Renal Diet Guidelines

What is the renal diet?

What you eat and drink is important with chronic kidney disease (CKD) because they are filtered through the kidneys. With CKD the kidneys are unable to filter all waste products, so they build up. A diet that helps manage the build up of waste products but also preserve kidney function is often called a renal diet. So, you’re probably asking, what is the renal diet? And keep reading for a renal diet food list.

What Is The Renal Diet?

A kidney-friendly diet or renal diet can help protect your kidneys. It includes foods that give you the right nutrients in the right amounts, like protein, sodium, potassium and phosphorus. But a renal diet also helps to manage other conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.  So what are the renal diet basics.

The old renal diet used to be about bland foods, white bread, potatoes, and limiting all the nutritious foods. But there are a few main eating patterns that have been shown beneficial to help with CKD and managing other conditions in the research. So we need to move away from this old renal diet thought when thinking about foods. And a renal dietitian can help you personalize one to your needs and preferences with these diet types. If you need to read how a dietitian can help, check out this post

What Foods To Include?

The three main diet patterns that have shown beneficial effects on CKD are:

  • Plant-based eating – check out this post for more information
  • Mediterranean Diet
  • DASH Diet

The Mediterranean Diet and DASH diet are two of the most healthful diets in the world. And what they are based on are:

  • Higher intakes of vegetables and fruit, choosing plant-based proteins as well as legumes, nuts, fish and low-fat dairy, and including whole grains,
  • Lower intakes of red and processed meats, sodium, and sugar-sweetened beverages

Each of these eating patterns has the basics of the plate method and we can apply this to every meal and anywhere to help us eat nutritious foods. 

  • Half your plate in vegetables, choose low potassium if needed
  • Quarter plate in protein, choose plant-based more often
  • Quarter plate in carbohydrates or starches, choose whole grains more often

Some other important nutrition recommendations include:

  • Have fruit as a snack
  • Make water your beverage of choice
  • Season with herbs and spices to reduce sodium

Renal Diet Food List

So, you might be wondering. What can you eat on the renal diet. Well here are my favourite renal diet food list:

Apples

1 small  apple = 0.4 g protein, 1 mg sodium, 159 mg potassium, 16 mg phosphorus

That old saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away, may be true because apples are very nutritious. Apples are a great source of fibre with 2.8 g in a small apple with skin so they can help with constipation and lowering cholesterol. I love eating apples as a snack.

Barley

½ cup cooked = 1.9 g protein, 2 mg sodium, 77 mg potassium, 45 mg phosphorus

Barley is a great low potassium and phosphorus whole grain for the renal diet. Packed with fibre it can help to keep you full and control blood sugar levels. Barley is a great side dish instead of rice or in a soup.

Cauliflower

½ cup raw = 1.1 g protein, 17 mg sodium, 169 mg potassium, 25 mg phosphorus

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable. And don’t let its white colour fool you, it is loaded with antioxidants. It is easy to add into your diet as it takes on all the flavours of herbs and spices. My favourite way to enjoy it is using frozen cauliflower in a smoothie.

Kale

½ cup raw = 0.3 g protein, 13 mg sodium, 174 mg potassium, 33 mg phosphorus

A great low potassium leafy green kale can be added to smoothies, salads or pasta dishes. Kale is also a great source of iron. The best trick to enjoy kale in a salad is to massage it for 1 minute until it is dark green, this helps soften it. 

Lentils

½ cup cooked = 9.4 g protein, 2 mg sodium, 386 mg potassium, 189 mg phosphorus

Lentils are a great plant-based protein. The kidneys love plans and incorporating lentils is a great way of swapping out meat in tacos, pasta dishes or soups. While lentils can be high in potassium, a renal dietitian can help you find lower potassium ways of cooking it.

Olive Oil

1 TBSP = 0 g protein, 0 mg sodium, 0 mg potassium, 0 mg phosphorus

Olive oil is a great source of unsaturated fats. These fats are heart healthy and anti-inflammatory. Olive oil is great for seasoning salads with a dressing. Try pairing it with balsamic or red wine vinegar and your favourite herbs and spices for a at home salad dressing.

Peas

½ cup cooked = 4.5 g protein, 3 mg sodium, 229 mg potassium, 99 mg phosphorus

Peas are a great renal diet addition because they are packed with fibre. In fact ½ cup has 5.6 g fibre. These little gems are a great side dish for fighting constipation.

Raspberries

½ cup raw = 0.8 g protein, 1 mg sodium, 98 mg potassium, 19 mg phosphorus

Raspberries are a great renal diet berry. They are loaded with antioxidants and are low in glycemic index which helps to control blood sugars. I love enjoying them with some unsalted nuts as a snack.

String beans

½ cup cooked = 1.3 g protein, 1 mg sodium, 96 mg potassium, 19 mg phosphorus

String beans are a great source of vitamin C, A and fibre. But what I love about them is they are very versatile. You can enjoy beans cooked on their own, in a salad, or in a soup. Plus you can choose between green or yellow.

Walnut

¼ cup = 3.9 g protein, 1 mg sodium, 112 mg potassium, 88 mg phosphorus

Walnuts are a great plant-based protein that can help preserve kidney function. But they are also a great low potassium nut. And packed with cholesterol lowering properties. Remember to choose unsalted.

Are You Looking To Learn More About The Renal Diet?

If you’re looking to make changes to your nutrition or learn about what you should be eating for CKD, my Kidney Nutrition Fast Track course is here to help get you started. Learn about it here.

Want to work together? Connect with Emily here.

Want to learn more about Emily? Learn more here.

Published by Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN

Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in renal nutrition helping those with chronic kidney disease. Emily holds a Master's degree in Foods and Nutrition and is a co-chair of the Southern Ontario Canadian Association of Nephrology Dietitians.

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