The RenalTracker Team
June 20, 2019

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. It has been written and vetted by RenalTracker's team of kidney experts and researchers. The same team was awarded the KidneyX Prize organized by the American Society of Nephrology and HHS for pre-dialysis solution in Washington DC in 2019.   

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Often, people look for ways to lose weight.

With all the fatty and unhealthy foods around, it's no wonder why obesity is a very common condition among people nowadays.

However, for CKD patients like you, losing weight may not be an option anymore. With all the foods you need to avoid and the portions you need to control, you're probably losing too much weight already.

And so, here are some tips on how you can gain weight healthily.

1. Prepare yourself.

Effective weight loss begins when your mind and body are ready, it is often said. Apparently, the same applies to gaining weight.

checklist for weight gain plan

Set your goal and make a weight gain plan. An effective way to do this is to set your weight increase limit to half-a-kilogram a week. This ensures your weight gain is slow, steady, and more likely to succeed.

You also need to consult with your doctor/dietitian with regards to setting a healthy, ideal weight for you based on your age, gender, and CKD condition. This is to make sure that your body, at least, will be functioning properly.

2. Eat frequently.

Of course, you'll still need to watch your nutrient intake and your portions. However, underweight people are often satiated faster than people with regular weight.

Our advice: eat about 5-6 smaller meals a day, as opposed to eating 2-3 large meals.

Side note: this is also good advice for people who want to lose weight. This is because having smaller, more frequent meals can get your body to keep its metabolic process active and prevent it from storing unwanted fat.

3. Go with shakes and smoothies.

Instead of drinking diet soda (which is a big no for you) or coffee (which can be bad for your kidneys if taken excessively), try to drink smoothies and shakes made with kidney-friendly ingredients.

Try using skim or almond milk and fresh or frozen fruit for your ingredients. Careful about adding other components, though, like flaxseed (it has high potassium content). In some cases, and only when your doctor recommends it, you can try liquid meal replacements.

Here's a sample of a kidney-friendly smoothie you can use:

Smoothies Recipe

4. Limit your fluid intake.

As a CKD patient, you may have been give your daily fluid limits by your doctor already (if not, contact your doctor and discuss setting a fluid intake limit for you).

However, drinking fluids 30 minutes before mealtimes and during meals can curb your appetite. This then prevents you from taking in enough calories to satiate your hunger.

So, our advice: drink fluids only after having the meal, preferably 30 minutes after.

5. Add extra calories (with consent from your doctor).

Food with Calories

Find ways to add more calories to your food intake, without sacrificing your nutrient limits. As a general suggestion, people losing weight need about 250-500 additional calories daily. 

Carbohydrates can greatly help with this. Although this is one of the other nutrients you need to keep in check aside from SPPP, adding a few healthy carbs to your diet can help.

To be safe, ask your doctor/dietitian which carbohydrate foods are safe for you. However, some healthy, simple carbs that you can go for are pastas and white rice. Check out these other carbohydrate foods that you should avoid and their alternatives.

Some fatty fishes, like tuna and trout, can help, too. They are full of Omega-3 fats, which increases the amount of healthy fats in the body.

6. Treat yourself occasionally.

Excess sugar and fat should always be kept in check, even when you are underweight. 

Still, a little, occasional treat never hurt anybody. Find healthy, high-calorie treats like a sorbet, popsicles, or half-a-cup of ice cream. But remember to eat these on occasion only, and not as part of your regular meals.

7. Do short exercises.

Exercising stimulates appetite. Even a small amount of exercise can make you hungrier, while spending a minimal amount of calories in the process.

A little walk around the block, or even around your yard, can help. You can also try these basic indoor/outdoor exercises for CKD patients.

8. Get the right amount of sleep.

The right amount of a well-earned sleep can do wonders for your health, even for your weight.

Alarm Clock with a man sleeping in the background

This doesn't only help anyone who wants to lose weight, but this also helps underweight people gain healthy weight. This because a proper sleep reduces stress and anxiety. Both can be a factor that causes people to have trouble eating.

Advice: sleep well and sleep comfortably. 

9. Avoid junk food.

Eating junk foods is a big no-no for you. Aside from them having huge amounts of sodium and phosphorus, they add unhealthy weight to your body, too.

Not only that, these foods have been found to contribute to certain diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, among others.

To help you with choosing the right foods, check out our official kidney-safe food list here.

10. Do not skip breakfasts.

Ah, the most important meal of the day.

Woman eating a meal with a man in the background

Your breakfasts should be the biggest meal for the entire day. This helps you start the day right by giving you the necessary amount of calories you'll need in the morning.

Also, eating a healthy breakfast is a way to ensure that even if you miss one of the later meals, you will not lack the right amount of calories that your body needs.


What's a good way to gain weight if you're underweight; Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. - Mayo Clinic;

ILD Nutrition Manual: Tips for Gaining Weight - University of California San Francisco Health;

25 Clever Weight Gain Tips - BMI Calculator USA;