Supermarket Shopping Tips for Those with Kidney Disease

By DaVita Dietitian Marisol Avila, RD, CDE

Nutrition is a vital part of treatment for those on dialysis. For people who have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), but are not yet on dialysis, a special renal diet is recommended to help prolong kidney function. If you have CKD, what you eat is not only the fuel that keeps your body going, it is part of your prescription for staying as healthy as possible.

People on dialysis work with a renal dietitian who discusses meal plans and provides lists of foods that are recommended and ones to avoid. Each month after blood is drawn, your dietitian will go over your current lab values and use this information to make individualized recommendations for your diet.

Those who have CKD but are not yet on dialysis may not have the benefit of working with a renal dietitian on a regular basis. If you have CKD ask your doctor about working with a dietitian. You can also use resources including for articles that will provide information about the CKD non-dialysis diet.

Before the store

Be prepared and you will have a much easier time at the grocery store.

  • Review your meal plan and use it. Call your renal dietitian if you have questions. Your dietitian is an expert about what people with kidney disease should be eating and can provide a list of foods that are recommended for people with decreased kidney function.
  • Make a list of all the foods you will need. Check to see if you have the ingredients, including the herbs and spices, for your recipes. Stick to that list at the grocery store. Just because a food item is on sale or looks tasty, doesn't mean it's a good choice.
  • Eat before going to the grocery store. Research has proven that when people are  hungry, they’re more likely to purchase foods that aren’t as healthful for their particular diet. Avoid spontaneous purchases because something looks good when you’re hungry. Eat first and you’ll be better able to stick to your shopping list.

At the store

Once you’re at the supermarket, keep in mind the following tips to make the most out of your grocery shopping experience.

  • Shop the perimeter. You’ll find most of the fresh foods along the outside aisles. The center aisles are loaded with packaged, processed foods. As you may know, packaged or convenience foods are much higher in sodium and less rich in vitamins. High-sodium foods can increase your blood pressure and cause you to drink more. In turn, this affects your heart and kidneys.
  • Read labels. Your meal plan may include reduced amounts of certain nutrients such as protein, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and calcium. Protein, potassium and sodium are, for the most part, easy to identify by reading the ingredient list under the “Nutrition Facts” on foods.  On the other hand, phosphorus and calcium may be listed only as a percentage of the “Daily Requirement” or as “added vitamins and minerals.” Working with your dietitian, you will learn which food items have high amounts of phosphorus and calcium.  
  • Avoid processed foods. This will help reduce your intake of sodium and phosphorus. Phosphorus is widely used in processed meats, leavening agents, and as an anti-caking agent in some powdered-drink mixes. Phosphorus and polyphosphates are also used as emulsifiers in some frozen fish and chicken.

If you need extra help navigating your diet, sign up for the DaVita Diet HelperTM, the easy-to-use online diet management tool.