Kidney-Friendly Foods from the Southwest

Arizona became the 48th state on Valentine’s Day in 1912 and is now known as the Grand Canyon State. It’s where you’ll find Havasupai, the only place in the United States where mail is still delivered by mule, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. If you find yourself driving along an open highway in Arizona after dark, you’ll be treated to a glorious night sky filled with twinkling stars and a beaming moon shining on the desert landscape. During the day, majestic mountains provide breathtaking scenes. The saguaro cactus, the famous symbol of the American Southwest, has arms reaching up to the sky, and each May and June the Arizona state flower, the white and yellow blossoms from the saguaro cactus, bloom in the cooler hours of the evening.

Arizona has the largest percentage of land designated as Native American Tribal land. Much of the food that is enjoyed in this region comes from Native American and Mexican American cuisine. Locally, all varieties of chilies and citrus are readily available. According to DaVita dietitian, Kara from Arizona, “We enjoy a variety of foods that can be as spicy as you like.”

DaVita dietitian, Maria from Arizona, states that the most challenging aspect of her job as a renal dietitian is controlling her dialysis patients’ phosphorus levels. Kara adds, “Beans and cheese are very common in southwestern diets. These foods are, of course, high in phosphorus (and beans are also high in potassium). By educating patients about their diets, I can help them to stay healthy, while eating modified versions of the foods they enjoyed before kidney failure.”

Kara says that’s what’s most fulfilling about her job is “really getting to know the patients and their families and helping them balance life and food.”

Arizona highlights

Arizona is one of the Four Corners states, along with Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. You can stand in one spot and be in four different states at the same time.

It’s no surprise that people flock to southern Arizona in the wintertime. Mild winter daytime temperatures in the desert areas average in the mid-60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit with nighttime lows in the 40s. The mountain areas in the north-central part of the state can be more than 20 degrees cooler and winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are popular in the northern Arizona mountain areas.

In the springtime, professional baseball teams have Cactus League Spring Training. You can watch the preseason games with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants and other teams.

The great outdoors don’t get any better than the parks and recreation areas in Arizona. You’ll find the largest municipal park in the country, South Mountain Preserve, in Phoenix. At over 16,000 acres, it features over 50 miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking, climbing and mountain biking for all skill levels. A seven-mile paved road hosts lookouts at 2,300 and 2,600 feet elevations.

Bird watchers may want to flock toSierra Vista, located in the southern portion of the state. This area boasts more hummingbird species than any other state and is referred to as the "Hummingbird Capital of the United States.”

Arizona is home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. A little over 275 miles long, the Grand Canyon was created over millions of years by the flow of the Colorado River. A visit to Grand Canyon National Park promises breathtaking views of the magnificent colors of the rock. About five million visitors a year go to enjoy the spectacular scenery, hike or take a mule ride through the canyon.

Tourists are attracted to popular city destinations in Arizona including:

  • Phoenix—the largest city and state capitol of Arizona; known as the “Valley of the Sun.” It is a bustling city filled with culture, sports, recreation, festivals, educational institutions and a diverse population.
  • Sedona—this artist colony features eclectic shops and art galleries, a spiritual/psychic community, the spectacular Red Rock formations and a host of recreational activities.
  • Scottsdale—located in central Arizona near Phoenix, this posh city features art galleries, golf courses, spas, craft shops and many cultural activities.
  • Tucson—this metropolitan city is the second largest in the state and offers many parks, festivals, spas and other attractions.Flagstaff— this northern Arizona city is only 80 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Visitors enjoy the natural beauty of the area and cool evenings in the summer.
  • Tombstone—formerly an old mining camp and known as “the town too tough to die.” You can step back to the 1880s and learn about the untamed Wild West.
  • Lake Havasu—this cool lake is the way to beat the hot summers. The London Bridge was purchased in 1967 and now resides in this desert town.

Flavors of the southwest to enjoy on the dialysis diet 

Maria enjoys that her Arizona center is “full of culture.” She says her diverse group of patients “has good stories to tell me.” She believes the most important thing patients can do is “follow renal diet guidelines” and to help them do that she creates tasty, kidney-friendly recipes using some of the popular flavors of the southwest.

Here is a delicious, renal-friendly menu featuring some of the food enjoyed in the southwest. Kara and Maria have developed recipes lower in phosphorus and potassium so that their dialysis patients can enjoy some of the foods they love and stay within their dialysis diet.

Southwest Menu for a dialysis diet


  • Huevos Rancheros with Corn Tortillas (2 eggs, 2 tortillas)
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 roasted jalapeño chili
  • 1/2 cup grapes
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup coffee with nondairy creamer, sweetener




Southwest menu nutrient analysis


Calories: 694
Protein: 17 g
Carbohydrate: 62 g
Fat: 42 g
Cholesterol: 423 mg
Sodium: 321 mg
Potassium: 546 mg
Phosphorus: 306 mg
Calcium: 114 mg
Fiber: 4.8 g
Fluid: 1 cup


Calories: 576
Protein: 32 g
Carbohydrate: 76 g
Fat: 16 g
Cholesterol: 61 mg
Sodium: 595 mg
Potassium: 538 mg
Phosphorus: 261 mg
Calcium: 68 mg
Fiber: 5.3 g
Fluid: 1 cup


Calories: 620
Protein: 26 g
Carbohydrate: 75 g
Fat: 24 g
Cholesterol: 54 mg
Sodium: 278 mg
Potassium: 707 mg
Phosphorus: 398 mg
Calcium: 129 mg
Fiber: 6.2 g
Fluid: 1 cup


Calories: 236
Protein: 3 g
Carbohydrate: 29 g
Fat: 12 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 63 mg
Potassium: 227 mg
Phosphorus: 43 mg
Calcium: 19 mg
Fiber: 1.4 g
Fluid: 1 cup

Day Total

Calories: 2126
Protein: 78 g
Carbohydrate: 242 g
Fat: 94 g
Cholesterol: 538 mg
Sodium: 1257 mg
Potassium: 2018 mg
Phosphorus: 1008 mg
Calcium: 330 mg
Fiber: 17.7 g
Fluid: 4 cups

The above contains average nutrient values for menu portions. Your actual intake may vary based on portions and brand differences.

Your individual nutrient needs may be higher or lower than this sample menu. Always consult your dietitian and refer to your individualized meal plan to determine the amounts to eat.