10 Ways to Eat in Moderation on the Kidney Diet 

A kidney-friendly diet is important for good health when you have chronic kidney disease (CKD). One of the steps to eating right is eating in moderation. When you eat in moderation, you are cutting back on certain foods and taking steps that won’t trigger you to overeat the items that could cause problems with your health.

But eating in moderation on a kidney diet may be tough. Cutting out or limiting your favorite foods because of kidney disease is a challenging lifestyle change, but it can be done. Here are 10 ways to help you eat a kidney diet without overindulging:

1. Use smaller plates, bowls or cups if you choose to eat a food limited in your diet. Think of it as tricking your brain into believing you’re eating a lot by filling your plate, but in fact, the plate you are loading up is smaller than what you may usually use for a meal. The same goes for sipping beverages from a small cup: fluid overload can be halted by using a smaller glass.

2. Measure your food. Using measuring cups and spoons is another way to keep track of how much you are eating. If you don’t have kitchen tools with you all the time, remember these comparisons to help you measure wherever you are:

  • 1 cup = the size of an adult’s fist or a baseball
  • 3 ounces = the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards
  • 1 teaspoon = a tip of a thumb
  • 1 tablespoon = the size of a poker chip
  • 1/2 cup = the size of a small fist or lightbulb

3. Eat lighter samplings of different foods. If you find yourself at an event that has many appetizers or is buffet-style, it may be tempting to sample everything. Take only a small portion of multiple kidney-friendly foods from the food trays, or decide on a few things that you really want to eat and have that as your meal. Remember to use the smallest plate available to stop you from overeating.

4. Put limits on phosphorus- and potassium-laden foods. To keep phosphorus and potassium levels at a minimum, cut out or reduce your intake of dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream, creamy soups, chocolate), dried beans, peas, nuts and peanut butter. Certain fruits and vegetables can be high in potassium, while sodas, processed meats and whole grains can be high in phosphorus. Talk to your dietitian about low potassium and phosphorus alternatives, and how much and how often your favorite foods on the limit list can safely be included. Sometimes an occasional small portion of a food you really miss will help keep cravings in check.

5. Limit sodium, too. Salt is found in many foods and helps people maintain a healthy fluid balance. But when you have CKD, it means your kidneys cannot remove excess sodium and fluid from the body. The best thing to do is reduce your sodium intake. High sodium foods include processed foods and cured meats (bacon, ham, deli meat, smoked meats and cheese), pickles, olives, salad dressings, marinades, soups and salted snack foods. Many fast foods are high in sodium and fat. Removing the salt shaker from the dining table is also a good idea. Herbs and spices or a squeeze of lemon juice can be used instead of salt to flavor food. Look for reduced-sodium and low-sodium products to buy instead of the regular high-sodium version.

6. Savor each bite. Not rushing to eat your entire meal can curb you from serving yourself a second helping of a food you need to reduce. In addition, you may gain more pleasure from your meal by eating more slowly and taking in the flavors of the food.

7. Regulate fried foods and creamy dishes.  Meals that are fried or creamy, such as potatoes, Alfredo sauce and casseroles, can be high in phosphorus and sodium. If you’re going to eat these foods, try to add more kidney-friendly foods to your plate, and only have a small fist-size portion of the fried or creamy dish.

8. Dessert is OK once in a while. Smart, kidney-friendly choices for dessert are fine when you have CKD. Low-potassium desserts, such as cake and fruit pies, can fit into a kidney diet and be a delicious sweet treat. It’s healthier to enjoy goodies that are baked in your own kitchen than to eat the store-bought kind. It’s better to steer clear of too many desserts from the bakery or supermarket, which tend to be higher in phosphorus, sodium and fat. You can find a variety of dessert choices at DaVita.com/Recipes.

9. Close the kitchen. When the last meal is finished for the day, be sure to close the kitchen until the next morning. Set a time that you know is reasonable for you and those you live with.

10. Seek support from family and friends. Let them know you are trying to limit your intake of foods that have a negative effect on your health. If those around you are clued in to your eating in moderation, they can be a great support system.


When you have chronic kidney disease, you may have to make modifications to your lifestyle, including your kidney diet. But whatever stage of CKD you’re in, eating in moderation will help support kidney health. The idea is not to be deprived, but rather to enjoy a variety of kidney-friendly foods without overindulging. Your dietitian can provide guidance about choosing the right foods for the kidney diet and eating them in moderation.