Eating out on a renal diet

Going out to eat can be a fun social outing, a break from cooking or a necessity while away from home. Eating out at a restaurant while following your diet is a serious challenge but it can be managed with some careful planning.  Don’t be afraid to check out the menu online and call ahead to ask questions. Review your renal diet before you go out or bring your food lists with you.

Plan Ahead
If you know you will be eating out, cut back on serving sizes early in the day and avoid any salty or high potassium foods.  If you are on a fluid restriction you may wish to save your fluids throughout the day to allow more when you are eating out.  If you are on phosphate binders remember to bring them with you and take them with your meal. Talk to your renal dietitian about eating out and which local restaurants are best for you.

Read the menu carefully
Ask questions about any menu items you are not sure of.  Servers are used to being asked questions about the menu. If you’re not comfortable asking in front of your dinner companions – call ahead or check out the menu online!  Many restaurants have nutritional information available.

Special Requests
Many restaurants will be only too happy to make substitutions (ie rice instead of potatoes) or serve salad dressings, sauces and gravies on the side so you can control the amount you eat.  Ask if your entrée can be cooked without extra or added salt.

Keep in mind that anything you eat in a restaurant will be saltier than what you have at home – remember moderation is the key.

Menu Choices

Appetizers and Salads

  • Look for fresh, simple items to avoid a heavy salt or fluid load.
  • Ask which fruits and vegetables are in the salad if the menu does not specify.

Better Choices:  Chef salad, crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, garlic bread without cheese, fried zucchini or onion rings.


  • Watch your portion sizes – try to estimate how much you normally would eat at home. Ask for a container to take the extra home.
  • Avoid mixed dishes or casseroles which are often higher in salt and phosphorus
  • Remove the skin from poultry to help decrease the salt content

Better Choices:  grilled or broiled steaks, lamb chops, prime rib, hamburger without cheese, fajitas, chicken (fried, grilled or roasted), sandwiches

Side Dishes

  • Choose starches and vegetables that are lower in potassium if you are on a potassium restriction.
  • Save your fruit and vegetable choices during the day to give you more options when you are eating out
  • Ask for a substitute if necessary

Better Choices:  rice, noodles, green beans, mixed vegetables


  • Ask for a clear description of the dessert
  • Avoid desserts made with chocolate, cream cheese, ice cream or nuts which will be higher in potassium and phosphorus – or share with a friend
  • Low potassium fruits make a good dessert choice especially if you have diabetes

Better Choices:  Low potassium fruit, fruit ice, sorbet, apple, blueberry, lemon meringue pies, strawberry shortcake


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