People with kidney disease may need to control several important nutrients. The following information will help you adjust your diet.

Please discuss your specific and individual diet needs with your doctor or dietitian.


Sodium is a mineral found in salt (sodium chloride), and it is widely used in food preparation. Salt is one of the most commonly used seasonings, and it takes time to get used to reducing the salt in your diet. However, reducing salt/sodium is an important tool in controlling your kidney disease.

  • Do not use salt when cooking food.
  • Do not put salt on food when you eat.
  • Learn to read food labels. Avoid foods that have more than 300mg sodium per serving (or 600mg for a complete frozen dinner). Avoid foods that have salt in the first 4 or 5 items in the ingredient list.
  • Do not eat ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, lunch meats, chicken tenders or nuggets, or regular canned soup. Only eat soups that have labels saying the sodium level is reduced – and only eat 1 cup – not the whole can.
  • Canned vegetables should say “no salt added”.
  • Do not use flavored salts such as garlic salt, onion salt or “seasoned” salt. Also, avoid kosher or sea salt.
  • Be sure to look for lower salt or “no salt added” options for your favorite foods such as peanut butter or box mixes.
  • Do not purchase refrigerated or frozen meats that are packaged “in a solution”; or pre-seasoned/flavored. These items are usually chicken breasts, pork chops, pork tenderloin, steaks, or burgers.


Potassium is a mineral involved in how muscles work. When kidneys do not function properly, potassium builds up in the blood. This can cause changes in how the heart beats, possibly even leading to a heart attack. Potassium is found mainly in fruits and vegetables; plus milk and meats. You will need to avoid certain ones and limit the amount of others.

Potassium-rich foods to avoid:

  • Melons such as cantaloupe and honeydew (watermelon is okay)
  • Bananas
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Prune juice
  • Tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice
  • Dried beans – all kinds
  • Pumpkin
  • Winter squash
  • Cooked greens, spinach, kale, collards, Swiss Chard

Other foods to avoid include bran cereals, granola, “salt substitute” or “lite” salt, molasses. Potatoes and sweet potatoes need special handling to allow you to eat them in SMALL amounts. Peel them, cut them in small slices or cubes and soak them for several hours in a large amount of water. When you are ready to cook them, pour the soaking water off and use a large amount of water in the pan. Drain this water before you prepare them to eat.

Be sure to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day to avoid getting too much potassium.


Phosphorus is another mineral that can build up in your blood when your kidneys don’t work properly. When this happens, calcium can be pulled from your bones and can collect in your skin or blood vessels. Bone disease can then become a problem, making you more likely to have a bone break.

  • Dairy foods are the major source of phosphorus in the diet, so limit milk to 1 cup per day. If you use yogurt or cheese instead of liquid milk – only one container OR 1 ounce a day!
  • Some vegetables also contain phosphorus. Limit these to 1 cup per WEEK: dried beans, greens, broccoli, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Certain cereals need to be limited to 1 serving a week: bran, wheat cereals, oatmeal, and granola.
  • White bread is better than whole grain breads or crackers.
  • Soft drinks contain phosphorus so only drink clear ones. Do not drink Mountain Dew® (any kind), colas, root beers, Dr. Pepper® (any kind). Also, avoid Hawaiian Punch®, Fruitworks®, Cool® iced tea, and Aquafina® tangerine pineapple.
  • Beer also has phosphorus – avoid all kinds.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/21/2017.


  • Nutrition Care Manual. Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, 2013.
  • Wright, Mark & Jones, Colin. Nutrition in CKD Guidelines. The Renal Association, 2010.
  • Kovesdy CP, Shinaberger CS, Kalantar-zadeh K. Epidemiology of dietary nutrient intake in ESRD. Semin Dial. 2010;23(4):353-8.
  • Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes. Clinical Practice Guidelines. ( Accessed 3/17/2017.
  • National Kidney Foundation. Kidney Disease Outcome Quality Initiative Guidelines. ( Accessed 3/17/2017.
  • National Kidney Disease Education Program. ( Accessed 3/17/2017.
  • National Kidney Foundation. ( Accessed 3/17/2017.

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