day. If you include frozen foods in your diet, it can sometimes be hard to achieve this goal of 2,000 mg of sodium. Oftentimes, many frozen food items are packed with sodium to add flavor and to help preserve foods. When looking at the label for your favorite frozen foods, try aiming for around 500-700 mg of sodium per frozen meal. This is a good goal if you are watching your sodium intake.
One of the most common additives in many processed and frozen foods are phosphate additives. According to a study done in Ohio in 2013, 44% of the best-selling grocery items contained phosphate additives (2). Phosphate additives are added to food to help preserve and stabilize them; this is why they are so often found in frozen foods. Avoiding phosphate additives is important when you have CKD because phosphate additives contain phosphorus that is highly absorbed in the body. When you consume foods with phosphate additives, this can lead to high phosphorus levels in your blood. High phosphorus levels can be harmful to those with CKD. Therefore, it is best to try and avoid phosphate additives whenever you can.
To spot phosphate additives on the nutrition facts label, check the ingredients list. Anything that has “PHOS” in it is a phosphate additive. When looking for frozen food options, try to spot these phosphate additives and avoid them when possible. Below you will find a list of frozen meals that do not contain phosphate additives.
It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone with CKD needs a potassium restriction. If you need a potassium restriction, try looking at the potassium content on the nutrition label. Aim for around 500-700 mg of potassium per meal if possible. This can help you stick to a lower potassium diet for your CKD.
Summary of what to look for on the nutrition label
In general, it can be helpful to look at the nutrition label and ingredients list when browsing through the frozen foods section. Try aiming for:
- No phosphate additives on the ingredients list
- Around 500-700 mg of sodium per entire meal
- Less than 200 mg of sodium per ingredient of meal/snack
- Around 600 mg of potassium per entire meal (if you need a potassium restriction)
Go-to kidney-friendly frozen foods
- Frozen veggies (Great addition to any meal)
- Frozen fruit (Perfect for smoothies)
- Frozen ginger or garlic (Great for adding flavor when cooking)
- Frozen edamame (Nice plant-based protein source)
- Frozen brown rice or quinoa (Easy fiber-rich carb)
- Frozen veggie or bean burgers (Great plant-based protein for easy meals)
Lower sodium & phosphate additive-free frozen meal options for CKD
- Health Choice power bowls
- Green Goddess power bowl (https://www.healthychoice.com/power-bowls-vegan-and-vegetarian/green-goddess-bowl)
- Cauliflower curry bowl (https://www.healthychoice.com/power-bowls-vegan-and-vegetarian/cauliflower-curry)
- Amy’s meals
- Greek red rice and veggies bowl (https://www.amys.com/our-foods/greek-inspired-red-rice-veggies)
- Brown rice, black-eyed peas, and veggies bowl (https://www.amys.com/our-foods/brown-rice-black-eyed-peas-veggies-bowl)
- Saffron Road meals
- Vegetable Pad Thai (https://www.saffronroad.com/products/vegetable-pad-thai-with-rice-noodles)
- Vegetable Biryani (https://www.saffronroad.com/products/vegetable-biryani-with-basmati-rice)
- Sweetearth meals
- Veggie lover’s pizza (goodnes.com/sweet-earth/products/veggie-lovers-vegan-pizza/)
- Curry tiger bowl (https://www.goodnes.com/sweet-earth/products/frozen-curry-tiger-bowl/)
- Pad Thai bowl (https://www.goodnes.com/sweet-earth/products/pad-thai/)
The bottom line
Including frozen foods in your kidney-friendly diet can be a great way to make mealtimes easier and less stressful. When it comes to choosing frozen foods, opt for lower sodium options without phosphate additives to help keep your kidneys happy and healthy. Visit www.patientslikeme.com/groups/ckd/overview to learn more about managing your Chronic Kidney Disease!