top of page

For Patients & Families: Diet and Nutrition

diet and nutrition

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. 


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


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

Featured Recipe 

Grilled Corn

Serves 4


4 ears of corn, in husks

2 T. sweet butter

pepper to taste



  1. Cover corn in cold water, soak for at least 1 hour.

  2. Roast over hot coals for 40 minutes. Turn as necessary when husks look browned. Inside husk will be moist and hot when outside is brown and dry. 

  3. Remove corn from coals and remove husks. Season with butter and pepper. 

Apps for Patients

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. 

CKD and Diet

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. 

Dialysis and Diet


Transplants and Diet

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. 

  • Why are the kidneys so important?
    Your kidneys perform important functions that affect every part of your body. In fact, many other organs depend upon the kidneys to function normally. The kidneys perform complicated jobs that keep the rest of the body in balance. When the kidneys become damaged, your body’s other organs are affected as well. The major job of the kidneys is to remove waste products and extra fluids from the body in the form of urine. The production of urine is a complicated process that maintains a chemical balance in your body. Your kidneys also regulate your body’s salt, potassium and acid content, and make hormones that affect the way your other organs function. One hormone produced by the kidneys is needed to make red blood cells. Others help regulate your blood pressure and help your body use calcium. Your kidneys also: Remove waste products from your body Balance chemicals in your body, such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and sodium Balance your body’s fluids Regulate your blood pressure Promote strong, healthy bones
  • How do your kidneys work / function?
    Each of your two kidneys contains about one million functioning units called nephrons. A nephron consists of a filtering unit of tiny blood vessels, called a glomerulus, which is attached to a tubule. When blood enters the glomerulus, it is filtered and the remaining fluid then passes through the tubule. In the tubule, chemicals and water are either added to or removed from this filtered fluid according to the body's needs. The final product is urine, which we excrete. The kidneys perform their life-sustaining job of filtering and returning to the bloodstream about 200 quarts of fluid every 24 hours. Approximately two quarts are eliminated from the body in the form of urine, and about 198 quarts are retained in the body. The urine we excrete has been stored in the bladder anywhere from 1 to 8 hours.
  • What is chronic kidney disease?
    Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means the kidneys are damaged. When the kidneys are damaged, they cannot filter blood and do their other jobs well enough. Protein in the urine for three months or longer is a warning sign of kidney damage. Your level of kidney function is measured by the test for glomerular filtration rate (GFR). A GFR of less than 60 for three months or more indicates CKD.
  • What are some of the types and causes of kidney disease?
    There are many types of kidney disease, and it usually affects both kidneys. If the kidneys' ability to filter the blood is damaged by disease, wastes and excess fluid may build up in the body, causing severe swelling and symptoms of kidney failure. The kidneys may be affected by diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Some kidney diseases are inherited Other diseases are congenital; that is, individuals may be born with an abnormality that can affect their kidneys. The following are some of the most common types and causes of kidney disease: Diabetes is the leading cause of serious kidney disease. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is another common cause of kidney disease. Glomerulonephritis is a disease that causes inflammation of the kidney's tiny filtering units, the glomeruli. Polycystic kidney disease is the most common inherited kidney disease. Kidney stones are a common kidney malady that can cause further damage to the kidneys if they are not treated. Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract and cause symptoms such as pain and/or burning during urination and more frequent need to urinate. Congenital diseases such as Goodpasture's Syndrome and Reflux Disorder may also affect the kidneys. Overuse of over-the-counter medications and the use and buildup of illegal drugs in the body can cause kidney failure. To learn more about kidney disease, please click here.
  • How is kidney disease detected?
    Early detection and treatment can slow or prevent the progression of kidney disease. Some simple tests can be done to detect early kidney disease. They are: Blood pressure monitoring. High blood pressure is a cause of kidney disease. It may also be a sign of kidney trouble. A test for protein in the urine. Too much protein in your urine may mean that your kidneys’ filtering units have been damaged. A single positive result could be due to a fever or heavy exercise, so your doctor will want to confirm your urine protein test results over several weeks. An estimate of your Glomerular Filtraion Rate (GFR) to show how much kidney function you have. Your doctor uses the results of a blood test, along with your age, gender, and race, to estimate your GFR number. This number tells your doctor how much kidney function you have. As CKD progresses, your GFR number decreases. A completely healthy kidey function is measured at a GFR of around a 100, which means that the kidneys are working at 100 percent. Your kidney function is still considered normal if the GFR number is 90 or greater. Here's a way to understand the GFR scale: If your GFR is 45, you know that your kidneys are working at approximately 45 percent of the normal rate. It is very important that people who are at increased risk for kidney disease have these tests.
  • Can kidney desease be treated?
    Many kidney diseases can be treated. Careful control of diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure can help to prevent kidney disease or slow its progression. Kidney stones and urinary tract infections often can be treated successfully. Unfortunately, the exact causes of some kidney diseases are still unknown, and specific treatments are not yet available. Sometimes these diseases progress to chronic kidney failure, requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation. Changes in diet and treatment for high blood pressure sometimes help to slow the progression of these diseases. Research is being conducted to find more effective treatment for these diseases.
  • If I have chronic kidney disease, do I need dialysis?"
    Ultimately, dialysis is treatment option that is entirely up to the patient. Normally, dialysis is not considered as a treatment option unless a patient is expereincing end-stage kidney failure (which usually occurs when a patient loses about 85 to 90 percent of their kidney function, and they have a GFR of less than 15). If you are not in end-stage kidney failure, your physician will likely work to slow, or control, the cause of your kidney disease. Treatment options vary, depending on the cause. But kidney damage can continue to worsen even when an underlying condition, such as high blood pressure, has been controlled. Your doctor will likely also work to treat any complications that arise from kidney disease. Treatments may include: High blood pressure medications Medications to lower cholesterol levels Medications to treat anemia Medications to relieve swelling Medications to protect your bones A lower protein diet to minimize waste products in your blood

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.

bottom of page