Five Holiday Eating Tips for People with Kidney Disease 

Written by Karen Dunker, RD 

Did you know that the average Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner has over 2,000 calories? That number of calories is usually what you would consume over an entire day. The holidays are sometimes challenging if you are watching your waistline and following the kidney diet. But eating right during the holidays is possible. Listed below are five healthy holiday eating tips for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). These tips may help you avoid unwanted weight gain without depriving yourself of kidney-friendly foods.

1. Don’t skip meals before a holiday dinner

You may be looking forward to a holiday feast with all the trimmings. But it is not a good idea to arrive at a dinner party hungry. People tend to eat more when they are extremely hungry. Before you decide to skip a meal, remember to eat a light but wholesome breakfast and lunch to avoid overeating at dinnertime. Eating well-balanced meals throughout the day may also stop you from making decisions that go against your kidney diet.  

2. Make the right choices at the dinner table

Holiday dinners should not be looked at as an “all-you-can-eat” occasion. Look over the buffet ahead of time and make the best choices based on your favorite foods and your kidney diet prescription. Ask your renal dietitian about what you can eat and what to pass on when you go to a holiday gathering. 

3. Portion control 

Holiday dinners should not be looked at as a free-for-all when it comes to eating. Watch the portion size of side dishes, especially when there are many possibilities to choose from. You can sample many different foods if you take just a spoonful of each. Moderation is the key. Eating your food slowly and savoring each bite can also help control your portions and make you feel more satisfied. 

4. Trim the fat

Make a conscious choice to limit high fat items, including fried foods, creamy dishes and casseroles, which can be high in potassium and sodium. Take off the skin from turkey and other poultry foods. If you decide to eat roast beef, be sure to trim off any excess fat. When it comes to eating dessert, choose a treat that is kidney-friendly, such as fruit pie, cobbler, angel food cake, pound cake or lemon meringue.

5. Use kidney-friendly substitutions for your meals

Are you cooking a dish for a party and want to make sure it doesn’t pack on the pounds? If you cook, use healthy recipe substitutions for your kidney diet dishes. Listed are some ingredients a recipe may call for and the kidney-friendly substitute to use instead.

Recipe calls for:

Substitute with:

1 whole egg

2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute

Sour cream or cream cheese

Low fat sour cream or low fat cream cheese


Splenda® or other low calorie sweetener

Oil (for baking)

Unsweetened applesauce

Regular Jello®

Sugar-free Jello® or gelatin

Fruit packed in syrup

Fruit packed in juice


Watching your kidney diet does not have to drag down your holidays. Ask your dietitian about other holiday eating and dining tips. You can look on for holiday dishes that are kidney-friendly, too. Following these five tips may help you enjoy a successful holiday season and remind you that you are in charge of your health.