The RenalTracker Team
March 3, 2021

Eating healthy snacks helps regulate mood, boost brain power, curb hunger and cravings, and sustain and replenish energy levels throughout the day. The right choice of snack can help regulate blood sugar levels which is crucial for people with Chronic Kidney Disease and diabetes.

A CKD-friendly diet can protect kidneys from further damage and decreases the amount of waste that builds up in the body. Watching your diet and nutrition is essential in managing CKD. The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) in the US and the National Kidney Federation in the United Kingdom advise against eating foods high in sodium and phosphorus, potassium, and calcium since they are detrimental to your kidneys.

Snacking on a Kidney Diet

It is easier to pick up ready-to-go snacks when you are hungry. However, keep in mind that common snack foods are typically high in trans-fat, sugar, potassium, sodium, or phosphorus – minerals that can stress your kidneys.

You can have kidney-friendly snacks by preparing them ahead of time, which reduces the likelihood of eating foods that can harm your kidneys.

Low Potassium Snack Options

Most people with CKD are unable to regulate potassium efficiently. More so, some medications used to manage kidney disease can increase the potassium levels in the body. According to the Department of Nephrology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, common CKD medications include antihypertensives, anticoagulants, immunosuppressants, hypoglycemic agents, lipid-lowering drugs, analgesics, antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-gout drugs, and gastrointestinal drugs. Although the labels in these CKD medications mention that they contain phosphorus, the labels do not specify the exact quantity of phosphorus. Visit this page to know more about the phosphate level of the common prescribed CKD drugs.

A high potassium level in the body may cause chest pain, difficulty breathing, or heart palpitations.

The NKF recommends a daily potassium intake of 1,500-2,700 milligrams to maintain good health without risking more damage to your kidneys. Your nephrologist can suggest your daily potassium intake depending on your monthly level of potassium millimoles per liter of blood (mmol/L), which is determined through a simple blood test.

You can reduce potassium buildup in the body through changing your diet. Knowing which foods have high potassium content and which have low content can help you make a sound decision for your kidneys.

Bear in mind that portion control is also vital when following a CKD-healthy diet. Consider these low-potassium snacks:

Canned fruits

When choosing canned fruits, opt for fruits packed in the least amount of sugar or syrup. Look for “light” or “very light syrup” on labels to manage your blood sugar level. Most of the canned fruits are still within your diet recommendation if you are watching your potassium intake.

Fresh fruits

While fresh fruits sound healthy, not all of them are great for snacks when monitoring your potassium. Check the chart below for fresh fruits with low potassium.

Fresh Vegetables

Most vegetables are nutrient-dense, low in carbohydrates, low in sodium and phosphorus. Check the table below for low potassium vegetables.

Pasta

different pasta and noodles in bowls

Pasta is typically low on potassium and phosphorus. Nevertheless, the sauce you add to the pasta can contribute to your recommended nutritional intake. Consider the other minerals and nutrients to ensure they fit into your renal diet plan. To learn more about pasta and noodles, read this comprehensive guide.

dairy Products

Among the dairy alternatives you can indulge on a low potassium renal diet are rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, and soy milk.

List of Low Potassium Fruits and Vegetables

  • Apples
  • Berries (Blueberries and Strawberries)
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Cranberries and Cranberry Juice
  • Watermelon
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Squash

Besides munching on these low-potassium foods, you can also follow specific cooking methods to lower your snacks' potassium content. Learn more here.

Low Sodium Snacks

High sodium in your body can elevate your blood pressure and overwork your heart and kidneys. The NIDDK suggests a daily intake of 1,500 milligrams for CKD patients. Learn to read the nutrition labels when buying snacks in the grocery and convenience stores since most of these snacks have high sodium content.

Here are some Low Sodium Snacks Choices

Cereals

Cereals may be a breakfast staple, but who's to say you can't snack on them? The National Kidney Foundation says that most cereal brands have hidden salt content that can increase your recommended daily allowance. However, you can snack on fiber-rich whole-grain cereals since they release 40 to 60% of phosphorus into the bloodstream. Check the phosphorus content and sugar content of the cereal when grocery shopping.

Unsalted snacks

Unsalted snacks range from unsalted corn tortilla chips, pretzels, and popcorn. It is best to prepare these unsalted snacks at home to monitor the sodium, protein, phosphorus, and potassium content.

Low sodium salsa

Enjoy dipping your unsalted snacks in low-sodium salsa using the allowed ingredients. Skip on salt when making salsa and use natural herbs and seasonings to add flavor to your salsa.

Low Sodium Baked Goods

You can bake pancakes, biscuits, muffins, and waffles using low sodium baking powder and without salt. Instead of adding salt to your snacks, consider using herbs and seasonings to add flavor to your snacks.

The snack you should avoid in a low potassium diet is fast food, processed meats like ham, bacon, sausage and lunch meats, canned soups, frozen foods, and pickled foods.

Low Protein Snack Choices

Following a low protein diet puts less stress on your kidneys. Too much protein in the body can overwork the kidneys. People with compromised kidney function would not be able to remove all the waste from the protein in their diet. Removing excessive protein in the body can overwork the kidneys and wear them out faster.

 
Avoid overworking your kidneys by munching on these low protein snacks mindfully:

Fresh Fruits

Most fruits are low in protein except guava, avocado,kiwi, jackfruit, apricot, fig, and grapefruit.

Vegetables

You can enjoy snacking most vegetables except for peas, beans, broccoli, chia seeds, asparagus, and corn as they have high protein content.

Sandwiches

You can substitute sliced meat with plant-based protein such as mushroom, or seitan.

Pasta

Mix your pasta with extra virgin olive oil and roasted vegetables. You can try this low protein kidney-friendly pasta recipe too.

Burrito

Make your tortilla or use a store-bought low-protein tortilla and homemade salsa and guacamole.

Homemade muffins

Use a low-protein baking mix.

Fruit Smoothie

Use a low-protein dairy alternative like soy, rice, or almond milk. Here's a great smoothie recipe you can try.

Snacks For Dialysis Patients

eggwhite

Dialysis patients need food with higher protein content compared to those in the early stages of CKD because some amount of protein, during hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis, is lost. An insufficient amount of protein in the body can cause weight loss and affects the body's ability to fight off infection. Choosing the right kind and amount of protein can help you stay healthy when on dialysis.


The
University of Wisconsin-Madison recommends these great snacks for dialysis patients:

 Protein

  • Hard-boiled or fried egg
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter (try on celery or apples, take phosphorus binder, limit to one serving per day)
  • Tuna, egg, chicken salad (sandwich, on crackers, or with veggies)
  • Protein bar (aim for flavors with less than 150 mg phosphorus and less than 200 mg potassium)

Desserts

  • ½ cup sherbet (count as fluid)
  • Low-fat Cool Whip® (add to fruit or Jell-O®)
  • ½ cup Jell-O®
  • Nilla® wafers
  • 4 Fig Newtons®
  • A small slice of angel food cake

Low Phosphorus Snacks

As the NKF suggests, the ideal phosphorus intake limit for people with kidney conditions is 800-1000 mg daily. When kidneys are damaged, they can't remove the excess phosphorus efficiently. Elevated phosphorus levels can lead to bone disease, painful joints, lung, eye, or heart problems.

Since proteins are rich in phosphorus, most scientific societies recommend minimizing protein intake to reduce the body's phosphorus levels. Manage your phosphorus intake with these healthy snacks:

Homemade snacks

Use whole, fresh food items as your ingredients when whipping up your snacks. Processed foods have hidden phosphorus in their ingredients that can be harmful to your kidneys. Avoid and or limit processed food items that contain "phos" in the ingredients at the back of the label. Look for the following:

  • Calcium phosphate
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Monopotassium phosphate
  • Sodium acid pyrophosphate
  • Sodium tripolyphosphate

Bread

When baking bread, use low sodium baking powder and go easy on the salt.

Jelly beans, hard candy, fruit snacks, or gumdrops

Eat in moderation especially when you have diabetes or are trying to lose weight.

A small portion of brie, cheddar, mozzarella, and Swiss cheese

Munch on these types of cheeses instead of processed cheese and cheese spreads.

Fresh dinner rolls, bread, bagels, or English muffins

Although whole wheat bread has higher fiber content, white bread has lower phosphorus content than whole grains. The more bran and whole grains in the bread, the higher their phosphorus content. Your dietitian can guide you on how many slices you could eat per day depending on your blood levels.

Sherbet, sorbet, or frozen fruit pops

Enjoy the fresh fruits' natural sweetness and stay away from sugar especially when you have diabetes or managing your blood sugar levels.

Choosing desserts when eating out

Desserts are a great way to end a sumptuous meal. However, desserts loaded with chocolate, cream cheese, ice cream, or nuts have high potassium and phosphorus content. The USDA Nutrient Database shared the following nutritional information:

Common Dessert Ingredient

Potassium
(per 100 g)

Phosphorus
(per 100 g)

Chocolate, Dark

715 mg

308 mg

Cream Cheese

132 mg

107 mg

Ice cream, Vanilla

199 mg

105 mg

Nuts, Mixed

632 mg

456 mg

Dessert Options for CKD Patients

You don't have to give up desserts altogether when you have CKD. You can still enjoy sweet treats in moderation with these tips:

Ask and be upfront

Desserts can be deceiving as they hide potassium and phosphorus that can compromise your kidneys. Ask the specific ingredients and portions of the desserts from the waiter or if possible, the chef. Go for the one with simple preparations. It also helps if you are upfront with your kidney condition so the restaurants can make adjustments to your food.

Share if you cannot resist

Desserts with chocolates and cream cheese have high potassium and phosphorus content. While it is best to avoid these delicious treats, you can share or eat a small portion of the dessert to curb your cravings.

Watch out for your daily fluid intake.

Smoothies and ice cream look tempting and innocent, but they can contribute to your daily allowance. Consult your doctor about your fluid limits so you can enjoy without going above your daily limit.

Be careful with sweets

Pay extra attention to sweets as they can exacerbate your condition, especially when you have diabetes.

So what is there left for your desserts?

Cakes

Good Choices ✅

Poor Choices ❌

angel food cake

carrot cake

apple cake

chocolate mousse cake

lemon cake

devil's food cake

pound cake

fruitcake

spice cake

German chocolate cake

Strawberry shortcake (with real strawberries)

other cakes rich in chocolate, coconut, dried fruits, or nuts

*can be topped with low-potassium fruits

Cookies and Wafers

Good Choices ✅

Poor Choices ❌

Lorna Doones® cookies

brownies

vanilla wafers

chocolate cookies

lemon creme cookies

coconut macaroons

butter cookies

snickerdoodles

Coolers

Good Choices ✅

Poor Choices ❌

fruit ice

ice cream

sherbet

frozen yogurt

sorbet

banana split

Fruit Desserts

Good Choices ✅

Poor Choices ❌

berries

bananas

gelatin desserts (skip artificial flavored gelatin and use fresh fruits such as pineapple, papaya or mango)

oranges


kiwi

Pies and Tarts

Good Choices ✅

Poor Choices ❌

apple pie/tart

banana cream pie

blueberry pie/tart

chocolate cream

cherry pie/tart

coconut pie

lemon meringue pie

minced meat pie

strawberry pie/tart

pecan pie


pumpkin pie


sweet potato pie


cheesecake

Bottomline

Having CKD limits your choices of healthy snacks and tasty desserts. However, this doesn't mean you should forego snacks and desserts altogether. You can still include these foods with the right preparation and healthy portion.

Before embarking on any renal diet or changes in your diet, make sure to check in with your nephrologist and renal dietitian.

Sources:

Eating Right for Dialysis Patients. https://nkfs.org/treatment-options/eating-right-for-dialysis-patients/


https://www.kidney.org/sites/default/files/docs/nutrikidfail_stage1-4.pdf


https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/150490/renal_snacks.pdf


Nutrition and Early Kidney Disease (Stages 1–4)
https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/nutrikidfail_stage1-4


Eating Right for Chronic Kidney Disease
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/eating-nutrition


The role of phosphate-containing medications and low dietary phosphorus-protein ratio in reducing intestinal phosphorus load in patients with chronic kidney disease
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6447592/

Phosphorus and Nutrition in Chronic Kidney Disease
https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijn/2012/597605/