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Holiday Party Food: What to Cook, What to Eat and What to Limit 

By DaVita® Dietitian Shaun K. Riebl, MS, RD, LD/N

“The holidays can be so tough now that I have kidney disease. I have to watch everyone else eat the foods I love, like mashed potatoes, pie, and even macaroni and cheese. Maybe I should steer clear of the parties this year.”

Does this inner dialogue sound familiar to you? The holidays are fast approaching, but kidney disease shouldn’t stop you from enjoying some of your favorite foods. Helpful tips, a little planning and some kidney-friendly recipes can make the season less stressful. You can also join DaVita Diet Helper to help access a grocery list for the meals you plan to make. Whether you are hosting a holiday get-together, going to your neighbor’s house, or attending an office party, you can take steps to satisfying your taste buds without compromising your health.

What to cook and share at holiday parties 

Scenario: You’re hosting a party that allows you to plan the entire menu. This means you can control the ingredients so dishes are kidney-friendly. If you attend a party, offer to bring a dish. Below are some that are delicious, good for people on a kidney diet, and sure to bring holiday cheer to all:


Are You Kidding Me Artichoke Dip

Cheese Tarts

Popcorn Balls

Shrimp Spread with Crackers


Fabulous Chicken Marsala

Pork Chops with Cranberry Sauce

Roasted Turkey

Sweet Dijon-Glazed Turkey Breast


Brie and Cranberry Chutney

Cauliflower Latkes

Fresh Herb Cranberry Stuffing

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Gourmet Green Beans

Renal-safe Macaroni and Cheese

Turkey Gravy

White Christmas Salad

Desserts and beverages

Anise and Orange Biscotti

Champagne Punch

Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake

Fabulous Hot Cocoa

Hot Holiday Cider (low sugar)

Pumpkin Bread

Soft Ginger Cookies

Spiced Eggnog

Protein-rich food such as turkey, chicken, fish, lean beef and fresh pork are a good choice for meeting the nutrition needs of someone on dialysis. If you have early stage kidney disease, be sure to watch your portion size (remember that one serving of lean meat is 3 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards). The cranberry in the stuffing and chutney provides antioxidants and increases good cholesterol (HDL). Vegetables containing vitamin C (like cabbage and cauliflower) give you colon-protecting fiber and anti-inflammatory protection.

Regular mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese are restricted for people on a kidney diet because of the high potassium, phosphorus and sodium content. The modified versions listed above are better choices. Leaching potatoes is a cooking method that helps lower potassium.

The side dishes listed in the chart are tasty enough for everyone to enjoy. The same applies to desserts and beverages. has more than 600 recipes to satisfy any craving.

What to eat at holiday parties 

Scenario: You didn’t have time to cook something for your neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party, but you still want to ring in January 1 at their place, where you know there will be lots of food to snack on. So what can a person on a kidney diet eat at the party? Listed are items that are okay to eat in moderation at a holiday party.


Bread sticks

Carrot sticks

Celery with dip or cream cheese


Cocktail meatballs


Unsalted, boiled or deviled eggs

Unsalted crackers, pretzels or tortilla chips with sour cream dip




Lean pork

Roast beef

Roasted chicken

Roasted turke


Corn bread or dinner rolls with margarine or olive oil

Cranberry sauce

Homemade gravy (no salt added)

Homemade stuffing/dressing (no salt added)

Leached potatoes (1/2 cup)


White rice

White or rye bread








Green beans


Mustard greens or collard greens


Yellow squash



Apple or cherry pie

Jell-O® (sugar-free for people with diabetes)

Peach cobbler

Pound or carrot cake

What to limit at holiday parties 

Scenario: Today is your office’s annual holiday party. You thought you put it on your calendar, but it must’ve slipped your mind. Since you’re here, peruse the food table. Below are foods you may want to limit or avoid.



Cheese-filled pastries

Dried fruit



Processed meats (bologna, hot dogs, sausages)

Smoked ham and turkey


Baked beans

Canned or packaged gravy

Creamy sauces

Traditional macaroni and cheese

Non-leached potatoes

Stuffing from a package

Desserts and beverages 

Baked goods or candy with nuts

Chocolate cakes, candies and pies


Hot chocolate from a packet

Pumpkin pie

Sweet potato pie

Make a game plan before the party

Before attending a party, it’s good to have a game plan so you can have fun, eat good food and still have your kidney health in mind. Here are some general things to consider when at holiday parties:

  • Bring your phosphate binders so you take them with your meal.
  • Portion sizes matter — a half cup versus one cup of certain foods can make a big difference in blood levels of potassium, calcium, sodium and phosphorus.
  • Substitute low- or reduced-sodium products whenever possible; use herbs in place of salt.
  • Substitute olive or canola oil for butter as a heart-healthy alternative in some recipes.
  • Try reduced-fat whipped cream on desserts.
  • Cake and fruit pies such as apple or cherry, peach cobbler and crumb cake are typically lower in potassium; skip the fruit cake.
  • Gelatin and gravy count as fluid.

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