7 Items To Add to Your Renal Diet Grocery List

Medically reviewed by Walead Latif, D.O.
Posted on April 3, 2023

There’s a lot to consider when eating right for kidney health. Learning to prepare meals at home rather than eating out gives you better control over what you’re eating but requires paying careful attention to food labels at the grocery store. If you’re limiting potassium in your diet, it can be difficult to figure out which foods to eat and which to avoid, such as what’s best to buy from the produce section.

Fortunately, you can still enjoy a variety of flavors on a renal (kidney) diet. Consider putting these seven foods in your shopping cart to round out your menu plan. Keep in mind, however, that dietary requirements for kidney health can vary — don’t forget to talk with your health care provider before making changes to your diet. You can also ask to meet with a renal dietitian for more specific guidance based on your level of kidney function.

1. Cabbage

Compared with many fruits and vegetables, cabbage is lower in potassium, and this leafy green packs a lot of nutritional punch. Try adding chopped cabbage to soups and stews, or wrap a whole leaf around ground meat and white rice with seasonings for stuffed cabbage. You can also shred raw cabbage and carrots to make your own coleslaw. If you’re on a potassium-restricted diet, prepare cabbage by boiling it and discarding the water.

2. Cranberry Juice

Cranberries are increasingly thought of as a functional food (providing more health benefits than basic nutrition) because they’re a concentrated source of antioxidants. In addition to warding off urinary tract infections, compounds in cranberries may improve gut bacteria and reduce inflammation. Although anyone can benefit from these effects, some researchers have suggested that studies should specifically explore whether cranberry supplements could lower the risk of complications for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Cutting back on alcohol is a key recommendation for kidney health, so consider replacing your nightcap with a mocktail made with cranberry juice, club soda, and lime juice. Be aware, however, that some evidence suggests that cranberry can interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners. Study results are mixed, but it’s best to check with your doctor before drinking a lot of juice.

3. Radishes

Kick up the flavor by adding radishes to your plate. Radishes are low in sodium and potassium and keep well in the refrigerator. Some research suggests that the antioxidants in radishes may be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes, a common cause of renal dysfunction. These root vegetables also contain B vitamins, vitamin C, and several important minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium.

Try roasting radishes with olive oil, garlic, and caraway for an interesting side dish. Radishes also go well in broccoli slaw or as an ingredient in homemade dressing.

4. Pineapple

Pineapple is a natural treat that won’t overload you with sodium, protein, or potassium. Chopped pineapple goes great with cottage cheese for breakfast or a snack, but you can also toss the fruit in the blender to sweeten green smoothies or use chunks as a tropical addition to grilled meat skewers. Just remember that dried fruit — including pineapple — can be a concentrated source of potassium, so it’s best to go with fresh.

5. Applesauce

With fewer than 150 milligrams of potassium per half-cup serving, applesauce lets you add sweetness to your menu without overdoing it on potassium. Try sprinkling cinnamon on applesauce and mixing it with yogurt or hot cereal, or place a dollop of applesauce on pork chops for a mix of sweet and savory.

Applesauce is fine on its own, but it can also serve as an ingredient to help keep homemade baked goods moist — experiment with substituting it for some of the melted butter or oil in a recipe. You can incorporate applesauce into recipes for baked goods such as:

  • Apple crisp
  • Brownies
  • Doughnuts
  • Muffins
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles

Add raspberries or blackberries to these baked goods and breakfast treats for added fiber and antioxidants.

Going to an orchard to pick your own apples is a wonderful fall activity. After bringing home your bushel, you can make your own applesauce in a slow cooker or on the stovetop. If you prefer the convenience of store-bought applesauce, look for brands that don’t use added sugar.

6. Sunflower Seeds

Nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, some varieties are too high in protein or potassium for people with CKD. Sunflower seeds are relatively low in phosphorus, potassium, and protein. Choose an unsalted product and enjoy a quarter-cup serving sprinkled on a salad, stirred into yogurt, or added to trail mix. You can also find recipes to make sunflower seed brittle that will satisfy a craving for something crunchy.

7. Onions

Onions are filled with fiber, antioxidants, and flavor. In particular, onions are high in soluble fiber, which is beneficial for lowering cholesterol and keeping blood sugar stable. They’re also lower in potassium than many other veggies.

If you enjoy cooking, making French onion soup can be a rewarding project. Find a low-sodium recipe and freeze leftovers in individual portions as an alternative to high-sodium canned soups. Serve with a fresh baguette and a sprinkle of cheese for a savory, kidney-friendly meal.

If you miss french fries and potato chips, why not try making baked onion rings? Submerge sliced onions in water, and then dip the slices in flour. Combine egg whites and mayonnaise in a bowl, and spread the mixture on the flour-coated rings. Finally, press the onion rings into no-salt Italian breadcrumbs, and bake them on a cookie sheet at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through for even cooking. Some recipes suggest coating the breaded onion rings with cooking spray before baking them.

The Benefits of Preparing Your Own Food

In general, eating at home offers significant benefits, especially when you’re trying to cut back on sodium. The trick is finding natural foods that you enjoy and avoiding processed snacks and frozen meals. By picking out and preparing food yourself rather than grabbing takeout or heading to a restaurant, you can save money and improve your health.

Before adding any new foods to your meal plan, it’s important to talk with your kidney doctor or renal dietitian. If you’re not familiar with cooking or short on ideas for what to eat, ask about any healthy cooking classes available in your community. You might not find offerings geared toward CKD specifically, but a cooking workshop designed for people with diabetes or heart disease might put you on a healthier path.

Talk With Others Who Understand

Do you have any suggestions for a healthy kidney diet? What are some of your go-to foods, and how does living with chronic kidney disease affect your grocery shopping? Share your tips and experiences in a comment below.

Posted on April 3, 2023

Candy

I am looking for easy quick recipes for kidney failure. Please and thank you

posted December 9, 2023
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Walead Latif, D.O. is a board-certified nephrologist and an assistant clinical professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Learn more about him here
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here

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