I’ve been told by my dietitian to eat regular meals and snacks. I have a hard enough time trying to figure out what to eat for meals, much less snacks. What are good choices for someone with kidney disease?
Whether you eat three regular meals, more frequent smaller meals, or your meals seem to blend into the next – for every eating plan out there, snacks can play a major role in a healthy diet. When you have polycystic kidney disease (PKD), whether you’re in the early stages or on dialysis, snacking should be a regular addition to your daily diet. Healthy snacking is key, and will most likely, require a bit of planning.
Snacking when you’re on the kidney diet
Snacking is definitely okay and often recommended when on a kidney diet. It may help to curb your appetite and prevent you from overeating at your next meal, as long as you make healthy choices. Rather than eating a food item that is high in sodium, such as a small bag of potato chips, a better option for a mid-morning or afternoon snack may be a piece of kidney-friendly fruit.
In addition to being aware of what you eat, you need to consider how much you are eating. A very normal side affect of kidney disease progression is a decreased appetite and intake. If your physician encourages you to try to increase your calorie intake, your renal dietitian can give you ideas for the very best choices. Snacking is also a great way to compensate for low-calorie intake when your appetite is not so great, and to keep you satisfied if you feel that your diet is too restricted.
Go through any cookie or cracker aisle of your local grocery store and you’ll find a wide array of snacks. However, if you have PKD, you should limit or avoid certain ingredients that may be present in snack foods. Your doctor or dietitian may recommend that you limit your intake of phosphorus, potassium, sodium and calcium if your kidneys are no longer able to keep these minerals in balance. Keep in mind, unless told differently, by your doctor and/or dietitian, no food is off limits entirely. It all comes down to balance. By educating yourself and with the help of your dietitian, there are many kidney-friendly, healthy and tasty snacks available.
When you look for snacks at the store, staying on the perimeter of the store is always best practice. The produce section, where you can find fruits and veggies are usually a great place to start for good snack options. Your local farmer’s market is also a phenomenal place to try new, fresh snack ideas.
Below is a small list of fruits and vegetables that are low in potassium and great choices for a kidney diet. Not only are these foods good for kidney health, they also provide benefits for overall health. If you are on a potassium restriction, be sure to limit the number and size of servings of fruits and vegetables to those recommended by your dietitian.
- Apples – High in fiber; good for the digestive system
- Blueberries – High in antioxidants
- Carrot sticks – High in beta-carotene
- Cherries – Inflammation-reducers
- Dried, sweetened cranberries – Helps to protect against heart disease
- Grapes – Contains resveratrol to improve blood flow
- Raspberries – Rich in ellagic acid; helps neutralize free radicals in the body to prevent cell damage
- Red bell peppers – Good source of folic acid and vitamins C and A
- Red leaf lettuce – Contains antioxidants beta-carotene and lutein
- Strawberries – High in vitamin C
If you find yourself away from the grocery store perimeter, here are some other options not found in the produce section. Be sure to check the nutrition label and avoid any items that contain added phosphorus.
- Animal crackers
- Bread sticks
- Graham crackers
- Low-sodium crackers
- Low-sodium or unsalted tortilla chips
- Muffin (limit bran and chocolate muffins, as well as ones with nuts due to a higher potassium and phosphorus content)
- Rice cakes
- Unsalted pretzels
- Unsalted popcorn (making it at home, on the stove, is your best option)
Some high sugar snacks help boost calorie intake and may be recommended if you are losing weight due to a poor appetite. If you have diabetes, consult your doctor before consuming sugary snacks. For some kidney patients, diet restrictions may cause unwanted weight loss. These snacks can help provide extra calories if needed.
- Fruit pie- made with lower-potassium fruits (ex. Apple, cherry, etc.)
- Hard candies
- Jelly beans
- Shortbread cookies
- Sugar cookies
- White or yellow cake
- Vanilla wafers
If you have low albumin (blood protein) and your dietitian recommends extra protein, you may want to include these protein snacks. For dialysis patients taking phosphate binders, you may be instructed to take binders with protein-containing snacks to keep phosphorus in control.
- Cottage cheese
- Chicken salad
- Deviled egg
- Egg salad
- Hard cooked egg or egg white
- High-protein supplements (drinks or bars; check with your dietitian for ones that are appropriate for your diet.)
- Sliced roast beef-from the deli is best
- Sliced turkey-avoid pre-packaged meats, as much as possible
- Tuna salad
NOTE: 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 complete dietary plan and recommendations.
Buy a copy of our cookbook, Cooking Well, which is full of delicious PKD-friendly recipes to help you make healthy choices without sacrificing taste.