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Food Choices for a Healthy Lifestyle

Learn how to make choices and plan meals
for a healthy lifestyle!

Learn how to make choices and plan meals for a healthy lifestyle!

Our “kidney diet” recommendations are not just a diet but an important part of a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy food choices for your KIDNEYS, HEART and YOU! Yes, there will be special days and holidays - enjoy them! Customize your food choices and options to your likes and dislikes. You do not need to be organic - just select a variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables without added salt or sugars. Your meals should be plant-based, largely consisting of fruits and vegetables while limiting the number of meals that include poultry and fish. Specifically, no more than 5 fish choices (including scallops, shrimp, salmon, halibut, tuna) and 5 poultry choices (chicken or turkey) in a week, and red meat only as an occasional special treat. Use the diagram as a guide.

Remember! Read all food labels and consult with your renal dietitian to discuss your meal plans!

Our “kidney diet” recommendations are not just a diet but an important part of a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy food choices for your KIDNEYS, HEART and YOU! Yes, there will be special days and holidays - enjoy them! Customize your food choices and options to your likes and dislikes. You do not need to be organic - just select a variety of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables without added salt or sugars. Your meals should be plant-based, largely consisting of fruits and vegetables while limiting the number of meals that include poultry and fish. Specifically, no more than 5 fish choices (including scallops, shrimp, salmon, halibut, tuna) and 5 poultry choices (chicken or turkey) in a week, and red meat only as an occasional special treat. Use the diagram as a guide.

Remember! Read all food labels and consult with your renal dietitian to discuss your meal plans!

Sugar Substitutes

Our best recommendation is to learn to like things less sweet. Current research shows that eating artificial sweeteners in food and drinks may stimulate appetite and cause overeating leading to weight gain and contribute to heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

NKF recommends:

  • Maple syrup, honey and agave nectar may be used in moderation as alternatives to sugar, but will also raise blood sugar if too much is eaten.
  • Sweeten baked goods naturally using applesauce, bananas, dates and prunes. These alternatives also add beneficial nutrients and fiber that sugar alone does not. Use bananas sparingly because they are high in potassium.

Read more about Are Sugar Substitutes Okay for Your Kidneys on the NKF website.

Salt Substitutes

Salt substitutes typically contain large amounts of potassium and should not be used. Spices can be blended to flavor food without salt. NKF has suggestions for blending your own spices with specific foods here: Low Salt Flavor Enhancers.

A great option to add wonderful flavor to your kidney-friendly meals is the variety of Dash Salt-Free Products which are potassium free! These seasonings include Garlic & Herb, Onion & Herb, Original and Table Blends, Garlic Herb (contains 2 grams (2g) of sugar per serving) and Lime Garlic Marinades (contains 1gram (1g) of sugar per serving). Most of their other seasonings have 10 mg of potassium or more per serving.

Remember: always read food labels!

Want more options on delicious salt substitutes? Go to The Best Salt Substitute for Kidney Patients on the Kidney Dietitian website.

Learn about why and how extra sugar, salt, potassium and phosphorus affects dialysis patients from your heart to your bones! You will also get answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” near the bottom of the page.

Learn about our food guidance for transplant patients.


Use the Plate Method to Plan Meals

My Plate Planner was developed as part of Take Care New York (TCNY) to prevent obesity by helping people to easily plan their meals and adjust portion sizes of starch, protein, fruits and vegetables. Kidney patients need to limit their bananas, oranges and grapefruits because they are high in potassium. If you have diabetes, you should limit starches like rice which may raise blood sugar.

My Plate Planner was developed as part of Take Care New York (TCNY) to prevent obesity by helping people to easily plan their meals and adjust portion sizes of starch, protein, fruits and vegetables. Kidney patients need to limit their bananas, oranges and grapefruits because they are high in potassium. If you have diabetes, you should limit starches like rice which may raise blood sugar.

The plate below shows a healthy meal with appropriate portion sizes.

Download My Plate Planner here.

Download My Plate Planner from the web page.

Recipes

These recipes are provided by our Wellness Ambassadors and have been reviewed by a renal dietitian.


Frequently Asked Questions

Diet Questions
  1. What do we mean by meat? Meat includes beef, veal, lamb and pork.

  2. How many times can I eat meat? We suggest a maximum of one meat meal per week.

  3. Can I eat processed or cured meats like bacon, sausage, ham salami, etc.? You should never, or at most, rarely eat processed meats.

  4. Can I eat dairy products including milk and cheese? You can eat one cup per day of low fat or non-fat milk, yogurt or a 1 ounce serving of cheese. Consider alternatives like almond or oat milk. Do not eat coconut milk or coconut products.

  5. Can I drink wine? You can drink 3 - 4 ounces of wine with a meal.

  6. Can I eat fried and fast foods in my daily diet? You should not eat deep fried or fast foods because they are high in sodium and additives like nitrates and MSG (monosodium glutamate).

  7. Can I have cake or cookies every day? Small portions are the key. Your daily goal is less sugars.

  8. What is the best oil to use for cooking and salads? Olive oil is the best oil to use; extra virgin olive oil is perfect for salads or sautéing, and any of the “light” versions are ideal for cooking.  Whichever you choose to cook with, remember to use low heat only.

  9. What can I use to season my food? Herbs including fresh garlic, pure garlic powder (not garlic salt), pepper, sage, parsley and cinnamon.

  10. Will I still be able to enjoy my cultural foods? Yes! You can still enjoy cultural foods with some adjustments and still eat a variety of healthy foods, including a plant-based diet. Your dietitian will help you adjust your diet to your cultural preferences and set goals to meet your body’s needs.

  11. What snacks can I eat? Rice cakes or corn cakes, any flavor, apple cinnamon/sour cream. “Organic Snack Rollers” - brand - apple cinnamon. Unsalted pretzels, unsalted saltine crackers Graham crackers / vanillas wafers / ginger snap cookies. Hot air popcorn. Frozen sorbet / frozen “Outshine” pops. Soy milk ice cream. “Made Good” (nut free) granola bar. “Love Corn” crunchy snack (“0” potassium), “Pipcorn” corn dippers. Limit all chocolate intake.

  12. What snacks should I avoid? Do not eat sorbet or ice cream made with coconut cream or milk.

Schedule a virtual visit with a Wellness Ambassador here.

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