Guide to Low-Sodium Foods for the Kidney Diet

By DaVita® Dietitian Christine Swafford, MS, RD, CSR, LD

Did you know that on average the higher a person’s sodium intake, the higher the person’s blood pressure? By limiting sodium, everyone can help lower their risk for developing hypertension, cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure and chronic kidney disease (CKD). People with normal health need only a small amount of sodium to maintain fluid balance and transmit nerve impulses in our body. But how can you keep track of your sodium when you have kidney disease and high blood pressure? This is a guide to common low-sodium food finds to help you when you’re on the kidney diet.

Tips for a low-sodium kidney diet

People with kidney disease or on dialysis have reduced or lost the ability to balance sodium and water in their body. Therefore, most people on a kidney diet need to restrict sodium and fluid intake. It’s important to realize that excess sodium consumption can make you feel thirsty, which can make following a fluid restriction quite difficult. Along with the starter’s guide to healthy low-sodium, kidney-friendly food, use these tips to help you remove added sodium from your diet.

  • When you think of sodium, think of salt. One teaspoon of salt, including sea salt and kosher salt, has about 2,300 mg of sodium, more than what is recommended for your entire day!
  • Some foods that contain high amounts of sodium rarely taste salty, so it’s important to check food labels and ingredients.
  • Limit entrees to those with less than 600 mg or 30 percent of your daily value of sodium. Choose single food items with less than 200 mg or 10 percent of your daily value of sodium.
  • To identify hidden sources of salt, look for the words sodium, baking powder, baking soda and brine anywhere in the ingredient list.
  • According to the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults and children are advised to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. People who are 51 and older, African Americans, and people with diabetes, hypertension or CKD should reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg each day.

Low-sodium, kidney-friendly fruits and vegetables

Most fruits have either no sodium or very little sodium. It’s recommended to stick to whole fruits that are kidney-friendly, such as apples, berries, peaches and pears. Fresh or frozen vegetables without added salt are good choices for a kidney diet. If you use canned vegetables, look for low- or no-salt versions. Another way to remove extra sodium from canned vegetables is by emptying the contents into a colander, rinsing them under fresh water and then cooking the vegetables in more fresh water.

Food type

Average sodium amount per serving

Fruit, fresh (apples, berries, cherries, lemon, peaches, pears, pineapple, tangerines, watermelon)

0 mg (whole or 1 cup)

Vegetables, canned, low- or no-salt (asparagus, carrots, corn, mushroom, mixed vegetables)

5-35 mg (1/2 cup)

Vegetables, fresh or frozen, no added salt (asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, summer squash)

0-85 mg (1/2 cup)

Low-sodium, kidney-friendly meats, poultry, seafood and dairy

Most sodium intake comes from salt added during food processing; this is why convenience foods such as fast food, frozen dinners, packaged side dishes and breakfast and deli meats contribute to high sodium intake. Salt is added to foods for many uses, including curing meat, so that it retains moisture and enhances flavor. Choose fresh meats and fish when you want to cook a low-sodium kidney diet recipe. Check labels on fresh meat and poultry and avoid enhanced products that are injected with a sodium solution.

Food type

Average sodium amount per serving

Beef, no added salt

45-65 mg (3 ounces)

Chicken, skinless and grilled, no added salt

20-80 mg (3 ounces)

Egg whites, cooked

55 mg (large)

Fish (catfish, cod, crab, halibut, shrimp, tuna)

40-200 mg (3 ounces)

Pork loin

54 mg (3 ounces)

Low-sodium, kidney-friendly pasta, rice and grains

Baked goods require salt, so it’s better to consume bread products low in sodium or without any salt added.

Food type

Average sodium amount per serving

Cereal, puffed or crispy

0-220 mg (1 cup)

Crackers, low- or no-salt

0-20 mg (serving size)

Rice, white

0 mg (1 cup)

White bread

170 mg (1 slice)

Kidney-friendly, low-sodium condiments, seasonings and sauces

Try using fresh ingredients more often when cooking at home to control your sodium intake. Instead of grabbing the salt shaker, reach for fresh herbs and spices to add flavor to your favorite meal. If you eat out, ask for your meal to be prepared without salt or choose lower-sodium options where available.

Food type

Average sodium amount per serving

Cranberry sauce

10 mg (1/4 cup)

Garlic

0 mg (whole)

Herbs and spices without salt (onion powder or garlic powder)

0 mg (1 teaspoon)

Horseradish

50 mg (1 teaspoon)

Jam or jelly

6 mg (1 tablespoon)

Lemon

0 mg (whole)

Mrs. Dash® herb seasoning blend

0 mg (1/4 teaspoon)

Mustard, yellow

56 mg (1 teaspoon)

Tabasco®

35 mg (1 teaspoon)

Vinegar

0 mg (1 teaspoon)

Kidney-friendly recipes low in sodium

Listed are a day’s worth of low-sodium and kidney-friendly recipes. Use this as a start to other low-sodium recipes found on DaVita.com:

The importance of a low-sodium guide for the kidney diet

Excess sodium intake can cause a person with kidney disease to hold on to extra fluid in the body, resulting in higher blood pressure, swollen ankles, puffy eyelids and difficulty breathing due to fluid surrounding the heart and lungs. Even if you do not experience these symptoms, a low-sodium diet is beneficial because it limits thirst and fluid weight gain between dialysis treatments and lessens discomfort during treatments. This starter’s guide to low-sodium food for the kidney diet may help improve your quality of life when you have kidney disease.

Related articles on DaVita.com


View All Articles in Lifestyle


Have no fear, Diet Helper is here

Download a Cookbook

Get a free recipe collection from the DaVita® kitchen.

No-Cost Kidney Health Classes

Find a no-cost, in-person class near you.

Find a Dialysis Center

Over 2,000 across the US.

Advanced Search

Or call 1-800-424-6589 now to speak with a placement specialist.

DaVita

© 2004-2014 DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. All rights reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy of medical information | Web Privacy Policy | Safe Harbor Privacy | FAQs | Site map
This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a physician.
Please check with a physician if you need a diagnosis and/or for treatments as well as information regarding your specific condition. If you are experiencing urgent medical conditions, call 9-1-1

117