Nutritional Guidelines

Nutritional Guidelines

A special diet can help to control the buildup of waste products and fluid in your body and, therefore, decrease the workload of your kidneys. This diet also may help to slow down the loss of kidney function. The main goal of the diet is to keep you healthy. Your doctor may recommend a special diet depending on the stage of your disease.

What is the diet like?

In general, the diet recommended for patients in the early stages of kidney disease controls the amount of protein and phosphorus they eat. Usually, the amount sodium consumed is also controlled. Taking in enough calories to maintain a healthy weight is very important at this time.

What about protein?

Your body needs protein every day for growth, building muscles and repairing tissue. When your body uses the protein in the foods you eat, a waste product called urea is produced. If you have impaired kidney function, your kidneys may not be able to adequately remove this urea. You may need to reduce the amount of protein you eat to avoid buildup of urea in your body.

What about phosphorus?

Your kidneys may not be able to remove phosphorus from your blood. This causes the level of phosphorus in your blood to become too high. A high blood phosphorus level may cause you to lose calcium from your bones. This may weaken your bones and cause them to break easily.

To help control the level of phosphorus in your blood, you should eat fewer foods that are high in phosphorus. Phosphorus is found in many foods, but is especially high in:

  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, pudding, yogurt and ice cream
  • Dried beans and peas such as kidney beans, split peas and lentils
  • Nuts and peanut butter
  • Beverages such as cocoa, beer and soft drinks
What about sodium?

You may need to limit the amount of sodium in your diet. This is because high blood pressure, kidney disease and sodium often are related. Learning to read labels can help you make lower-sodium choices. Sodium is found in many foods, but is especially high in:

  • Table salt and foods with added salt such as snack foods, soups and processed cheese
  • Some canned foods, prepared foods and "fast foods"
  • Foods pickled in brine such as pickles, olives and sauerkraut
  • Smoked and cured foods such as ham, bacon and luncheon meats
What about calories?

Calories give you energy and help you maintain a healthy weight. It is important to avoid losing too much weight as this can lead to malnutrition and illness. Because you are getting fewer calories from protein, you will need to get more calories from other foods. Your dietitian may recommend that you get these extra calories from sugar and vegetable fats to help you intake the right amount of calories.

Some ways to increase calories include eating more:

  • Unsaturated fats such as vegetable oils (made with corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean or sunflower oils), olive oil and mayonnaise-type salad dressings
  • Sweets such as hard candy, gum drops, jelly beans, marshmallows, honey, jam and jelly
  • Canned or frozen fruits in heavy syrup

If you are diabetic or overweight, talk with your renal dietitian about the best way for you to get the right amount of calories for your needs.

What if I am diabetic?

In some cases, you may need to make only a few changes in your diabetic diet to fit your needs as a kidney patient. If your doctor suggests that you eat less protein, you should be sure to intake enough calories from other sources.

What about fluids?

Your doctor may recommend that you limit your fluid intake to two quarts, or eight cups, per day. Measure the fluids that you consume and record the amounts to help you avoid exceeding your daily recommendation. Be sure to include all fluids, such as water, drinks, coffee, Jell-O, ice cream, yogurt, puddings, juice, milk, ice and soups.