A kidney diet can help control your child’s potassium, phosphorus and sodium intake.

Kidney Diet

A kidney diet has:

  • 2000 mg sodium per day

  • 2000 mg potassium per day

  • 800-1000 mg phosphorous per day

Carbohydrates: These foods can help provide the calories your child needs without the sodium, potassium, and phosphorous found in other foods. Choices include:

  • Bread, buns, bagels, English muffins, tortillas & pitas

  • Cereals

  • Pastas

  • Rice

  • Sugars, jellies, syrup and sugar candies

Protein: Good sources of protein are needed, but not in large amounts. (Note: cheese, peanut butter, and dried beans are high in phosphorous). Choices include:

  • Meats

  • Chicken, turkey

  • Fish

  • Eggs

Fats: These foods can also help provide needed calories. Choices include:

  • Butter

  • Oils

  • Salad dressings

  • Sour cream

  • Cream cheese

  • Mayo

Kidney Friendly Fast Food Choices

Fast food restaurants are an option if you choose wisely. Adjust the foods you order for your child so that the meal is more kidney friendly. Extra sodium, phosphorus and potassium are often hidden in fast foods. Be aware of your child’s preferred choices from the fast food places you visit. Keep a list to help avoid getting specials or tempting items that are not part of your child’s diet.

Burger Fast Food

  • Hamburger on a bun with lettuce, onion, mayo, mustard or 1 packet ketchup, no cheese or special sauce.

  • Grilled or broiled chicken sandwich with mustard or mayo, lettuce, onion, no cheese, no breading.

  • Side salad, limit the dressing.

  • Try onion rings instead of French fries—limit the ketchup and the portion size.

  • Order the smallest drink — lots of ice, no refills, clear colored sodas.

Chicken or Fish Take-Out

  • Go for grilled or roasted without the high sodium breading (or remove breading).

  • Best sides include: coleslaw, pasta salad, white roll, green beans, 1/2 ear corn on the cob.

  • Avoid the potatoes and biscuit to keep potassium and phosphorus low.

Mexican Fast Food

  • Beef, chicken, pork or shrimp fajita.

  • Beef, chicken or fish taco on flour tortilla, no cheese.

  • Chicken or beef burrito with rice, sour cream, a little salsa or hot sauce (leave off the beans and cheese).

  • Chicken or beef taquitos with sour cream instead of guacamole.

  • Rice instead of beans.

  • Limit salsa or hot sauce to 1 tablespoon or 1 packet.

Sub Sandwich Shop

  • Stick to the 6” sub on a white roll.

  • Turkey, chicken, roast beef, ham and egg salad are better choices.

  • Good toppings include: lettuce, onion, cucumber, thin slice of tomato, bell pepper, vinegar, oil, pepper, mayo, small amount of mustard.

  • Leave off the cheese to keep phosphorus and sodium down.

  • Leave off sauces, olives and pickles to lower sodium.

  • For sides, try a small salad, low-salt tortilla chips or cookie without nuts or chocolate.

  • Order the smallest drink — lots of ice, no refills, clear colored sodas.

Chinese Take-Out

  • Stir-fry shrimp, chicken, pork or beef with lower potassium veggies such as bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, green beans, mushrooms, onions and water chestnuts.

  • Egg rolls or fried wontons or small salad with vinegar-based dressing for appetizers.

  • Skip the salty soups to save on fluid and sodium.

  • Request no MSG and ask for sauces on the side.

  • Use a small amount of low sodium soy sauce, if it must be added.

  • Order steamed white rice instead of fried rice which contains soy sauce, with high amounts of sodium.

Seasonings and Spices

Be careful when choosing salt substitutes. While these products may be lower in sodium, many of them are high in potassium. Please check with your doctor or dietitian before buying a store-bought salt substitute.

Spices and herbs to cut the salt but not the flavor:

  • Spike Salt Free

  • Mrs. Dash (all varieties)

  • Durkee Smart Seasons

  • Lawry’s Seasoned Pepper

  • Onion powder

  • Garlic powder

  • Fresh ginger

  • Scallions, onions, shallots

  • Fresh, dried herbs

  • Pepper (white, red, black)

  • Pleasoning Mini-Mini Salt

  • Spike Vegit

Spice Mix Recipes

American Favorite Blend

5 tsp onion powder (not onion salt)
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp celery seeds

Yield: ~ ¼ cup
Source: (Health Education Association Inc. Glenside, PA)

Spicy Seasoning

3 Tbsp celery seed
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp crushed oregano
1 Tbsp thyme
1 ground bay leaf
1 ½ tsp black pepper
1 ½ tsp ground cloves

Yield: ~ ½ cup
Source: (Nutrition: The Art of Good Eating, Seattle, WA)

Mexican Seasoning

2 tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
Dash of cayenne pepper

Yield: ~2 Tbsp

Homemade Phosphorus-Free Baking Powder*

¼ cup cream of tartar
2 Tbsp baking soda
Yield: 6 servings, 1 Tbsp each
*Or check your local grocery

Kidney Friendly Meal Ideas

*See recipes below


  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast

  • Baked pork chop

  • Roast beef

  • Hamburger

  • Chicken nuggets*

  • Tacos*

  • Fish, tuna salad (use low sodium, water packed tuna)

  • Eggs, egg salad sandwich

  • Grilled cheese (use white bread and natural, no processed cheese)

  • Macaroni and cheese*

  • Low sodium soups or chilis


  • Asparagus (steamed or sautéed)

  • Broccoli (steamed or sautéed)

  • Green beans

  • Green peas

  • Carrots

  • Celery sticks

  • Coleslaw

  • Cucumbers

  • Green peppers

  • Iceberg/Boston lettuce

  • Radishes

  • Cauliflower

  • Corn


  • Corn Bread

  • Rice

  • Noodles

  • Dinner Roll

  • Mashed potatoes*

  • Tortilla

  • Couscous/quinoa

  • Breadsticks

  • Corn or wheat-based cereals

  • Bagel

Fruits, Snacks, Desserts:

  • Fruit: Apples, applesauce, grapes, fresh pears, tangerines, fresh or canned pineapple, canned pear, fruit cocktail

  • Graham crackers, unsalted popcorn/low salt tortilla chips, low salt saltines

  • Jell-O® (with or without whipped cream)

  • Pudding (cooked, not instant)

  • Sherbet

  • Baked apple (2 tsp sugar, 2 tsp margarine, 1 tsp cinnamon)

  • Fruit pizza*

  • Sponge cake/angel food cake

  • Rice Krispie treats/Lorna Doone cookies, sugar cookies

  • Low phosphorus cheeses: cottage, cream, Brie


  • Clear colored sodas, flavored water

  • Iced tea

  • Cran-raspberry, apple, or grape juice


Chicken Nuggets with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

1 Tbsp mustard
1/2 cup mayo
1/3 cup honey
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp liquid nondairy creamer
3 cups finely crushed low sodium cornflakes
1 lb boneless chicken breast, cut into 36 bite-sized pieces
Nonstick cooking spray

  1. Stir mustard, mayo, honey and Worcestershire sauce together in a small bowl. Chill sauce until nuggets are cooked, then serve as a dipping sauce.

  2. Preheat oven to 400° F.

  3. Combine egg and nondairy creamer in a small bowl. Crush cornflakes and pour crumbs into a large zip-lock bag.

  4. Dip chicken pieces in egg mixture then shake in zip-lock bag to coat with cornflake crumbs.

  5. Bake nuggets on a baking sheet, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, for 15 minutes or until done.

Yield: 12 portions. Serving size: 3 nuggets, 1 Tbsp sauce.

  • Calories: 175

  • Protein: 9 g

  • Carbohydrate: 13g

  • Sodium: 116 mg

  • Potassium: 92 mg

  • Phosphorus: 76 mg

Serve nuggets on a tray with decorated toothpicks for a festive look.

Try different types of dipping sauces, such as: barbeque sauce, curry sauce, fruit spreads or low sodium salad dressing.

Kidney Friendly Macaroni and Cheese

2 cups elbow, shell or bowtie pasta
One 5 oz jar Kraft® Pimento Cheese spread made with cream cheese
One 4 oz can Ortega® diced green chilies (rinsed and drained)
Pepper to taste, if desired

  1. Cook noodles in boiling water without salt or butter until the noodles are al dente.

  2. Drain noodles. While noodles are hot, add the pimento cheese spread and chilies.

  3. Stir until the cheese spread is melted into the noodles.

  4. Serve hot. Add pepper at the table for taste, if desired.

Yield: 4 portions. Serving size: 1/2 cup.

  • Calories: 196

  • Protein: 6 g

  • Carbohydrates: 25 g

  • Sodium: 227 mg

  • Potassium: 83 mg

  • Phosphorus: 74 mg

To get more protein, add browned and drained ground beef (dialysis only).

Most cheese spreads are very high in sodium and phosphorus. The spread in this recipe is made with cream cheese instead of processed cheese. Look for the Philadelphia® brand cream cheese. This is what keeps the sodium and phosphorus content low enough for a renal diet. Avoid spreads made with processed cheese.

Terrific Tacos

6 corn taco shells
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup onion, chopped (divided)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp Tabasco® sauce
3/4 cup lettuce, shredded
1/3 cup tomato, chopped
1/3 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese

  1. In a large frying pan, brown ground beef over medium heat. Drain well, remove from pan and set aside.

  2. Heat oil in pan. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion and cook until clear. Add garlic, cook and stir for one minute.

  3. Add cooked beef back into pan. Stir in chili powder, pepper, cumin and Tabasco® sauce. Remove from heat and prepare tacos.

  4. Add 1/4 cup meat mixture inside each taco shell. Top with 2 tablespoons lettuce, 1 tablespoon each tomato, cheese and the rest of the onion.

Yield: 6 servings. Serving size: 1 taco.

  • Calories: 240

  • Protein: 10 g

  • Carbohydrate: 14 g

  • Sodium: 182 mg

  • Potassium: 214 mg

  • Phosphorus: 135 mg

Select cheese that has the word "natural" on the package. Avoid processed cheese due to higher sodium and phosphorus contents.

Turkey Vegetable Chili

Nonstick cooking spray
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
1 lb lean ground turkey
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced fine
2 cups zucchini squash, chopped
One 14 oz can stewed tomatoes, crushed
2 tsp chili powder
1-1/2 tsp cumin
1-1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Spray pan with cooking spray and add oil.

  2. Sauté ground turkey, onion, garlic and zucchini until zucchini is tender.

  3. Drain excess liquid well.

  4. Add stewed tomatoes and spices.

  5. Simmer covered for about 1/2 hour.

Yield: 6 Servings. Serving size: 3/4 cup.

  • Calories: 164

  • Protein: 17 g

  • Carbohydrate: 6 g

  • Sodium: 214 mg

  • Potassium: 517 mg

  • Phosphorus: 189 mg

Two medium zucchini yields about 2 cups. Use lean ground beef instead of turkey if you wish. Serve over cooked rice or pasta for a filling meal. Be sure to count as 2 servings of vegetables in your daily meal plan to allow for the potassium in this recipe. If you are on a low-potassium diet, stick closely to the serving size.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Large cooking pot or pan of water
2 cups baking potatoes (2 large potatoes)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1/4 cup half and half or liquid nondairy creamer

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes into small pieces then add to a large pot of water. Soak potatoes for 4 hours. Pour off water and replace with fresh water.

  2. Boil potatoes and garlic over medium heat until potatoes are soft.

  3. Drain off cooking water.

  4. Whip potatoes and garlic with beater, slowly adding margarine and creamer until whipped smooth.

  • Yield: 4 servings. Serving size: ½ cup.

  • Calories: 208

  • Protein: 2 g

  • Carbohydrate: 22 g

  • Sodium: 111 mg

  • Potassium: 161 mg*

  • Phosphorus: 57 mg
    *Potassium content taken from reference values for soaking potatoes in large pot of water for 4 hours.

Fruit Pizza

1 roll frozen sugar cookie dough
8 oz package cream cheese, softened
4 oz Cool Whip nondairy topping
1 cup sugar or Splenda® equivalent
1 cup pineapple juice
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cornstarch
nonstick cooking spray
1 apple cored and sliced thinly (put in lemon juice to prevent browning)
20 grapes (both red and green) sliced in half
4 medium strawberries, sliced

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

  2. Cook sugar, pineapple juice, lemon juice and cornstarch over medium heat until thickened.

  3. Slice cookie dough in 1/4″ slices. Place close together on pizza pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

  4. Bake as directed on package or at 325° F until brown.

  5. Beat cream cheese with cool whip until fluffy. Spread on cooled cookie crust.
    6. Arrange fruit slices on top of cream cheese. Get creative!

  6. Pour cooled pineapple glaze over the fruit and put in the fridge for several hours before serving.

  • Yield: 12 servings. Serving size: 1/12 of 12-inch pizza.

  • Calories: 293

  • Protein: 2 g

  • Carbohydrate: 42 g

  • Sodium: 166 mg

  • Potassium: 106 mg

  • Phosphorus: 37 mg

Other fruit such as blueberries, pears, raspberries can be used as well.
For diabetics, use Splenda® granular sweetener instead of sugar to reduce carbohydrate to 28 grams, 2 carbohydrate choices. Reduce the portion size to help lower carbohydrate content.

To Find Out More

DaVita Inc. – “Recipes” http://www.davita.com/recipes

National Kidney Foundation – “Nutrition, Diet” http://www.kidney.org/atoz/atozTopic_Nutrition-Diet.cfm

National Kidney Foundation – “Living Well on Dialysis: A Cookbook for Patients and Their Families” http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/cookbook.cfm

Who to Call

If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions, please contact UW Health at one of the phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at https://www.uwhealth.org/nutrition

Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.

Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at:
(608) 287-2770.

If you are a patient receiving care at UnityPoint – Meriter, Swedish American or a health system outside of UW Health, please use the phone numbers provided in your discharge instructions for any questions or concerns.