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Eating Tips for Travelers with Kidney Disease

When you travel, it's important to stick to eating kidney-friendly foods. After all, the better you feel, the more you'll enjoy your trip. Here are some kidney diet travel tips that can help you make the most of your time away:

Use your resources

  • Dietitians - Tell your renal dietitian where you're traveling and what foods you expect to be available. He or she can help you understand your options and make a travel diet plan.
  • Nutrition labels - Always read nutrition labels. Avoid foods high in the three P's: potassium, phosphorus and protein (only if you're on a low-protein kidney diet). Also, check labels for sodium content.
  • Nutrition guides - Ask for a nutrition guide at fast-food restaurants. Many have them available as booklets or posted inside the restaurant. These guides can help you make the smartest choice for your kidneys.
  • Specialty drinks - Look for nutritional drinks specially made for people with kidney disease.  Use these as meal replacements or supplements if you are not eating enough.

Remember the basics

  • What to eat - Include a good protein source with each meal, along with fruits, vegetables and salads. For bread, choose bagels, dinner rolls or English muffins. If you are on a low-potassium diet, select only low-potassium options and keep portions moderate.
  • What not to eat - Avoid breading, sauces, biscuits and dairy (unless included in your diet plan). If only high-sodium foods are available, limit sodium at your other meals. If you're on a fluid restricted diet, remember that salty foods can cause you to drink more.
  • What to drink - Drink water instead of soda. If choosing soda, get a small, clear option (Sprite®, 7-Up® or ginger ale). Stay away from dark colas and check labels for potassium or phosphate additives.
  • When you have diabetes - Try to limit sweets and sugary drinks (including juices), and be careful with salty foods and condiments. Check your blood sugar daily to help stay on track.
  • When you take phosphate binders - If you're taking phosphate binders, remember to pack plenty and keep them handy for meal times.

Plan for your trip type

Road trips and camping

  • Prepare - Use a cooler to keep foods fresh and handy, and make fast food less tempting.
  • What to eat - Pack fresh-cooked meats, unsalted canned tuna or chicken, or low-sodium deli meats. Try unsalted pretzels or low-sodium crackers. For dessert, have a piece of low-potassium fruit or low-sodium cookies.
  • What not to eat - Avoid chips and packaged/processed meats, as they can be high in sodium and phosphorus.
  • Practice food safety - Pack well, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer.

Cruises

  • Ask ahead - When booking your cruise, tell them your dietary needs. Many cruise lines will prepare foods for special needs. Low-sodium meals may be available.
  • Use discipline - Stick to reasonable portions and regular mealtimes, despite the availability of buffets around the clock.

Amusement parks

  • Pack a lunch - If possible, pack a kidney-friendly lunch in a cooler and take advantage of the park's picnic area or eat at your car.
  • What to eat - If eating in the park, order hamburgers (not cheeseburgers) or skinless chicken
  • What not to eat - Avoid hot dogs, breaded chicken or fish as well as French fries or potato wedges (high in potassium).
     

Travel abroad

  • Research - Learn about the foods typical of your destination. Then, ask your dietitian to help you make a list of foods to eat (and avoid) in that country.
  • Get a book - If you don't speak the language, bring a phrase book with a food-ordering section.

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