Blog Post

Diet and Kidney Disease Management


Diet is an essential element of kidney disease management. The dietary plans our registered dieticians develop are as individual as the members we serve. However, there are general guidelines in place that make life easier for overworked kidneys, covered in our latest blog.



Diet is an essential element of kidney disease management. Simply eating the right foods is an important step in preserving kidney health and in mitigating comorbidities like obesity, diabetes mellitus, and high blood pressure. That’s why the multidisciplinary Care Navigation teams employed by Healthmap Solutions (Healthmap) include registered dieticians who help our members find foods they like to eat that will, at the same time, lead to improved kidney health.

The eating plans our registered dietitians develop are as individual as the members themselves. However, there are general guidelines that are useful in developing a diet that supports kidney disease management. These guidelines have been published online by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), an organization under the umbrella of the National Institute of Health.

The article identifies five steps to eating right. Here is what NIDDK recommends:

  • Choose foods with less salt and sodium.
  • Eat the right type and amount of protein.
  • Choose foods that are heart healthy.
  • Choose foods and drinks that are low in phosphorous.
  • Choose foods with the right amount of potassium.

Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail and how they relate to kidney healthcare.

Choose foods with less salt and sodium.

NIDDK suggests less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day to help control blood pressure. This can be achieved by buying more fresh foods in place of packaged foods; cooking meals from scratch instead of relying on prepared foods (or choosing specifically marked low or no-salt versions, if necessary); and using spices, herbs, and sodium-free seasonings instead of salt. Be sure to wash canned vegetables, beans, and meats in water before eating.

Eat the right type and amount of protein.

Low-carb, high-protein diets are frequently recommended to control obesity and diabetes. However, too much protein can impair kidney function, simply by overwhelming the kidneys with the waste the body produces in using protein.

NIDDK recommends eating protein in small servings and in the right combination of animal and plant-based proteins. This is an area where the dietitian will be of help.

NIDDK recommends 2-3 ounces (a serving about the size of a deck of playing cards) of cooked chicken, fish, or other meat. Beans, nuts, and whole grains are sources of plant protein. A half-cup of cooked beans or a quarter-cup of nuts is about right.

Choose foods that are heart healthy.

Cardiovascular disease is a common comorbidity associated with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). In fact, it’s the leading cause of mortality in late-stage kidney disease patients. Heart-healthy foods are needed to keep fat from building up in the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys.

Heart-healthy foods include lean cuts of meat, poultry (without the skin), fish, beans, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Avoid deep-fried foods. Grill, broil, bake, roast, or stir-fry instead. Cook with olive oil instead of butter. Trim fat from meat; remove skin from poultry and limit intake of saturated fats and trans fats.

Also, reduce alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol can damage the heart and liver and cause other health problems that a body burdened with kidney disease doesn’t need. The NIDDK guide recommends one drink per day for women, two for men.

Choose foods and drinks low in phosphorus.

As kidney function slows, phosphorus can build up in the blood. As it does, the phosphorus will pull calcium from bones, making them thin and weak, and causing joint pain.

Unfortunately, a number of otherwise kidney-friendly foods are high in phosphorus, including meat, poultry, fish, beans and nuts, and some dairy. This can be addressed by taking a phosphate binder with meals if prescribed.

Choose foods with the right amount of potassium.

Damaged kidneys can allow potassium levels to build up in the blood, which can lead to serious heart problems. On the other hand, nerves and muscles can be adversely affected by too little potassium.

The “right amount” of potassium will be determined by each patient’s primary physician. Healthmap’s registered dieticians can then work with a patient to identify the best foods for maintaining their specified potassium level. Foods low in potassium include apples, peaches, carrots, and green beans.

We are champions for better kidney health.

Healthmap’s expert Care Navigators work directly with patients to review every aspect of their lifestyle, including diet, and recommend changes that will help to slow disease progression, manage comorbidities, and maintain or improve overall quality of life.

To review the complete NIDKK article and access additional resources, click here:

For more information on the Healthmap Kidney Population Health Management program, please visit: