Navigating Kidney-Friendly Dining: A Global Culinary Adventure

By Karen Sevong MScFN RD CDE CPT

Photo by Agenlaku Indonesia on Unsplash

Living with chronic kidney disease requires a thoughtful approach to dining out, considering the unique nutritional needs associated with your condition. Whether you’re savoring American classics, indulging in exotic Asian flavors, or enjoying the rich tastes of European and Caribbean cuisines, these kidney-friendly tips will help you make informed choices for a satisfying and health-conscious dining experience.

General Tips: 

Living with chronic kidney disease and trying to navigate choices when eating out is manageable! Depending on your stage of kidney disease, there may be unique recommendations to optimize your nutrition. Generally, when it comes to kidney-friendly choices, there are common limitations on salt, phosphate, and potassium intake while emphasizing the right amount of fluids and high-quality protein. We encourage you to consult with your kidney healthcare team for personalized advice. 

Incorporate Vegetables: 

  • Add vegetables, considering lower-potassium choices if needed. 

Flexible Potassium Choices: 

  • Recognize that potassium choices may not always need to be restricted. However, ask for individual recommendations from your kidney healthcare team for specific guidance.

Avoid Processed Meats: 

  • Stay away from processed meats high in phosphorous additives whenever possible, or reduce the amount. Search for alternatives instead. 

Choose Lower Sodium Options: 

  • Look for and choose lower sodium options on the menu. Read ingredients for any hidden sources found in condiments and seasonings. 

Condiments and Garnishes: 

  • Ask for condiments and garnishes on the side.

Menu Reading: 

  • Read labels on menus ahead of time, especially when choosing a restaurant. 

Dessert Choices: 

  • Opt for lower-potassium desserts like berries .
  • Consider sharing desserts to manage portion sizes. 

Step 1: Planning Ahead 

Balance Potassium and Phosphorous: 

  • Opt for a mix of high and low-potassium foods based on individual recommendation if this is a concern. 
  • For example, including lower potassium fruits and vegetables more often and limit choices of high potassium on the day when eating out. 
  • Consult your healthcare team to avoid exceeding individual recommendations. 

Fluid Intake Redistribution: 

  • If fluid restrictions apply, distribute your total fluids throughout the day. 
  • Combat thirst by adding lemon to your beverages.

Menu Investigation: 

  • Research menus in advance and ask fro nutrition information for informed decisions. 
  • Most chain restaurants will have nutrition information available online or upon request. 
  • Consider searching commonly consumed dishes for a reference if unsure.
  • Kidney Friendly Meal Planner 

Step 2: Menu Considerations

Seasoning and Flavors: 

  • Consider being mindful of choosing flavors that include pickled, salted, cured, soy sauce.
  • Opt for foods flavored with herbs and spices, lemon, garlic, and onions as some examples.
  • Consider options for dishes to be customized with the number of condiments and flavors if cooked to order. 


  • Choose baked and less-processed meats. 
  • Opt for chicken, fish, lower sodium cheese choices, leaner meat. 
  • Legumes and beans in smaller portions or limit if potassium is a concern.


  • Customize with lower or higher potassium options if applicable to help allow for substitutions based on cooked-to-order. 
  • Consider the method of cooking and options to modify if concerned with potassium and sodium content. For example, fresh, steamed, boiled, baked, or fried options could vary the amount of potassium and sodium content that is suitable for your individual needs. 


  • Be cautious of hidden sodium, potassium, and phosphorus in drinks. For example, type of soda, juice, hot beverages, and dairy. 
  • Choose clear beverages and sparkling water, and consider substitutions for tea and coffee. 
  • Be mindful of alcohol intake and consult with your kidney healthcare team for specific recommendations. 

Step 3: Placing Your Order Communicate with Staff: 

  • Inquire about dish modifications, such as no extra salt or alternative side dishes. 
  • Remember to ask for sauces and dressings on the side to manage fluid and salt intake if this is an option. 
  • Confirm the method of cooking for vegetables, if they can be steamed, and if not, opt for boiling or fresh choices based on needs. 
  • Choose appropriate potassium vegetables if this is a concern 
  • Consider ordering lower potassium starches such as rice, pasta, and noodles instead of high-potassium choices such as potatoes if this is required 

Navigating kidney-friendly choices while dining out is an achievable goal with a bit of preparation and communication. Enjoy your culinary experiences while keeping your health a top priority!