Kidney disease is a condition where the kidneys won’t function properly causing waste from blood and body fluids to accumulate in the body. People with kidney failure need to follow a restricted diet to help control their blood chemicals and fluid.

What you should eat, and how much, depends on how well your kidneys are working. So the diet plan is highly individualized to each case.
A kidney-friendly diet may help keep your kidneys working as long as possible.
Here’s how you adjust your recipes to change your life for the better in five steps.

Step 1: Choose and prepare foods with less sodium

Why? To help control your blood pressure, and not to stress your kidneys. Your diet should contain less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day.
• Buy fresh food often. Sodium (a part of salt) is added to many ready or packaged foods you buy at the supermarket or at restaurants.
• Use spices, herbs, and sodium-free seasonings in place of salt.
• Check for “sodium” on the nutrition label of food packages. A Daily Value of 20 percent or more means the food is high in sodium.
• A food label showing a Percent Daily Value of 5% or less is low sodium.
• Rinse canned vegetables, beans, meats, and fish with water before eating.
• Look for food labels with words like sodium free,salt free; or unsalted.

Step 2: Eat the right amount and the right types of protein

Why? To help protect your kidneys. When your body metabolizes protein, it produces waste, which your kidneys are responsible to clear. Eating more protein than you need may result in accumulating those toxic wastes in your blood
Usually it is recommended to have 0.6-0.8 g of proteins/kg of body weight depending on the stage of the disease; however, your dietitian can calculate the exact amount of protein which is safe for you depending on your condition.
I have listed below the different sources of proteins
Animal-protein foods:
• Chicken
• Fish
• Meat
• Eggs
• Dairy
A serving of chicken, fish, or meat is about 2 to 3 ounces or about the size of a deck of cards. A serving of dairy foods is ½ cup of milk or yogurt, or one slice of cheese. Your dietitian will inform you of the exact servings per day you should be having.
Plant-protein foods:
• Beans
• Nuts
A serving of cooked beans is about ½ cup, and a serving of nuts is ¼ cup. However, those items are rich in minerals that may be harmful to you and should be avoided. Your dietitian will guide you to the exact allowed quantity.

Step 3: Choose foods that are heart-healthy

Why? To help keep fat from building up in your blood vessels, heart, and kidneys.
• Grill, broil, bake, roast, or stir-fry foods, instead of deep frying.
• Cook with nonstick cooking spray or a small amount of olive oil instead of butter.
• Trim fat from meat and remove skin from poultry before eating.
• Try to limit saturated and trans fats. Read the food label.

Step 4: Choose foods and drinks with less phosphorus

Why? To help protect your bones and blood vessels. High levels of phosphorus in your blood can also cause itchiness, and bone and joint pain.
• Many packaged foods have added phosphorus. Look for phosphorus—or for words with “PHOS”—on ingredient labels.
• Deli meats and some fresh meat and poultry can have added phosphorus. Ask the butcher to help you pick fresh meats without additives.
Low phosphorous items include:
• Fresh fruits and vegetables
• Breads, pasta, rice
• Rice milk (not enriched)
• Corn and rice cereals
• Light-colored sodas/pop, such as lemon-lime or homemade iced tea

whereas phosphorous rich items include:
• Meat, poultry, fish, eggs
• Bran cereals and oatmeal
• Dairy products
• Beans, lentils, nuts
• Dark-colored sodas/pop, fruit punch, some bottled or canned iced teas that have added phosphorus

Step 5: Choose foods with the right amount of potassium

Why? To help your nerves, muscles, and heart work the right way. Problems can occur when blood potassium levels are too high or too low.
• Salt substitutes can be rich in potassium. Read the ingredient label. Check with your provider about using salt substitutes.
• Drain canned fruits and vegetables before eating.
Low potassium items include:
• Apples, cranberries, grapes, pineapples and strawberries
• Cauliflower, onions, peppers, radishes, summer squash, lettuce
• Pita, tortillas and white breads
• Beef and chicken, white rice

Whereas potassium rich items include:
• Avocados, bananas, melons, oranges, prunes and raisins
• Artichokes, winter squash, plantains, spinach, potatoes and tomatoes
• Bran products and granola
• Beans (baked, black, pinto, etc.), brown or wild rice

It might look challenging to adjust your diet and your recipes when you have a kidney disease, but trust me: Small, different changes will make a BIG difference and plenty of help and ideas can be provided by your dietitian and different specialized websites. If your kidney function is impaired, take your first step today to preserve your kidney tomorrow.

Author

Janine Jundi
Janine Jundi
Licensed Clinical Dietician LD, BSc in Clinical Nutrition and MSc in Human Nutrition from NDU, Lebanon.