What to Eat When You Have Stage 1 or 2 Kidney Disease

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician.

When you discover that you’re in the early stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD), it’s time to make some lifestyle changes, particularly dietary ones.

Kidneys still work well in stage 1 and stage 2 CKD. The focus of this type of kidney diet is to make changes that may preserve kidney function, reduce blood pressure and, in people with diabetes, control blood glucose.

Diet recommendations for risk factors associated with the early stages of CKD

There are risk factors associated with early stage kidney disease, many of which can be modified by diet:

  • High blood pressure control is impacted by diet as well as medication. Decreased intake of high-sodium foods and salt helps lower blood pressure. If you read labels, choose low-sodium products and make meals from fresh foods, you can reduce daily sodium intake. The recommended amount of sodium per day for a person with CKD is 1,500 mg.
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is a concern for people with diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes accelerates kidney loss and contributes to artery disease and other diabetes complications. Learn about carbohydrate counting to help stay within set carbohydrate targets. Include high-fiber, low-sugar foods.
  • Proteinuria (protein in the urine due to losses through the kidneys) is a risk factor for kidney disease progression. People in early stages of CKD with proteinuria may be able to slow down kidney function loss by decreasing protein intake to the recommended daily intake for healthy Americans (0.8 grams/kg body weight).
  • Dyslipidemia (high total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides) is often present in people with kidney disorders. CKD is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, so in early stages of CKD, pay attention to your lab results and the fat and cholesterol in your diet. Eat more healthy fats from olive or canola oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. Decrease trans fats, saturated fats, total fat intake from animal fats, hydrogenated fats and baked goods.
  • Chronic inflammation has been linked to kidney disease and cardiovascular disease, as well as a diet high in saturated and trans-fats, refined foods and excess sugars. To reduce your chance of chronic inflammation, limit dining out, especially on fast foods. Eat more high-antioxidant foods, such as colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and low- or non-fat dairy products.

Other nutritional factors to consider include adequate vitamin and mineral intake to meet your prescribed goals, and decreased or increased calories for weight management. Certain herbal supplements can actually damage the kidneys, so it’s best to avoid them.

Stage 1 and 2 kidney disease: Start eating right

With fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, low- and nonfat dairy, lean proteins and low-sodium foods, this kidney diet is very similar to the recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as well as the DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The main difference is the early stage kidney diet limits meat and dairy to help achieve a moderate protein intake. Follow these steps to get started.

  • Add more fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole-grains, such as whole grain bread and high-fiber cereal.
  • Limit high-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, frozen desserts, cream cheese and sour cream.
  • Eat less red meat; instead, have more lean poultry and seafood (limit to 6 ounces or less per day, based on your dietary requirements). Choose grilled or baked protein instead of fried.
  • Have fewer processed foods, particularly ones with hidden phosphorus.
  • Reduce sodium intake — the recommendation is 1,500 to 2,300 mg/day.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Adjust calorie intake to reach a healthy weight. Start by eating in moderation, snacking on fruits and vegetables, and eating an appropriate portion of healthy fats.
  • Choose vegetables without cheese, sauces or fried preparation.

Because there are few symptoms in stages 1 and 2 CKD, you may not feel any different. But even small changes in your diet may help preserve your kidney function for a long time.

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