5 Things That Should Be on Your Renal Diet Grocery List
If you’ve been diagnosed with CKD or chronic kidney disease, your doctor or renal dietitian may have suggested a renal diet. So, what is a renal diet? What can you eat? And are there any foods you can’t eat? To help you make this lifestyle transition to more kidney friendly nutrition, let’s look at the answers to your questions and 5 things that should be on your renal diet grocery list.
What’s Considered a Kidney-Friendly Diet?
First, let’s make sure our terminology is clear. Your renal system includes your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and the urethra. It’s the system that filters and eliminates waste from your body. It also regulates blood pressure, blood volume, electrolytes, and some metabolic and hormone regulation. Your kidneys are an essential part of your renal system. When talking about a renal friendly diet, most often people with kidney disease are using it interchangeably with a kidney friendly diet.
In looking at foods and nutrients that support kidney health, you want to consider foods that are generally low in salt, potassium, and phosphorus. If your kidney disease is advanced, then you may be looking at increasing your protein if you’re on dialysis and limiting fluids.
Let’s explore some of the foods that you can eat on a renal diet that support kidney function and may help repair your kidneys.
Foods You Can Eat on a Renal Diet to Repair Kidneys
You want to make sure that you’re eating whole, less processed foods on a renal diet. This is because whole foods don’t have added ingredients like sodium, sweeteners, preservatives, and other chemicals that may impact how hard your kidneys must work to eliminate waste from your body. There are some whole foods you don’t want to eat because they’re high in potassium and/or phosphorus. A banana for example is a high potassium food.
Here’s a quick list of the common foods you can start with eating (although this will change based on your renal dietitian and your needs):
- Meat/Protein: Beef, Chicken, Eggs, Fish, Lamb, Pork, Tofu, Tuna, Salmon, & Turkey
- Fruits: Apple, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Cranberries, Grapes, Lemon, Lime, Pineapple, Plum, Raspberries, Strawberries, Tangerine, & Watermelon
- Vegetables: Arugula, Beans, Bell peppers, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Eggplant, Leeks, Lettuce, Green beans, Mushrooms, Onions, Radishes, & Squash
- Non-Dairy Substitutes: Unfortified Rice milk, unfortified Almond milk, & unfortified Soy milk
- Grains: Rice, quinoa, corn, and some wheat-based breads, bagels, crackers, pasta, & cereals in moderation. White bread is a common choice to add to the diet as well.
Now before you head to the supermarket to start filling your refrigerator and pantry with renal friendly foods, there are a few more key considerations to make when you’re creating your shopping list.
Important Questions for Creating a CKD Grocery List
As mentioned earlier, it’s important for your food choices to be low in sodium, potassium, and phosphorus on a kidney diet. And unless you’re on dialysis, you’ll want to watch your intake of protein. A well-balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and healthy protein will help you protect and preserve your kidneys. Let’s look at some specifics.
Which Proteins Are Easiest on Kidneys?
Chicken or turkey breast, cold water fish like salmon or mackerel, eggs, and tofu are healthy protein options.
Are Fruits & Vegetables Good for Kidneys?
Fruits and vegetables are excellent for your kidney health. The only exception would be to avoid fruits that are high in potassium like bananas, and dried fruits (depending on your stage of kidney disease).
Which Fruits Are Good for Kidneys?
Berries like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are good for kidney health. Apples, kiwi, and pineapple are also tasty options.
Which Vegetables are Good for Kidneys?
Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are all kidney positive vegetables. Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and dandelion greens are excellent sources of nutrients.
What Snacks Can Kidney Patients Eat?
Snacking can feel tricky on a renal diet. However, there are many options. Consider simple things like cut vegetables and a non-dairy dip or apples and almond butter. And berries topped with yogurt is a delicious treat.
How to Create Your Renal Friendly Grocery List if you have Kidney Disease
There are a couple of ways you can go about creating your kidney friendly grocery list. The first is to choose renal diet recipes and build your list from the recipes.
For example, a sheet pan recipe with chicken legs, cauliflower pieces, and red onion sprinkled with a tandoori seasoning is quick, easy, and healthy. This method of preparing your list helps you meal plan effectively for the week.
Another way that you can create your renal friendly grocery list is to make sure your home is stocked with staples. You might buy kidney friendly meats, grains, fruits, and veggies for the week. If you have a good supply of spices, herbs, and spice blends then creating a meal should be easy.
When buying processed foods, make sure it’s low in sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. Phosphorus may be the most difficult to identify as it’s not usually on the label. However, you can look at the ingredients. If you identify any items that have “phos” in them, like phosphate, then it has added inorganic phosphorus and is not great for your kidney disease diet.
You’ll want to make sure that you’re buying dairy alternatives rather than cow’s milk due to the high phosphorus content. Also, they need to not be labeled “enriched” which means they’re adding phosphorus back in. Rice, soy, and almond milks are good alternatives.
It’s up to you how you approach your weekly shopping. Making a list of recipes may be a bit of work at the front end, however it does make it easier to stay on a kidney friendly diet and it makes mealtime decision making simple. If you prefer to wing it, and many people do, then make sure you have a well-stocked kitchen packed with kidney friendly choices.
Renal Diet Grocery List Must Haves
We’ve talked a bit about the various kidney friendly fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy items. Let’s focus, for a minute, on the must haves for a healthy kidney diet.
Breakfast Cereal: If you eat cereal in the morning, then it’s imperative that you make a healthy choice. Simple cereals that are corn or rice based are a good option. If you prefer hot cereal over cold cereals, then steel cut oats are kidney friendly.
Dairy Options: Cow’s milk isn’t kidney friendly. And neither are enriched milk alternatives. Rice, soy, and almond milks are good options. Experiment to find the one that tastes best to you. And don’t forget your coffee creamer!
Snacks: Don’t forget to add snacks to your grocery list. Consider items like granola bars, hard boiled eggs, tuna packets (low sodium), and chopped veggies.
Kidney Friendly Desserts: While dessert should be something that you eat in moderation, you may want to have something available to make. Something simple like berries or fresh fruit and a non-dairy whip is an easy option. You might also consider non-dairy ice cream or low sugar cookies.
What are the Worst Foods to Put on your Grocery List if you Have Kidney Disease?
Processed and convenience foods just aren’t good for you. They’re high in sodium and can cause your kidneys to have to work extra hard. So, something like potato chips should just say off your grocery list.
You also want to avoid salt substitutes like “Nu-Salt”. It's really just potassium chloride (read the food label) and will increase the amount of potassium that you consume without you realizing it. You can have spices that are blends of herbs and spices with no added salt to flavor your foods.
Processed meats like salami and hot dogs are another food item that should stay off your list. Dark colored sodas, like colas, should stay off your list. They are high in phosphorus.
Avocados and bananas should stay off your list unless you’re only eating a small portion of them. Finally, avoid dried fruit because it’s high in sugar and potassium levels.