Sticking with a Kidney-Friendly Diet

By DaVita® renal dietitian Jane Wheeler MS, RD, LDN

It’s one thing to start a diet because you want to, and another thing when your doctor says you need to. People diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) will generally be told that they should follow a kidney diet. In the middle stages of chronic kidney disease, the renal diet will likely limit protein and perhaps phosphorus. As kidney disease progresses, the kidney diet may be changed to limit more nutrients. It may be difficult, however, the kidney diet is designed to help keep you healthy and possibly slow the progression of kidney disease.

How do I start a kidney-friendly diet?

Your nephrologist (kidney doctor) will order blood work drawn at regular intervals so he or she can see if you need to cut back on foods high in protein, potassium, phosphorus and/or sodium. If you need to change your eating habits, your nephrologist may give you a diet prescription and refer you to renal dietitian (a registered dietitian specializing in kidney disease). The dietitian will work with you to develop a meal plan that includes the foods you like, while protecting your kidneys and keeping waste products at a safe level. has a meal planning tool called DaVita Diet Helper™. This tool takes the diet prescription from your nephrologist and suggests meals you can enjoy. DaVita Diet Helper will provide you with menus, recipes and a grocery shopping list. You can also customize meals to your liking. Remember, DaVita Diet Helper does not take the place of advice from your nephrologist or renal dietitian. This tool is meant to supplement the information you receive from your health care team, and to help make it easier for you to plan, prepare and track kidney friendly meals.

What if I need help sticking to the kidney diet?

There are many support groups available to people living with kidney disease. Family and friends are a valuable source of support when starting any new diet plan. They may want additional information and education so they can help you do what is best for your body. Encourage interested family members to sign up for newsletters and classes about CKD and the kidney diet. also has hundreds of recipes at for people in different stages of kidney disease.

Ask your nephrologist which stage of CKD you have so you can choose recipes appropriate for your meal plan.  

You can find support online at These discussion forums are used by people at all stages of kidney disease as well as their family members, caregivers and friends. You can connect with people who are going through the same experiences as you are — a valuable source of support. Know that you are not alone.

I’m bored with the kidney diet and have been cheating

It’s normal to make mistakes; we are only human. You’ve made the right first step in identifying your problem.  Now work on some strategies going forward that will help you stick to your kidney diet.

Consult your educational materials, newsletters and kidney education websites such as for information regarding the foods you need to avoid and the kidney-friendly foods you can enjoy. Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to make the best choices.

Create variety in your renal diet. You can try a familiar food with a new spice or herb, try a familiar food in a new recipe or try a new kidney-friendly food you haven’t had before.

Commit to making a change. Start with small changes, such as substituting nondairy creamer for milk, and work your way to bigger changes, such as using Mrs. Dash seasonings in place of salt in cooking and at the table. Starting with small changes can set you up for success. Remember that success begets success; so small successes can lead to big successes. And, before you know it, this can translate into successful lifestyle changes.