Eating candy is not only for holidays such as Halloween or Valentine’s Day. Sweets are enjoyable all year ‘round. Candy seems to be everywhere – from a coworker’s candy jar to the checkout register at a restaurant – easily triggering a sweet tooth. People generally experience a craving for candy, but for those on a kidney-friendly diet, there are some candies that are better suited than others.
For people with chronic kidney disease (CKD), some candies can be too high in phosphorus, potassium or sodium, which is restricted on the kidney diet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t satisfy your sweet tooth.
Phosphorus, potassium, sodium and candy
Many popular candies happen to be of the chocolate and nut variety, which contains phosphorus and potassium. Because people with kidney disease cannot remove excess phosphorus and potassium from their blood, it can be dangerous. Too much phosphorus can cause a person with kidney disease bone and heart problems, low blood calcium and the hardening of tissues. That is why it is important to identify candy low in phosphorus.
Potassium is a mineral as well, but it controls nerve and muscle function. The heart is one very important muscle that beats normally because of potassium. Because kidney function is minimal in people with kidney disease, potassium can build up in the body. This can cause nausea, weakness and heart failure. Learning about the kidney diet will help you know which candies are low in potassium.
Candy for people with chronic kidney disease
There are candies that are okay for people with chronic kidney disease and those on dialysis. In order to find out which candies are acceptable, check the nutrition label on the candy’s package to make sure it is low in phosphorus and sodium. Because phosphorus and potassium aren’t always listed on nutrition labels, refer to this list of some candies that are kidney-friendly.
Sugar free hard candy (ideal for people with diabetes)
Charms® sour balls
Lollipops (Dum Dum Pops® or Charms® lollipops)
Smarties® (known as Rockets® in Canada)
Mike and Ike® candy
Gummy Bears and fruit slices
Now and Later®
Conversation hearts (usually found around Valentine’s Day)
Peach and apple rings
Sour Patch® Kids®
Shortbread cookie-type candy
Fondant (type of cake icing)
Candy in limited amounts on a kidney diet
Like many foods on the kidney diet, some candies are okay in limited amounts and frequency. Guidance from your renal dietitian may help you learn which candies with a bit of chocolate or other limited ingredients you can eat every so often. Listed are some candies that can be eaten by people with chronic kidney disease or on dialysis in limited amounts.
Werther’s Original® hard candy
Chocolate wafer candy bars
Chocolate-covered peppermint candies
Candy not recommended on a kidney diet
Chocolate and nuts contain high amounts of phosphorus and potassium. Your dietitian can help you see which candy is acceptable and which is not. Here are examples of candy types that are not recommended for people with kidney disease or on dialysis.
Chocolate candy bars
Milk, dark or other types of candy bars containing chocolate or cocoa
Chocolate and nut candy bars
Snicker’s® candy bar
Candy bars that contain nuts
Pay Day® candy bar
Candy bars that contain peanut butter
Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cups, pieces, etc.
If you choose to eat these candies, consider purchasing the smaller or bite size, and have only one piece occasionally.
Candy, diabetes and chronic kidney disease
For people who have diabetes and chronic kidney disease, the approach to candy can be slightly different. Your diet consists of foods that help manage your blood glucose levels and control the amount of waste and fluids in your blood. People with diabetes and chronic kidney disease may be asked to avoid or limit the amount of candy they eat to help control blood sugar levels. Candy bars, hard candy, jelly beans, gum drops and chocolate are some of the sweets you are asked to cut back on.
If you have diabetes and are on dialysis, you will follow the diabetic dialysis diet. Similar to the diabetic diet for people with good kidney function, the main goal is to manage blood glucose levels with medication, diet and exercise. Carbohydrates increase blood glucose, but by knowing how much carbohydrate you should have at each meal and snack, you may be able to include some candies. Some sugar-free candies are lower in carbohydrates, so that may be a good choice. Others contain high amounts of carbohydrates, even though some candy is made with alternative sweeteners. You will learn from your dietitian which candy contains too much phosphorus or potassium and should be avoided.
In addition to eating candy for enjoyment, you may want to have some sugar-containing hard candy to eat if low blood sugar occurs or to provide you with extra carbohydrates during intense or prolonged exercise.
Chocolate lovers: Working with your dietitian
People who love chocolate may find the kidney diet difficult, because chocolate contains a significant amount of phosphorus and potassium. In addition, many chocolate candies also contain nuts – another high potassium, high phosphorus ingredient.
Keep in mind that you have a dietitian who can help modify your current diet into one that adds kidney-friendly candy. Talk to your dietitian about your favorite candy and candy bars so you can get advice on alternatives, find out about new candies as well as get tips on how you can treat yourself every once in a while.
Candy can help control thirst and add calories on the dialysis diet
Fluid is usually limited for dialysis patients. People become thirsty and need an alternative to drinking water or other liquids. Sucking on hard candy and sour candies can help control thirst. A person’s mouth becomes moistened and this will often stop someone from overloading on liquids.
In addition to helping control thirst, candy for people with kidney disease can be used to add calories to their kidney diet. Some people on dialysis may need to boost their calorie intake, and adding a small amount of candy may be a good way for a person to achieve their goal.
Some candies can be too high in phosphorus or potassium for those on a kidney or dialysis diet. But there are many candies that are okay. Look at the label before you eat candy. Your dietitian can also help you determine how to enjoy your old favorites from time to time.