What to eat at restaurants when you have chronic kidney disease

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Eating Out with Chronic Kidney Disease: Making Smart Choices at Restaurants

Navigating restaurant menus can be challenging for individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD), as dietary restrictions are essential to managing the condition. However, dining out doesn’t have to be off-limits. With careful planning and informed choices, you can enjoy meals at restaurants while adhering to your kidney-friendly diet. Here are some tips and suggestions on what to eat at restaurants when you have chronic kidney disease.

Understanding Dietary Restrictions for CKD

Before delving into specific restaurant choices, it’s essential to understand the dietary restrictions typically associated with CKD:

  1. Sodium: High sodium intake can increase blood pressure and worsen kidney function. Aim to consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, or as recommended by your healthcare provider.
  2. Potassium: Depending on the stage of CKD, you may need to limit high-potassium foods to prevent hyperkalemia (excess potassium in the blood).
  3. Phosphorus: High phosphorus levels can lead to bone and heart problems. Limiting foods high in phosphorus is often necessary.
  4. Protein: While protein is essential, excessive intake can strain the kidneys. Your dietitian will guide the appropriate amount based on your stage of CKD.

General Tips for Dining Out

  1. Plan Ahead: Research the restaurant’s menu online before going out. Many restaurants provide nutritional information that can help you make informed choices.
  2. Communicate Your Needs: Don’t hesitate to inform your server about your dietary restrictions. They can often accommodate special requests or suggest suitable menu options.
  3. Portion Control: Restaurant portions are often large. Consider sharing a dish, ordering an appetizer as a main course, or taking half of your meal home.
  4. Customize Your Order: Ask for dressings, sauces, and gravies on the side. Request meals to be prepared without added salt and inquire about cooking methods to avoid fried or heavily seasoned foods.

Menu Choices for Various Cuisines

American Cuisine

  • Grilled Chicken or Fish: Opt for grilled, baked, or broiled protein sources without heavy sauces or seasonings. Avoid breaded or fried options.
  • Vegetables: Choose steamed or grilled vegetables without added salt. Request no cheese or butter.
  • Salads: Go for salads with low-potassium vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, and bell peppers. Use oil and vinegar or a low-sodium dressing on the side.

Italian Cuisine

  • Pasta Dishes: Select pasta with a light olive oil or garlic sauce. Avoid creamy or tomato-based sauces high in potassium and phosphorus.
  • Protein: Grilled chicken or fish with a side of steamed vegetables makes a kidney-friendly option.
  • Bread: If served bread, limit intake due to its potential high sodium content. Opt for plain bread without added garlic butter.

Mexican Cuisine

  • Tacos and Fajitas: Choose grilled meat (chicken, fish, or shrimp) tacos or fajitas with corn tortillas. Skip the cheese and sour cream and go easy on beans.
  • Salads: Mexican salads can be a good choice with grilled protein, but avoid high-potassium ingredients like avocado and tomatoes. Use salsa sparingly due to its sodium content.
  • Rice and Beans: Limit portions of rice and beans as they can be high in phosphorus and potassium. Opt for a small serving if available.

Asian Cuisine

  • Stir-Fries: Opt for vegetable stir-fries with a moderate portion of lean protein (chicken, fish, or tofu). Request dishes to be prepared with less soy sauce and no added salt.
  • Sushi: Choose sushi with lower potassium fillings such as cucumber or cooked shrimp. Avoid soy sauce or use a low-sodium version.
  • Soups: Avoid brothy soups, as they tend to be high in sodium. Go for clear soups without added salt or MSG.

Indian Cuisine

  • Grilled Meats: Select tandoori chicken or grilled fish. Avoid dishes with heavy sauces like curries that are often high in potassium and phosphorus.
  • Vegetable Dishes: Opt for vegetable dishes like sautéed spinach or okra, but be cautious of high-sodium preparations.
  • Bread: Choose plain naan or roti over garlic or buttered versions, and limit intake due to potential high sodium content.

Beverage Choices

  1. Water: Always a safe choice. Ask for lemon or lime to add flavor without added sugar or sodium.
  2. Herbal Teas: Unsweetened herbal teas are generally a good option. Avoid those with added sweeteners or high potassium content.
  3. Sparkling Water: Choose plain or lightly flavored sparkling water without added sugars.


  1. Fruit-Based Desserts: Opt for fruit salads with low-potassium fruits like berries, apples, or grapes.
  2. Sorbet: A small serving of sorbet can be a refreshing, kidney-friendly choice.
  3. Avoid High-Phosphorus Desserts: Skip chocolate, nuts, and creamy desserts high in phosphorus.


Dining out with chronic kidney disease requires thoughtful choices and clear communication with restaurant staff. By focusing on grilled proteins, steamed or grilled vegetables, and avoiding high-sodium, high-potassium, and high-phosphorus foods, you can enjoy eating out without compromising your dietary needs. Planning ahead, customizing your order, and practicing portion control are key strategies to ensure your meals align with your kidney-friendly diet.

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