(Image courtesy Black Health Matters)

By Black Health Matters

Meal preparation can be time consuming. The purpose is to save time and stay healthy in the long run. If you are preparing and planning meals for someone who is living with kidney disease, it can feel overwhelming at first. The key is planning, knowledge and preparation. 

There are dietary restrictions when it comes to foods that kidney patients can consume. The restrictions of the meals depend on the stage of kidney disease as well as the overall health of the patient. “Many patients are in kidney disease because of diabetes or hypertension,” says William Craig R.D. Keeping this in mind, there are also other reasons patients have kidney disease. When preparing foods, it is important to take all of this into consideration. 

There are many kidney-friendly options that can be prepared for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

For someone who is in stage one, “this is a minimal stage so you can probably continue to eat a ‘normal’ meal plan,” advised Craig. When the stages increase, so do the restrictions.

For example, fruits and vegetables are the go-to food for an overall healthy diet. For kidney patients you have to be careful as you get into stage two and three. “Fruits and vegetables have high levels of potassium. This the number one nutrient that controls the beat of the heart. When you are in stage three for example, you want to minimize the fruits and vegetables that have high potassium levels,” explained Craig.

The restrictions can be overwhelming for both the patient and the person who is preparing the food. One way to help everyone involved is to have options. “The best way to prepare meals is don’t say ‘you can only have this or that’ give the person options,” explained Craig. This way you have enough variety to keep meals creative and the patient will not feel as restricted.

Anyone who is preparing meals for an individual living with kidney disease Craig said keep the following in mind: 

Protein. “Many kidney patients are losing tissue, and tissue is replaced by protein. You want to use the protein to replace the tissue that is lost.” When you choose meats, make it fresh. “Meats like fresh chicken and turkey are good. The packaged meats have too much sodium.”

Beverages. If you are preparing food for someone on dialysis, “they should not drink more than 32 ounces of any fluid total.” When the body is overhydrated, “the kidneys are no longer helping the body get rid of the fluid.” 

Nutrients. We often hear it is important to get a healthy dose of vitamins and nutrients, but for kidney patients, you must be careful. The restrictions are higher depending on the stage. Take potassium for example. “If you are at stage two, begin to eat fruits and vegetables in moderation. By stage three you are being advised to minimize the levels of fruits and vegetables that have potassium because it speeds up the heartbeat,” Craig advised. “If you are at stage three of four, you shouldn’t exceed 2 grams of fruits or vegetables with potassium.” He does remind us this is also subjective. “Most people have kidney disease because of diabetes and high blood pressure; we must understand the underlying factor as to why they have .”  

Calcium is another nutrient. “In stage two you can see the impact of calcium moving around. When your blood vessels become clogged with calcium, you get a stroke. The calcium needs to be balanced in the body,” he said. The other important nutrient is phosphorous. For those who are in the later stages, “because phosphorus is in everything you eat, you have to take a phosphorus binder every time you put something in your mouth.” 

Keeping these general tips in mind, the following meal plans are easy options to prepare: 


White toast
Two eggs
Apple sauce
Cranberry juice


Sandwich with white bread
Iceberg lettuce
Tuna fish
Turkey or chicken (fresh)
1/2 teaspoon of mayo


Beef, chicken or turkey
Freshly prepared green beans or string beans


Unsalted and buttered popcorn
Cranberry juice

With the holidays coming up and keeping these tips in mind, there are a plethora of options that kidney patients can eat. Again, the key is moderation.

Items like cranberry sauce, turkey, dressing, steamed string beans or cabbage, and cauliflower are good choices. Cauliflower is a good potato alternative. If you are going to prepare traditional potatoes for a kidney patient, you will have to prepare it to take the potassium out. “Peel and cut the potato, soak it overnight, then prepare it,” Craig said. “About a cup or two-thirds is enough for a serving.”

Planning meals overall helps save time and will help all involved stay healthy.

—Yvelette Stines