For Patients & Families: Diet and Nutrition

diet and nutrition

overview and introduction

eating well, living well

Eating a good diet and getting enough exercise are important for every person's physical health and well-being, but they are even more important for people who need to actively monitor their kidney health.


When your kidneys are functioning normally they help you regulate the nutrients and minerals flowing through your body. But if you have kidney disease, your kidneys are usually not performing this job well enough. To make sure you get the right balance of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals - and to help limit the build-up of waste in your blood stream - your health care provider will almost certainly recommend you take great care in planning your diet.


How you manage your diet will depend on many factors. Patients who are on dialysis, for instance, can have very different nutritional needs from someone who is in the early stages of chronic kidney disease. Additional health and medical conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, weight, etc.) can affect meal planning further.


For many patients looking to take control of their nutrition, it can be useful to work with a dietitian. Dietitians will help you plan your meals; identify food that is easy on your kidneys; and build individualized eating plans that address your specific health concerns, and make eating an enjoyable and nutritious experience. Our Foundation Dietitian, Dr. Melissa Prest, offers complimentary consultations for CKD, dialysis and transplant patients and their caregivers.  To book your appointment, email her at or call 312-321-1500. 

dietary consultations

dr. melissa prest

Our Foundation Dietitian, Dr. Melissa Prest,  DCN, MS, RDN, CSR, LDN, offers free consultations for patients with kidney disease, on dialysis, post transplant and their caregivers!

Consultations take place via telephone or Zoom. 

Changing your diet can change the trajectory of of your chronic kidney disease by slowing its progression. Dr. Prest can help you understand which foods affect your numbers and help you create a diet that works for your lifestyle. 

Contact her at or 312-321-1500  to set up your consultation.

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helpful resources

applications, cookbooks and community

For many patients battling kidney disease, managing the particulars of a kidney-friendly diet can be challenging. If you ever need a hand eating healthy, or are looking for some nutritional guidance, consider referencing the following apps, cookbooks, and online culinary resources.

Everyday Eating Cookbook 

The Everyday Eating Cookbook is presented by the Illinois Council on Renal Nutrition (ICRN). It is a unique, valuable kidney-health focused cookbook that offers:


  • Nutrient analysis for renal patients

  • Easy to make recipes that EVERYONE will enjoy

  • Exciting options for holiday menus and kids' cuisine

  • Tasty substitutions for each recipe


To order this TOTALLY FREE cookbook simply fill out the form below, and send it to our office at 

Or download an electronic copy here. Questions? Please call (312) 321-1500.

Featured Recipe 

Roasted Red Cabbage


1 head of red cabbage, shredded
3 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP paprika
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 - 2 cups balsamic vinegar to make balsamic drizzle



  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Shred the head of cabbage into 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide strips.

  3. Peel, crush and chop garlic.

  4. Spread cabbage onto a baking sheet, top with garlic and toss to mix.

  5. Drizzle olive oil over the cabbage and garlic. 

  6. Sprinkle cabbage with garlic with paprika.

  7. Place in oven to roast for 20 - 25 minutes, until the cabbage begins to have brown, crispy pieces.

  8. Remove from oven and use balsamic drizzle over the cabbage.

  9. Serve and enjoy!

App for Patients

H2Overload: Designed for people who need to limit their fluid intake, especially people with hyponatremia, kidney failure, or heart disease. Track your daily fluid intake, weight and blood pressure - you can even send a report to your healthcare provider or caretaker through the app!

Available in the iTunes Store. 

Guidelines for Dietitians 

KDOQI clinical practice guidelines are world-renowned for improving the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease. These guidelines have changed the practices of healthcare professionals and improved thousands lof lives. 


CRN Pocket Guide 

This resource from the National Kidney Foundation provides concentrated information that clinicians use on a regular basis and offers shortcuts to calculations for commonly used formulas and easy-to-find CKD nutrition information.


Kidney Diet Basics: Online References 

Nutrition is key to managing kidney disease and your overall health. Learn more about food and your kidneys here.:


Nutrition: Your dietary needs change, based on your stage of kidney disease. Find out more about nutrition at every stage. 

Spice Up Your Diet: Giving up salt does not mean giving up flavor. Learn to season your food with herbs and spices. Be creative and experiment for a new and exciting flavor.

Kidney Diets: Online References 

Many health care experts encourage patients battling kidney disease, diabetes, and/or hypertension to consider the following diets:


A Plant-Based Diet: Studies show that eating whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables is one of the most important ways to keep kidneys healthy.

DASH Diet: This diet helps decrease blood pressure, lowers the risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer, and reduces the risk of kidney stone formation.

diet & kidney disease

get started learning about eating with kidney disease

If you have kidney disease, your doctor will likely advise you to be more aware of the protein, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium in your diet. If you are in the early stages of CKD, there may be few, if any, limits on what you can eat. But as CKD progresses, you’ll have to be more careful about what you put into your body. For example: people with kidney failure who are on dialysis will have very different dietary needs than someone with stage 2 or 3 kidney disease.


It is important to remember that each patient's dietary needs are unique - they're based on the stage of your kidney disease, other medical conditions, medications, weight, and overall health. A dietitian can teach you to make the best food choices based on your lab tests and personal lifestyle. Our Foundation Dietitian, Dr. Melissa Prest, offers complimentary consultations for CKD patients and their caregivers.  To book your appointment, email her at or call 312-321-1500. 


diet & dialysis

learn how to eat well on dialysis

A well constructed meal plan can play a big role in your dialysis treatment. Some pieces of a dialysis diet will carry over from the earlier stages of kidney disease (lower salt, potassium and phosphorus), but there are two key nutritional differences to monitor once you begin dialysis treatments: proteins and fluids.


  • Proteins. Dialysis patients lose protein during treatment, which means they need to compensate by incorporating more protein into their meals. Protein can help maintain blood protein levels and improve health. Many doctors recommend you eat a high protein food (meat, fish, poultry, fresh pork, eggs, etc.) at every meal, or about 8 - 10 ounces of high protein foods everyday.


  • Fluids. Limiting fluids will help you feel better and stay healthier. Once you’re on dialysis, you may urinate very little - or not at all. Any extra fluid must be removed by dialysis, and consuming too much fluid may cause buildup between dialysis sessions, which may result in: headaches; swelling in your face, hands and feet (edema); trouble breathing; high blood pressure/stroke risk; heart damage (from stretching your heart with too much fluid).


Fluids are typically limited on a dialysis diet, but the exact amount you should have each day may depend on your health and the type of dialysis you’re on. People on at-home peritoneal dialysis may have fewer fluid restrictions, while people on in-center hemodialysis generally have greater limitations to their fluid intake. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how to manage your fluids and feel your best. Our Foundation Dietitian, Dr. Melissa Prest, offers complimentary consultations for dialysis patients and their caregivers.  To book your appointment, email her at or call 312-321-1500. 




diet & kidney transplants

explore how your diet changes after receiving a transplant

After a kidney transplant, your diet will still be an important part of maintaining your overall health, but managing your diet may be easier than it was when you were battling kidney disease and/or when you were on dialysis.


Use the following list of facts to begin learning about the role nutrition can play post-transplant, and find answers to some questions common to patients managing life with a new kidney. 

Our Foundation Dietitian, Dr. Melissa Prest, offers complimentary consultations for transplant patients and their caregivers.  To book your appointment, email her at or call 312-321-1500. 

Do I need to be on a special diet?

Yes, your diet still plays a big role after a kidney transplant. It is important to maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. A healthy, balanced diet will help prevent high blood sugar, excess weight gain and promote overall wellness and health.

After a kidney transplant, plan to follow a diet low in salt. A balanced diet includes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, reduced-fat dairy products, whole grains, and plenty of water.

Additionally, you may need to avoid eating certain types of foods. Your healthcare team can help you understand which foods you should avoid – and why. The dietitian at your transplant center can help you find a diet that is right for you.

If you were on dialysis and had a kidney transplant, you may find that this diet is easier to follow than the one you were on for your dialysis.

Will any of the medicine affect my diet?

Yes. Your diet will be affected by the use of the medicine you need to prevent rejection of your transplant. Some common anti-rejection medicines that may affect your diet include:

  • steroids (prednisone)
  • cyclosporine (Sandimmune, Neoral, Gengraf)
  • tacrolimus (Prograf)
  • azathioprine (Imuran)
  • mycophenolate (CellCept)

This list will continue to grow as new medications are developed. These medicines may change the way your body works in different ways.

Should I avoid any foods?

After your kidney transplant, you will need to take special medicines, called “immunosuppressive drugs” or “anti-rejection medicines.” These medicines help lower the risk of your new kidney being rejected. However, these medicines also weaken your body’s ability to fight infection. Taking these medicines increases your risk for getting sick from germs, such as bacteria.

Some germs cause bacterial infections. Some bacterial infections can be picked up from food. You can help lower your risk of infection from food by:

  • Handling foods safely, like washing your hands after touching raw chicken or eggs
  • Being careful when eating out
  • Avoiding certain ‘high-risk’ foods because they are more likely to have bacteria that can cause an infection

You may also need to take steroids, which can cause:

  • Increased appetite, causing unwanted weight gain
  • Increased blood fat levels (cholesterol & triglycerides)
  • Salt and fluid retention
  • A breakdown in muscle and bone tissue
Due to unwanted weight gain, it’s important to make healthy food choices and stick to appropriate portion sizes. It may be good to avoid fatty foods and foods high in simple sugar. Check with your doctor before exercise. Most often, you may need to exercise 3-4 times a week for 20-30 minutes each time.

Will I gain weight?

Many people have a better appetite after they get a transplant, and they gain unwanted weight. Weigh yourself often. Limit high-calorie foods such as fatty foods, sweets, pastries and other foods rich in fat or sugar. You can help control your calories by eating:

  • raw vegetables and fruits
  • lean meat, skinned poultry and fish
  • nonfat dairy products
  • sugar-free drinks like diet soda

Controlling your weight will lower your chance of having problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. If you gain unwanted weight, you will need to exercise more and follow a low-calorie diet. Ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian to plan low-calorie meals and snacks.

What about my cholesterol and triglyceride levels?

Fat (cholesterol or triglyceride) levels in your blood may be high. High levels of cholesterol and triglyceride can cause heart disease. There are many steps you can take to lower the fat and cholesterol in your blood.

What about foods high in carbohydrates?

You should know some important facts about foods high in carbohydrates:

  • Carbohydrates come from sugars and starches
  • They provide fuel and energy for your body
  • When you take steroid medication, it is hard for your body to use extra carbohydrates. This can lead to high blood sugar levels and may cause diabetes

Do I still need to follow a low-salt diet?

Most people still need to limit salt after they get a transplant, although it is different with each person. Transplant medicines, especially steroids, may cause your body to hold on to fluid, and salt makes this problem worse.

Increased fluid in the body raises blood pressure. Controlling blood pressure is very important to your transplant. Your doctor will decide how much sodium is best for you.

What about protein?

Protein is important for the following reasons:

  • It builds and repairs muscles and tissues
  • It helps you heal after the transplant operation

Your protein intake will need to be higher than normal right after your transplant to help build up the muscle tissue that will be broken down by the large doses of steroids. Later, you can return to moderate amounts of protein.

What about potassium?

As long as your transplant is working well, you should be able to take in normal amounts of potassium from your food. However, some transplant medicines can increase your blood level of potassium, while other medicines may decrease it.

Are calcium and phosphorus a problem?

You may need to pay close attention to your calcium and phosphorus levels. If you have been ill for a period of time, your body probably lacks the balance of calcium and phosphorus needed for healthy bones, especially if you had kidney disease. In the months after your transplant, your doctor will check for possible bone loss and talk to you about the best way to keep your bones as healthy as possible.

In the meantime, every adult needs about two servings a day from the dairy group (low fat milk, cheese and yogurt). Unless your doctor or dietitian has told you not to use these foods, try to include them in your meals. Your doctor may decide you need more calcium and phosphorus than your diet provides and may tell you to take a supplement. You should not start any supplements on your own as this could cause problems with your transplant.

What if I have diabetes?

After a transplant, your new diet may be higher in protein and lower in sugars due to the effects of steroids and other medicines. Work with your doctor and dietitian to keep your diet and blood sugar in good control.

kidneys in the kitchen

shop healthy, eat healthy


Kidneys in the Kitchen is a video series from the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois and Registered Dietitian Dr. Melissa Prest. Each installment, we introduce you to new, healthy recipes, and offer tips and tricks for making smarter purchasing decisions at the grocery store.


Each installment of Kidneys in the Kitchen focuses on a different aspect of meal-planning and nutrition. But whether we're talking about snacks, seasonal produce, or well-balanced holiday feast, we'll always be focusing on helping you learn how to prepare healthy, delicious dishes.


For more information please contact Foundation Dietitian Melissa Prest at or (312) 321-1500.

Want to watch past episodes? Just click

below to visit our video playlist.

kidneys in the kitchen

shop healthy, eat healthy

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de la cocina, a tu riñon

compre sano, coma sano

A través de nuestra serie De la Cocina, a tu riñon, usted podrá obtener más información sobre cómo cocinar alimentos saludables para las personas viviendo con enfermedad renal.

Cada capítulo de De la cocina, a tu riñon se enfoca en un aspecto diferente de nutrición y la planificación de comidas. Ya sea que estemos hablando de meriendas, productos de temporada o banquetes festivos bien balanceados, nuestro enfoque siempre será enseñarle como preparar platillos saludables y deliciosos.

Suscríbase a nuestro canal de YouTube para ver cada episodio.

Para obtener más información comuníquese con la dietista de la Fundación, Melissa Prest, por teléfono o correo electrónico: (312) 321-1500 |


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NKFI kidney health resources

The information shared on this website has been reviewed by staff at the New York City headquarters of the National Kidney Foundation. Please note: material contained here are intended solely for reference. This material does not constitute medical advice; it is intended for informational purposes only. If you feel you need professional medical care, please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.