Kidney-Friendly Candy for Dialysis Patients
Eating candy is not only for holidays such as Halloween or Valentine’s Day. Sweets are enjoyable all year ‘round. Candy seems to be everywhere–from a coworker’s candy jar to the checkout register at a restaurant–easily triggering a sweet tooth. People generally experience a craving for candy, but for those on a kidney-friendly diet, there are some candies that are better suited than others.
For people with chronic kidney disease (CKD), some candies can be too high in phosphorus, potassium or sodium, which is restricted on the kidney diet. The change in diet can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have candy at all. It's all about making smart choices.
Phosphorus, potassium, sodium and candy
Many popular candies happen to be of the chocolate and nut variety, which contains phosphorus and potassium. Because people with kidney disease cannot remove excess phosphorus and potassium from their blood, it can be dangerous. Too much phosphorus can cause a person with kidney disease to develop bone and heart problems, low blood calcium and the hardening of tissues. That's why it's important to choose candy that's low in phosphorus.
Potassium is a mineral as well, but it controls nerve and muscle function. The heart is one very important muscle that beats normally because of potassium. Because kidney function is minimal in people with kidney disease, potassium can build up in the body. This can cause nausea, weakness and heart failure. Learning about the kidney diet will help you know which candies are low in potassium.
Candy for people with chronic kidney disease
There are candies that are okay for people with CKD and those on dialysis. To see if a candy is acceptable, check the nutrition label on the candy’s package to make sure it is low in phosphorus and sodium. Because phosphorus and potassium aren’t always listed on nutrition labels, refer to this list of some candies that are kidney-friendly.
- Hard candy
- Jolly Ranchers®
- Lemonhead® candies
- Candy canes
- Sugar-free hard candy (ideal for people with diabetes)
- Charms® sour balls
- Lollipops (Dum Dum Pops® or Charms® lollipops)
- Smarties® (known as Rockets® in Canada)
- Mike and Ike® candy
- Jelly beans
- Gummy Bears and fruit slices
- Hot Tamales®
- Peeps® marshmallows
- Now and Later®
- Conversation hearts (usually found around Valentine’s Day)
- Air Heads®
- Laffy Taffy®
- Peach and apple rings
- Sour Patch® Kids®
- Shortbread cookie-type candy
- Fondant (type of cake icing)
Candy to limit on a kidney diet
Like many foods on the kidney diet, some candies are okay in limited amounts and frequency. Guidance from your renal dietitian may help you learn which candies with a bit of chocolate or other limited ingredients you can eat every so often. Below are some candies that can be eaten by people with CKD or on dialysis in limited amounts.
Note: Chocolate and nuts contain high amounts of phosphorus and potassium. Your dietitian can help you determine which candies are acceptable or not.
- Caramel treats
- Caramel apples
- Werther’s Original® hard candy
- Caramel-coated popcorn
- Chocolate wafer candy bars
- Chocolate-covered peppermint candies
- Chocolate candy bars
- Milk, dark or other types of candy bars containing chocolate or cocoa
- Chocolate and nut candy bars
- Snicker’s® candy bar
- Candy bars that contain nuts
- Pay Day® candy bar
- Candy bars that contain peanut butter
- Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cups, pieces, etc.
If you choose to eat these candies, consider having the smaller or bite-size versions, and eat only one piece occasionally.
Candy, diabetes and chronic kidney disease
For people who have diabetes and CKD, the approach to candy can be slightly different. Your diet consists of foods that help manage your blood glucose levels and control the amount of waste and fluids in your blood. People with diabetes and CKD may be asked to avoid or limit the amount of candy they eat to help control blood sugar levels. Candy bars, hard candy, jelly beans, gum drops and chocolate are some of the sweets you are asked to cut back on.
If you have diabetes and are on dialysis, you will follow the diabetic dialysis diet. Similar to the diabetic diet for people with good kidney function, the main goal is to manage blood glucose levels with medication, diet and exercise. Carbohydrates increase blood glucose, but by knowing how much carbohydrate you should have at each meal and snack, you may be able to include some candies. Some sugar-free candies are lower in carbohydrates, so that may be a good choice. Others contain high amounts of carbohydrates, even though some candy is made with alternative sweeteners. Your dietitian can help you learn which candy contains too much phosphorus or potassium and should be avoided.
In addition to eating candy for enjoyment, you may want to have some sugar-containing hard candy to eat if low blood sugar occurs or to provide you with extra carbohydrates during intense or prolonged exercise.
Candy can help control thirst and add calories on the dialysis diet
Fluid is usually limited for dialysis patients. People become thirsty and need an alternative to drinking water or other liquids. Sucking on hard candy and sour candies can help control thirst. A person’s mouth becomes moistened and this will often stop someone from overloading on liquids.
In addition to helping control thirst, candy for people with kidney disease can be used to add calories to their kidney diet. Some people on dialysis may need to boost their calorie intake, and adding a small amount of candy may be a good way for a person to achieve their goal.
Some candies can be too high in phosphorus or potassium for those on a kidney or dialysis diet. But there are many candies that are OK in limited amounts. Look at the label before you eat candy. Your dietitian can also help you determine how to enjoy your old favorites from time to time.