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The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Kidney-Friendly Diet Plan

Updated: Feb 2

Research shows that making the correct dietary choices can help manage the progression of kidney disease including, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and polycystic kidney disease (PKD, both ARPKD and ADPKD). Source.

If you have CKD or PKD, knowing which foods to avoid and which to eat more of can change the severity of your disease and your level of kidney function. To maximize your success, make sure you’re working with your medical team, including a nutritionist, on a regular basis.

Several cans of food displayed on a table top

So, which foods are on the avoid list?

  • Salt (sodium) - this mineral is known to increase blood pressure. Those living with kidney disease are at higher risk for high blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can prevent the arteries around the kidneys from working well, which can lead to kidney damage and contribute to kidney failure, according to the American Heart Association.

  • Caffeine - this includes coffee, teas, soda, and more. Caffeine is a mild diuretic which can cause frequent urination. However, caffeine in moderation is perfectly fine. Caffeine does not directly impact the progression of kidney disease.

  • Alcohol - another drink that in moderation is fine, as it typically will not negatively impact the kidneys. According to the National Kidney Foundation, drinking alcohol excessively does impact the kidneys. Excessive drinking causes dehydration, increases the risk of high blood pressure, and can cause liver disease.

  • Potassium can also be elevated in people who have kidney disease. When high levels of potassium build up in the blood, it’s known as hyperkalemia. Symptoms of hyperkalemia can include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, abdominal pain, heart palpitations, and muscle weakness or numbness in limbs, according to Cleveland Clinic. Salt substitutes often contain high amounts of potassium, so they should also be avoided. Other foods that are high in potassium include:

    • Avocados

    • Bananas

    • Cooked greens

    • Dried beans

    • Melons

    • Nuts and nut butters

    • Oranges

    • Prune juice

    • Pumpkin

    • Tomatoes

    • Winter squash *Potassium-rich foods are good for you, so don’t completely eliminate them from your diet if you’re at mild risk hyperkalemia. Talk to your nutritionist about potassium intake. Usually, only those with advanced stage kidney disease will need to limit potassium-rich foods.

  • Fast foods and processed foods should be kept to a minimum as they contain added sugars and sodium, with little nutritional content.

  • Sugary drinks should be avoided. Staying hydrated is critical for those with kidney disease, but sugary drinks cause weight gain and usually do not offer any nutritional value. Dark colored sodas contain phosphorus. For those with kidney disease, the kidneys have a difficult time removing extra phosphorus from the blood, so high levels of it can be dangerous.

A bowl filled with healthy vegetables

There are foods that can not only help you maintain overall good health, but also may improve kidney function. Just a few of those are:

  • Water - Staying hydrated is important for everybody, but for those with kidney disease it is crutial. Drinking plenty of water can turn off a hormone called arginine vasopressin, which has been linked to cyst growth. *Those with low kidney function should not have high water intake as this can be dangerous, so always check with your nephrologist!

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits - avoid canned vegetables as they are often high in sodium. Canned fruit may have added sugars, so avoid those as well. Frozen vegetables and fruits rarely have any additional ingredients, but always be sure to read the ingredient label. If you are at high risk for hyperkalemia be sure to check with your nephrologist and nutritionist before making any dietary changes.

  • Lean sources of protein - Protein helps your body fight infections, speed recovery of an injury, build lean muscle, maintain a healthy weight, and curb hunger. According to Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care too much protein can build up as waste in your blood and your kidneys may not be able to remove all of it. Be sure to work with your nephrologist or nutritionist to determine how much protein you need.

Here are some great recipes to try. All approved by Davita, offering safe options with delicious results! *NOTE - these recipes are for kidney care and may have gluten, nuts, dairy, egg, and other top 8 food allergens. Snacks:

Plates filled with party mix

Small popcorn buckets filled with popcorn


Cooked salmon on a cutting board

Cooked pork topped with spiced apples on a blue plate

Turkey vegetable chili on rice, on a yellow plate

Jambalaya - rice and shrimp cooked, on a yellow plate

Chicken and rice with vegetables in a yellow bowl

Consult with our expert nutritionist to get on the path to better health. Fill out a brief health questionnaire and we'll schedule a personalized consultation to address your wellness goals.



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