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Milk Alternatives

I’ve been told that I should avoid/limit milk products. What are my alternatives?

People with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) may have to limit dairy product intake in their kidney diet, at some point in their disease process. Did you know that only 8 ounces (1 cup) of regular milk contains 8 grams of protein, 230 mg of phosphorus, 366 mg (almost 10 Meq) of potassium and 290 mg of calcium. When you might have been placed on a 1000-1200 mg phosphorus restriction and/ or a 60 Meq potassium restriction, this can add up fast. The higher levels of these minerals may not be the best choices for someone trying to limit phosphorus and/or potassium in their daily diets.

It may be recommended for people with PKD, to limit consumption of dairy products, sometimes to only a half a cup of milk, half a cup of yogurt or one ounce of cheese per day. People considering low-fat milk as a better option may be surprised to learn that it is actually less kidney-friendly than the high-fat counterparts, because low-fat milk contains higher levels of potassium and phosphorus. But, the question I get most often when it comes to this is, isn’t milk good for my bones?
Bones are mostly made of calcium and phosphorus. When kidney function is perfect, the kidneys are able to keep these two minerals in balance in the blood and bones. However, kidney disease causes this process to become unbalanced.
• Excess phosphorus cannot be excreted by the kidneys and builds up in the blood
• Kidneys no longer activate Vitamin D which affects the ability to absorb calcium from food eaten
• Low blood calcium levels cause calcium (and phosphorus) to be released from the bones, weakening them over time
• Increased phosphorus in the blood combines with calcium, causing calcifications elsewhere in the body and decreasing amount of blood calcium
• More calcium (and phosphorus) is released from the bones and a vicious cycle can begin.
Despite milk’s calcium content, its high phosphorus content may actually weaken bones.

Are there any alternatives to milk if I have kidney disease?

Yes. In recent years, the number of alternative milk choices in the market has grown significantly. Soy milk and nondairy creamer can be found in most grocery stores, while products such as rice milk and almond milk have also gained in popularity. However, some of these products do contain significant amounts of potassium and/or phosphorus. It is important to check the label for additives containing these nutrients.

What should I consider in choosing a milk alternative?
Calcium, phosphorus, potassium and protein content should all be considered when choosing a milk alternative. Your dietitian can help you determine which milk alternative is right for your diet. The ingredient list often gives clues to help when selecting a milk alternative. Products with phosphate additives or fortified with calcium would not be the best choices. It often helps to contact the company directly to get the most current nutritional information. Here are some milk alternatives that people with kidney disease may consider using in their diets:
Rice milk
• Rice Dream Rice Drink Original Classic
• Rice Dream Rice Drink Vanilla Classic
Nondairy creamer
• Nestle Coffee-Mate, Original Fat-Free
• Nestle CoffeeMate Original Low-Fat
• Nestle CoffeMate Original
• Rich’s Coffee Rich, Regular and Fat-Free
• Mocha Mix Original
Soy milk
• Edensoy Light Vanilla Soy Milk
• Edensoy Light Original Soy Milk
• Pacific Select Soy Low-Fat Plain
• Pacific Select Soy Low-Fat Vanilla
Almond milk
• Almond Breeze, Unsweetened Original
• Almond Breeze, Unsweetened Vanilla
• Pacific Organic Almond Unsweetened Low-Fat Original
• Pacific Organic Almond Unsweetened Low-Fat Vanilla
• Pacific Organic Almond Original
• Pacific Organic Almond Vanilla

Kidney diets and best food choices can be confusing and recommendations can change, especially as the disease process progresses. ALWAYS, refer to your dietitian and/or doctor if unsure if a product is recommended for you.

Information or materials posted on this blog are intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, medical opinion, diagnosis or treatment. Any information posted on this blog is not a substitute for patient specific medical information or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare team or dietitian for a more complete dietary plan and recommendations.



  1. Danielle says:

    You left out Coconut Milk…why?

    1. Gladys Bafus says:

      I like to use pineapple coconut milk on my cereal, can you explain why you did not list coconut milk in your article

  2. Kelly Welsh says:

    Hi Danielle!
    I only left out coconut milk because it can be very high in potassium. A lot of Chronic Kidney Disease patients needs to monitor their intake of potassium. If potassium is not elevated, or you have not been told to limit potassium, then coconut milk is a great alternative. Hope this helps!


    1. Terri Norton says:

      Thank you. Potassium isn’t a problem right now, but as a dairy farm boy, he missed milk. But likes coconut milk. A couple times aweek just might work

  3. JAY says:


  4. Gordon Reid says:

    With regards to Nestlé coffee mate. When I read the ingredients, the product contains a lot of E. numbers. These include several with the word phosphate in the scientific term. Just how much phospate is in each serving of Nestlé Coffee Mate appears to not be documented. My question then is, does anyone know what the phosphorus (phosphate ) level per serving of Nestlé Coffee Mate?

  5. Lp says:

    I love the refrigerated coconut milk too and it lists low K and Na
    But does not list phos anywhere on the nutritional facts.
    Does anyone know thenphos contentent ?

  6. Pamela says:

    Rice Milk has arsenic and Almond Milk has carrageenan, so now what?

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