A healthy diet plan is essential for people with Chronic Kidney Disease. The nutritional needs of people with CKD change as their disease progresses. Having a healthy diet protects the kidneys from getting worse and decreases the amount of waste in the blood. Following a healthy diet plan can also possibly slow down CKD progression.

The National Kidney Foundation defines a well-balanced diet as a meal plan that “gives you the right amounts of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals each day. Eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, and taking all your medicines as prescribed are all important parts to keeping you healthy and feeling well.”

Senior couple in the kitchen

Additionally, a healthy CKD plan gives you the right amount of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals. To know the right amounts of each nutrient you will need, check out this informative and helpful guide.

Duane Sunwold is a CKD patient and one of the National Kidney Foundation leading food coaches. He is also a professional chef. He gave a talk at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week, the world-leading congress on kidney science, and said this: “Because I have kidneys on crutches, I got to explore a whole new world of cooking. Creating kidney-friendly diets is one of the most interesting culinary challenges I have ever had to face in my professional cooking career.” 

Sunwold agreed that salt is the most boring flavor there is. Salt masks taste. Unfortunately, humans are programmed to crave salt. It was scarce for our ancestors. However, once you learn to cook with less salt, you will find that you will start to hate salt. Importantly, when you start replacing salt, you will discover a whole new range of tasty food that is healthier for your kidneys too! 

Sticking to a healthy diet plan can be challenging. However, you can see this as an opportunity to feel and eat better, have a greater quality of life and do more of what you enjoy. 

Here are actionable ways to commit to a CKD-friendly diet:

Consult a Registered Dietitian

Consulting a Registered Dietitian to slow down CKD

Working with a registered dietitian is crucial in managing your CKD. Your dietitian will track your nutritional health and recommend customized meal plans and food substitutes that are nutritious as they are enjoyable. Dietitians will also check your blood results to suggest adjustments to balance your nutrition.

Think forward

Tweaking your lifestyle is necessary for healthy kidneys. However, you don’t have to make such drastic changes immediately otherwise, you’d fall short on your goals. A very concrete and useful way to bring about the change you want is learning to plan. Take small, important steps towards making these changes. Consider the following:

  • Food has natural sodium in them. Try to limit your sodium intake from 3 teaspoons to 1 or limit sodium intake at 20% to 40% to avoid making your food taste bland. You may not even notice the reduced sodium content. 
  • Plan out your daily or weekly meals.
  • Design how you will prepare the food and what to put in it.
  • Write down a shopping list and follow it (this will save you a great deal of money, too).
  • Decide on where you will eat—home, restaurant, at the picnic with loved ones, or someone else’s home, etc. 

Trivia: A 2017 study among French adults published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity revealed that meal planning encouraged home meal preparation which is linked to improved diet quality.

It will seem usual and effortless to keep up with your new diet once you get into the practice of planning meals. A small venture of time and effort, they say, brings a great return.

Keep a nutrition journal

Keeping a nutrition journal will help you keep track of how you feel, based on what you eat, how much you weigh, what questions you have, and what you learn. 

The US Department of Health and Human Services-National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases gives an informative guideline on the intake of the crucial nutrients such as calories, protein, fat, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.You can also download Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) extensive guideline. 

With good nutrition—eating the right foods and drinking the right beverages— a CKD patient may avoid or postpone some health problems since nutritional needs can vary as CKD progresses.

And speaking of a nutrition journal, you can use it to write down:

  • Daily or weekly food and beverage intake. Include portion sizes and how the foods are prepared. You can print out sample planning chart templates and use them to help you track how you’re doing.

  • Your notes about exercise, meal plans, what you’ve learned from your research, readings, and experience on CKD and nutrition, etc.

  • Stuff you want to mention to your doctor and/or dietitian, e.g. food choices and preference, preparation, etc.

Learn to read nutrition label

Food labels are helpful in understanding the nutrients that food has. It guides you in choosing the right food for your CKD. Food labels have percent daily values based on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended a 2000 calorie diet. Consult with your dietitian to learn reading nutrition labels as well as your diet restrictions.  You can also refer to the NKF guide as your introduction to the food label.

Eyes on the Prize: Stay healthy.

The National Kidney Foundation lists down reasons good nutrition is important for people with CKD:

  • Provides energy for daily tasks
  • Prevents infection
  • Avoids muscle-mass loss
  • Helps maintain a healthy weight
  • Slows down the progression of the kidney disease

Trivia: A 2014 study published in the European Journal of Science and Theology showed that a healthy lifestyle—good food, exercise, disposition, etc.—leads to a longer, more contented life.

Embracing a CKD diet plan doesn’t mean self-deprivation. You don’t have to entirely give up flavor as well as your favorite food to stick to a healthier lifestyle. Talk to your registered dietitian to find healthy alternatives of your favorite food. Having a great support and right perspective can help you stick to a health CKD meal plan.


Sources:

DaVita Diet Helper │DaVita.com https://www.davita.com/tools/diet-helper

Nutrition │National Kidney Foundation https://www.kidney.org/nutrition

FoodData Central │US Department of Agriculture https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/

Evidence for nutritional benefits in prolonging wellness │The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/83/2/410S/4650119

Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults │ International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313265513_Meal_planning_is_associated_with_food_variety_diet_quality_and_body_weight_status_in_a_large_sample_of_French_adults

The importance of healthy lifestyle in modern society: a medical, social and spiritual perspective │ European Journal of Science and Theology https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281293844_The_importance_of_healthy_lifestyle_in_modern_society_a_medical_social_and_spiritual_perspective

Nutrition for Advanced Chronic Kidney Disease in Adults │US Department of Health and Human Services-National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/eating-nutrition/nutrition-advanced-chronic-kidney-disease-adults