Renal Diet

A Renal Diet

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

A Renal Diet

Renal DietA renal diet is the fuel your body needs to get you through the kidney disease  stage and into transplantation. People with kidney failure must adhere to a kidney diet to cut down on the amount of waste in their blood. A kidney diet  should be low in phosphorous, protein (sometimes) and sodium.

renal diet stresses the importance of consuming high-quality protein and limiting fluids. There are also renal diets that may include limited potassium and calcium. Each renal patient is different that’s why a dietician will work with each patient to come up with a kidney diet that is tailored to his or her needs.

Hearing about the nutrition value of a renal diet is one thing, but actually cooking like this is quite another. I mean, who in the world can give up tomatoes? How about those leafy greens your mother told you to eat when you were a kid? All the above are on the “no list” because phosphorus and potassium are regulated by the kidneys and if the kidneys are not functioning, excess amounts of otherwise good food balances will do you more harm than good.

Though good for an individual with end stage renal disease, a kidney friendly renal diet is not good for healthy people. Typical nutrients found in whole wheat is also a no go for a kidney patient, but a terrible choice for people who are otherwise healthy.

Following a renal diet may also bolster kidney function and delay total kidney failure. When I was visiting a dialysis center last month, I was shocked to hear the dietician tell kidney patients that limited fast food was all right. I asked about this only to discover the realities of lives of those with kidney disease. Most simply cannot cook for themselves and very few have the opportunity to enjoy someone to cook for them. This leaves the alternative, low cost meal. Try to stay away from fast food as the sodium will be very high.

Healthy Kidney Diet

Healthy Kidney Diet

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Healthy Kidney Diet

Healthy_Kidney_DietWhy you need a Healthy Kidney Diet and the things of concern in a Renal Diet.

There are many causes of kidney disease and when your kidneys are not working well, waste materials and fluid builds up in your body. When left as it is, the waste and extra fluid lead to bone, heart, and other health problems. When you are in this condition it is a must that you opt for a renal diet. A good kidney-friendly meal plan limits the quantity of certain minerals and fluid you consume on a daily basis. This healthy kidney diet is necessary to help keep the waste and fluid from accumulating and causing problems in your body.

Before deciding on the meal plan you should find out the causes of kidney disease and the healthy kidney diet you select must depend on your stage of kidney disease. In the early stages of your kidney disease, you may not go for the real renal diet and have little or no limits on what you eat and drink. But when you find that your kidney disease is getting worse your doctor has to recommend you to limit the intake of the following in your diet you are taking daily:

  •   Potassium
  •  Phosphorus
  •  Fluids


Potassium is a mineral that is available in almost all foods. Potassium is needed for making your muscles work but it must be noted that the intake of potassium must be limited. When you take too much potassium it is dangerous. When your kidneys are not working well, your potassium level may be too high or too low. So, while deciding on the intake of potassium in your renal diet take into consideration that too much or too little potassium can cause irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps, and muscle weakness. But generally the doctor will advise you to limit the amount of potassium you are taking and it is always better to take the advice of a dietician to know the foods that can be taken in your daily diet based on what causes kidney failure in your case.

When you are advised to take low potassium foods you can add more of Apples, Cranberries, Grapes, Pineapples and Strawberries Cauliflower, Onions, Peppers, Radishes, summer and Zucchini Squash, Lettuce, Pita, Tortillas And White Breads Bran Products And Granola Beef And Chicken, White Rice Etc.

At the same time if your dietician prescribes a high potassium diet then you can add more of Avocados, Bananas, Melons, Oranges, Prunes And Raisins, Artichokes, Kale, Plantains, Spinach, Potatoes And Tomatoes, Beans (Baked, Black, Pinto, Etc.), Brown Or Wild Rice etc.


is one of the most essential minerals needed by the body and in the studies conducted to find out what causes kidney failure the importance of keeping this at correct levels in any healthy kidney diet   is stressed. When your kidneys are not healthy, they cannot maintain the balance of phosphorus in the body and hence you have to limit the amount of phosphorus in your diet and depending on the stage of the kidney disease you may be given a phosphorus binder to keep the level of it in your blood within the right levels. To maintain the right phosphorus levels add more of Italian, French or sourdough bread, Corn or rice cereals and cream of wheat, Unsalted popcorn, light-colored sodas and lemonade etc



When your doctor has ascertained the real causes of kidney disease, he would have advised you to take little fluids and you must avoid drinking too much fluids as this gets accumulated in your body. This may lead to dangerous problems and hence you have to reduce the amount of water you take in.

When you are wondering about what causes kidney failure, you must understand the diet you are taking plays a major role and hence you have to be very careful in taking only a very good healthy kidney diet to help your kidneys function well for a long time.

Kidney Food

Kidney Food

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Kidney Food

Kidney Food and effectsWhat is Kidney Food? How often do we think about the effect a cheeseburger has on our kidneys?

Usually, we are captured by the thought of biting into this delight; dreaming of a juicy sirloin burger dripping down our chin.

The thought-the absolute excitement of this craving is so powerful that calculating the damage to an already distressed kidney is the last thing on a kidney patient’s mind.

And sure, once in a while everything in the food court is an option, but kicking the fast food habit is, to many, like quitting smoking. And the companies advertising 99 cent meals know that once we are in sight, once the craving begins, we are pliable consumers for them. Fat, sodium, carbs.

Human Beings love this stuff, but to many kidney patients this is not kidney food. In fact, this type of food can be deadly. Let’s look at some of it.

Potatoes Tomatoes Spinach

Ultra high in potassium, potatoes are off the list for many kidney patients. I know they taste good, especially grilled hash browns–the kind you get at a diner, but impaired kidneys cannot handle added potassium and potatoes are loaded with potassium. The same holds true for tomatoes, including tomato sauce. There goes spaghetti for dinner. And remember when you mom told you to eat your spinach? Well, if you are in kidney trouble, then you’d better ask your dietician about these items.


Potassium is a mineral and one of it’s main functions is nerve control. When my son was in kidney failure, his hands shook constantly and eliminating potassium as much as possible was one of my missions. I knew we were giving up other essential vitamins, but keeping the heart beating on a regular basis was priority one. Potassium does this and since excess amounts could not be eliminated through urine, we just cut it out of the diet as much as we could. Other foods high in potassium include the delicious avocado. When we moved into our home, we noticed the neighbor in the adjoining back lot had an avocado tree which may someday grow over the wall, into our yard and into our hearts. A fabulous fat to eat, kidney patients will likely avoid the splendor of avocados. They will also give up dairy, which includes ice cream and milk. Bummer, I know!

Kidney Diet

Dad is Cooking Kidney Friendly Food

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Dad is Cooking Kidney Friendly Food

Kidney DietKidney Friendly Food is hard to find and always requires in home cooking. I started my journey online and the greatest reference for kidney-friendly recipes is at the DaVita website. They do a great job of laying out sensible, easy to read recipes and provide plenty of nutritional information to go with them.

The problem with the recipes, I soon discovered, is that one kidney recipe may be all right for some people, but the range of kidney failure is so wide that a recipe almost has to be specific to the individual. Some patients are going to be all right eating whole grains once per week, while others should avoid brown rice at all costs. Dad is cooking kidney friendly food sometimes did not seem like such a great idea!

Most patients see a doctor once per month and have blood drawn to measure key indicators such as potassium, phosphorus and creatinine levels. The tests do not lie and if a kidney patient is eating junk food all month, the results will be in
plain sight. The same holds true for those who adhere to this strict regiment with the thought of wellness.

My son, Michael, needed protein, so my very first kidney friendly food meals centered around providing protein with no added sodium. Mrs. Dash only took us so far and left a flavorless taste, so instead of shopping major markets, I searched the natural grocery stores for salt free seasonings and went to the nursery in need of some herbs to add to the family garden.

Trader Joe’s was a great resource for salt-free seasoning as well as Sprouts Groceries. For protein, there was a huge debate with Loma Linda about plant-based protein vs. animal based protein. Of course, Loma Linda, being of the vegan mindset, encouraged a diet rich in beans, legumes. My research and discussions with dietitians though directed me in another direction.

Protein is vital to strength and I was looking ahead three months to a transplant and as Michael shed pounds and muscle each day, there was great concern that he may not be strong enough to endure the rigorous surgery if he did not keep his body strong.

Every patient is different and according to labs a kidney patient will alter this course of consumption and kidney friendly food.

Confused Kidney Chef

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Confused Kidney Chef

Confused Kidney ChefIf you have a family member in renal failure, you will experience times when you are a confused kidney chef. Most parents start off without any confusion, but as our kids age, we seem to get closer and closer to the sidelines until, one day we simply get lost. Out of bounds, we can’t remember names, conversations or where we left the car keys. Our kids relish in this and ever opportunistic, they will use these lapses against us until one day we begin to believe that we really are losing our minds.

Though Michael was very sick and I was focused on his health and well-being, I wasn’t getting much sleep and learning to be a kidney chef was not nearly as much fun as reducing a bourbon glaze. Chief among my problem at the beginning of the nutrition cycle was the issue of protein.

Contingent on factors such as weight and gender, pregnancy and other health issues, Michael was going to need about 45-50 grams per day. Too much consumption would place an even greater burden on his kidney’s and too little would weaken him. Our choices were slim because of a kidney patient’s restrictive diet. It was no wonder I was stumped and a confused kidney chef.

Green vegetables are about 50% protein, but most of these choices were off the table because of potassium. Spinach would have been a great staple because 2 cups are over 10 grams of protein. Cross that one off the list. Same with brown rice, about 5 grams of protein per cup and the big, obvious choice for vegans everywhere, lentils.  One cup of lentils contain a whooping 16 grams of protein, but kidney patients like Michael are supposed to avoid any beans due to high amounts of phosphorus.

I don’t want to seem like a nutritionist or a dietician because I am not. I was a confused kidney chef, who had a son in kidney failure and I was trying to provide good nutrition because I knew that our only goal was to get him a kidney transplant as soon as possible. He hated vegetables as a kid, and loved chicken. His protein source was going to be chicken, lean beef, salmon, eggs. This is what I knew how to prepare and although tofu would have been another choice, he hated (hates) tofu and I had no idea how to make it taste good.

I was no longer confused.

Kidney Meals That Taste Good

Kidney Meals That Taste Good

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Kidney Meals That Taste Good

Kidney Meals That Taste GoodCan there be Kidney meals that taste good? Here is my story and what I went through and how I prevailed and served some delicious food to my 24 yr-old son.

Like many people, I love great food.

My wife, Jennie, has gone so far as to call me a “food snob” and she has gone on a kitchen strike once or twice  with the announcement that I am just too difficult to please. Perhaps, but I think pot roast hastily thrown in the crock pot should be seared first. Go ahead and add the shallots and the garlic. Toss some of the herbs into the frying pan so we can get both the scent and the flavor before drowning a cheap cut of meat in some cold water and ask it to taste good after twelve hours of boiling. Could you please add some beef stock and maybe a cup of this Burgundy?

In her defense, we are both working parents and in the old days had to make a stop at school with kids before we even thought about starting our own day. Who gives a damn about searing pot roast at six in the morning? Little did we know that one day we would be challenged with creating kidney meals that taste good.

One thing we do have in common is taste and though kids and work can get in the way of cooking, both Jennie and I love good food. This is how I inherited the cooking duties for the family and being an overachiever, I really took my job to heart.

When Michael was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), we were paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. We were consumed with grief and unanswered questions, but after the first few weeks at home, it was apparent that healthy food was going to be as critical as his medication and dialysis routine.

Because I was already the family chef, these duties fell into my lap, but I was no longer concerned about gourmet food. I was grieving, but at the same time I knew Michael had to eat. I also knew that getting back to work was going to be important for my mental health. We had insurance, but an illness like this would end up costing several thousands of dollars.

Kidney Meals That Taste Good-is there such a thing?

I started a search for a Home Chef- someone who would come into our home and teach us how to prepare kidney-friendly meals as well as keep a stockpile of ready-made food within reach. We had tremendous health concerns and working our way past grief and fear took the majority of our time, but looking for a kidney chef would be my first culinary challenge.

They absolutely did not exist, though many home chefs indicated they would be pleased to prepare any recipe we gave them. The problem was that other than referencing a few websites, we knew nothing about kidney diets. We needed a chef who already knew this stuff-a chef who understands a kidney diet! Where were they?

My journey led me to a list of dietitians and though I have great respect for many of them, none that I interviewed knew anything about how to actually prepare some of their recipes. Sure, we knew Michael needed 8 ounces of protein daily, but how do we prepare food that is both nutritious and good to eat?

No tomatoes. No potatoes. No leafy greens. Very little fruit and by the way, sodium is a real issue since high blood pressure is rampant with kidney patients. That means you are probably going to have to prepare this food yourself. I finally decided to take some time off work and to learn how to prepare some kidney friendly recipes myself.

And so, my journey began as I stepped into the shoes of somebody with kidney disease. I love kale and Jennie and I learned of the tremendous health advantages to eating it. Lowers cholesterol, helps fight cancer, a great antioxidant and it is huge on vitamins and that’s why kidney patients can’t eat kale. The potassium is more than 8% for a single cup and kidney patients cannot eat too much potassium because the kidneys, if they are healthy, are responsible for processing potassium.

Kidney patients cannot allow too much potassium to build up into their system or their hearts will go crazy. Like me, I was going crazy with the idea of taking on this daunting task. And then I discovered the same held true for Spinach. And the same is true for most of the leafy greens that are touted by experts as good for us! What were we going to eat?

Kicking it with kidney food

Kicking It With Kidney Food

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Kicking It With Kidney Food

Kicking it with kidney foodKicking it with kidney food was a topic I never thought I would be discussing. Isn’t life strange? Food! It’s what binds us-it’s what brings families and foes together and except for the longing for love, nothing could be more important to us. Lately, we are texting images of our dinner. We are consumed with the newest food fad and watch countless episodes of television food channels. It is all the rave…for healthy people.

Kicking It With Kidney Food

Being a kidney patient pretty much eliminates the ability to explore food scenes and it’s not just due to the very restrictive diet imposed by kidney disease. A huge part of any food journey begins with a concept in the mind. The thoughts of delicious herbs brought to life in the oven-the mental image  of subtle sense stimulation on the palette. An idea. The food revolution begins with a new thought. Instead of traditional carne asada tacos, why not add mushrooms sautéed with a spicy arugula? Let’s experiment.

And thus the journey begins – the exploration and the delightful implementation of new ideas takes hold. As the flavors finally dance across the palette, we come alive both physically and imaginatively. However, this dance is reserved for the healthy. They are not Kicking It With Kidney Food!

Most kidney patients are simply too sick to ever imagine such a journey. Getting from medication to dialysis, then recovering from the difficulties of an unnatural exchange of blood doesn’t leave much of an appetite and surely the invitation for a new food adventure is not even on the table. No pun intended.

Nourishing a patient in kidney failure is essential to wellness and must encompass healthy ingredients and preparing this is a difficult task because a kidney diet is a whole new way of eating and there are very few people who know how to cook delicious Kidney Friendly food.

How do you accomplish these great tasting meals? It’s simple, you start with lab results and work backwards. What is the patient supposed to avoid? What lab results are in line? Can you add phosphorus? Perhaps increase potassium?  With solid blood work you can create meals and finally get to the point where you create meals that are actually tasting pretty good.


Phosphorus and Kidney Disease

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Phosphorous and Kidney Disease

Phosphorus and Kidney DiseaseWhat’s The Problem with Phosphorus and Kidney Disease?

If you are on Dialysis or fighting to stave off Kidney Disease, your dietician has probably outlined a diet and directed you to stay away from certain foods containing too much phosphorous.

What is Phosphorous?

Phosphorous is a chemical element with the symbol P and if you watch Breaking Bad, you will notice the Atomic Number 15 floating around, which identifies Phosphorous. It is also a critical component of life, found in DNA. In the form of phospholipids, it is found in the membranes of cells. We need it to thrive. Bones, teeth-Phosphorous Rocks, but too much is not good!

Quick and Interesting History of Phosphorous

In the mid 1600’s, A German Alchemist, Robert Boyle, in search of a way to turn everyday metals into gold, collected human urine. I’ll bet that was fun. Can you imagine selling your urine? I wonder if this evolved into the modern Blood Drive?

With the vats of human waste, Boyle went about extracting the dissolved phosphates, distilled the metabolized waste and even tried evaporation-often for days at a time. My God! This is a sure-fire way to keep the relatives from visiting!

All this was not in vain for the tireless Boyle. After playing with urine for extended periods of time, he finally figured out something useful to do with it and was the first to use Phosphorous on the tips of sticks, igniting and causing instant fire with the ancient discovery of what we now call matches. I hope it was worth it.

But what does this mean for your diet if you have Kidney Disease?

We need Phosphorous in our bodies, but evidenced by what is found in our urine, we also need to get rid of too much Phosphorous. Primarily found in our bones and teeth. An average adult consumes 1-3 grams of Phosphorous daily, replenishing the needs for strong teeth, bones and soft cell nourishment.

But what does this have to do with your kidneys?

One of the main kidney functions is to regulate both calcium and phosphorous in the body. These are the most common minerals found in the body and they work together, or at least they should co-exist.
Besides providing nourishment, Phosphorous has a big job of helping to regulate calcium levels in the body and we all know from those milk commercials that calcium is needed for strong bones.

A healthy body, with kidneys working properly will get rid of the excess phosphorous through urine. Too much phosphorous in the body will send a warning signal to the brain and calcium stored in the bones will go to work, increasing calcium, but depleting the bone’s supply. Trying to even the levels in this manner will cause a loss of calcium in the bones and this will result in brittle bones that break easily.


Fast Food Problems

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Fast Food Problems

Why Eating Out Can Be Bad For Your Kidneys


Fast Food Problems can also become kidney failure problems.Fast Food Problems are often intertwined with health issues and can be especially bad for your kidneys. Despite a lot of attempts to make eating out healthier, experts and health advocates continue to warn us about the same fast food problems. Aside from the idea that fast food can cause weight issues and cardiovascular problems, they can also spell trouble to your renal tract.

Whether you’re completely healthy or you have an existing renal condition, the following reasons should be enough to make you think twice about eating out.

Fast food contains a lot of salt.

Sodium, when taken in normal amounts, can help keep your neuro system, nerves and muscle functions in top shape. It is also plays an important role in regulating body fluid.

One of the most popular fast food problems you often hear about relates to the food’s high salt content. When you consume too much salt, it predisposes your kidneys to produce and excrete less urine. Because of this, fluid tends to accumulate in your body. As more fluid builds up, it creates a higher pressure on your blood vessels. Since the vessels in your kidneys are very small, they may not be able to tolerate the change in pressure very well.

It can lead to stone formation.

Most fast food comes with a lot of protein, calcium and phosphorus. If you already have an existing renal disease, consuming too much of these minerals on a daily basis can increase your chances of forming renal stones.

Because stones tend to obstruct the normal blood flow, they can prevent your organs from getting the nourishments they need to do their job. The obstruction is also likely to increase the pressure in the area.

It can cause diabetes.

The added sugar found in fast food as well as its lack of complex carbohydrates, which your body needs to maintain a consistent glucose level, can disrupt your body’s ability to produce and secrete insulin. Overtime, this disruption turns in to diabetes.

Patients who develop diabetes become more at risk for experiencing complications. Because blood becomes more viscous and thicker due to the high amount of glucose, they become damaging to the minute vessels in your renal tract.

It contains a high amount of phosphate.

When you have a renal disease, there’s a good chance that your body isn’t able to effectively excrete phosphate. Because there’s already a high amount of phosphate in your body, eating too much fast food can aggravate the condition.

It predisposes patients to ineffective mineral absorption, particularly magnesium and zinc. It’s also linked to impaired regulation of calcium and mineral deposits in major vessels and soft tissues. Because of this, high levels of phosphate, or hyperphosphatemia, can’t only be considered as a fast food problem but a serious health threat to people with renal diseases as well.

Fast Food Problems can also become kidney failure problems.









Living With Kidney Failure

Living with Kidney Failure

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Renal Diet

Living with Kidney Failure

What You Should and Shouldn’t Eat

Living With Kidney FailureLiving with Kidney Failure can be difficult when it comes to food choices. Being diagnosed with renal failure can be a tough pill to swallow. Aside from its implications to your health, it can also limit you from living life to the fullest.

One of the most common concerns patients with renal failure have involve their diet. Because what you eat and drink can greatly affect your health status, it’s essential that you keep your food list in check.

Here are a few insights on managing your diet when living with kidney failure:

Keep track of the nutrients you consume.

Reading food labels and nutrition facts can give you a clearer idea of your nutritional intake. These lists will help you determine how much carbohydrates, protein, fats and calories you consume in every meal.


When there’s too much protein in your body, the tendency of your kidneys is to work harder. If the stress gets so high, there’s a good chance that your organs will further deteriorate. Depending on the severity of your condition and to avoid aggravating it, your doctor may recommend you to adjust your protein intake or to find another source.

Low protein food includes fruits, vegetables and rice. High protein sources, on the other hand, include red meat and fish.


Carbohydrates are what your body uses for energy. Although essential, consuming too much of this food type, particularly if you have diabetes, is strongly discouraged. Foods to avoid from this category include sugar, soft drinks and other carbonated drinks.


Patients with kidney failure are advised to keep their weight in check. As obesity can magnify your health problems, you may be required to limit your calorie intake. This limitation will depend upon your ideal weight, age, gender as well as activity level.


Not all fats are bad for you. In fact, the good ones are essential to keep you healthy. The good fats include olive and peanut oil. The bad ones, on the other hand, include the saturated fats like butter and lard. Too much of these bad oils can predispose you to gain weight and several heart issues.

Keep your meal proportions in check.

Aside from nutrients, it’s also a must that you check the amount of food you consume. You can learn more about food proportions and serving sizes by reading labels. For fresh fruits and vegetables that don’t typically include such information, you can always ask your dietitian.

To avoid going beyond your recommended intake, it can help if you can be more mindful when you eat. Chewing slowly as well as avoiding distractions, such as watching TV, can help you be more in control of your food. It’s also a good for your kidneys if you can section your food before serving it to avoid eating more than you’re supposed to.

Living with Kidney Failure means watching the food you eat and this can be challenging in our society.