The RenalTracker Team
August 30, 2020

Tips for Kidney Friendly Grocery Shopping

Senior grocery shopping

Healthy diet choices are crucial if you’re living with chronic kidney disease (CKD). It’s important to give careful thought of your grocery list to ensure that you’re eating healthy week in and week out.

Watching your diet according to your doctor and dietitian’s advice may be inconvenient at the start. But it’s going to be beneficial for your kidneys. Controlling what you feed your body is a significant step toward managing your kidney health.

Kidney-friendly grocery shopping shouldn’t be hard work. So to make it easier for you, here are some tips on how you should fill your cart when on a CKD-friendly plant-based diet.

(Note: The information stated here is for non-dialysis CKD patients and should serve as a basic guide. Please consult with your renal dietitian for more tailored advice.)

How to Create Your Grocery List

senior with grocery list

Grocery shopping can be a challenge in view of diet restrictions. And food items that are unhealthy for your kidneys can compete for your attention. Having a well-thought-out grocery list simplifies the task. 

Besides aiding your memory, a dietitian-approved grocery list helps you stay on course of your renal diet. If you’re conscious of your budget, a grocery list makes it easier to stick to your weekly or monthly grocery budget. 

Using a list can also have benefits to your health. A study published on the National Library of Medicine website shows that referring to a list when doing your groceries can promote healthy food choices and weight loss.

So, how do you round up a list of kidney-friendly food items and make healthier food choices each time you shop for your groceries? Below are some tips:

  1. Plan Ahead

    With the help of your renal dietitian, come up with a list of CKD-friendly mealssnacks, and beverages that you’d like to have for the week. Break down the ingredients for each meal and snack.

    Planning your meals before the start of every week prevents you from making impulsive food choices that are often dictated by your cravings. When you have all the ingredients ready in your fridge, you tend to cook more and avoid ordering takeouts.

    It helps to have a recipe board that details all the meals you’d like to have for the entire week. The board should cover your breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. Update the items on the board as you please.

    Identify the ingredients you will need, then list them down. Make sure to specify the exact quantity next to every item.

  2. Make a running list. 

    Does remembering every item in your fridge or pantry seem like a chore? Having a running list of all your staple food items eliminates the need to create a new list each time your shopping schedule comes around. It also saves you the hassle of having to comb your memory for your recent purchases.

    Create an inventory on a whiteboard or post-it notes. Hang the list on your fridge or any visible area in the kitchen. You can also use a mobile app that lets you create an online list and take it with you anywhere.

    Every time you take out and use an item, make sure to update the quantity to track how many items are left. A day before you shop, check the inventory to know which items to buy and restock.
  3. List down what you’re only allowed to eat based on your CKD stage. 

    When rounding up your grocery list, keep in mind the advice of your healthcare provider.  Every person with kidney disease has unique nutritional requirements, and your dietary needs can evolve depending on your CKD stage. This is why it’s necessary to closely work with your doctor and dietitian in keeping track of your diet.

    If you’re just starting out with a plant-based diet, consult with your dietitian about the plant foods that are healthy for your kidneys. Figure out the right amount and portioning of every food you must consume daily.

    Note that you need to strike the right balance of protein, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, calories, vitamins, and minerals per day.
  4. Introduce new plant-based foods to your meals each week. 

    Adding new foods into your diet every week helps you expand your choices and take in more nutrients. It also allows your palate to get increasingly accustomed to plant-based foods.

    For instance, if you’re swapping meat with plant protein like tofu, vegetarian burger, or seitan but you’re unsure which ones you’d like, consider trying one of these options every week. Doing so gives you the chance to discover which one you like best.
  5. As much as possible, stick to your list.

    At the grocery store, the temptation to chuck unhealthy foods in your cart or to spend more than your budget allows can come from all sides. Be prepared. Maintain the resolve to eat healthy for the sake of your kidneys. Pick only the foods reflected on your list. 
    • Eat before you shop. You’re more prone to buying more foods than you need when you’re hungry.
    • If you have little kids, leave them at home to avoid extra spending on snacks, candies, and toys (unless you have the budget for it).
    • If there’s an item on sale, pause to think if it’s aligned with your healthy meal plans. It also helps to follow grocery stores on social media (or check their websites) so you can be kept in the loop of the latest sales.

      Knowing which products are on sale informs your meal plans ahead of time, as opposed to bumping into random products on sale and having to think on the spot what meals you can make out of them. 

Learn How to Read Food Labels

Reading the labels of packaged food products is necessary so you’d know what’s in the food you’re eating. When you know and understand what’s in your food, you’re able to make healthy food choices. 

Checking label information also makes it simpler for you to evaluate the quality and quantity of every nutrient content in a product. As you become more mindful of your diet, paying keen attention to nutrition labels is one sensibility every CKD patient should develop. 

Here are important things to keep in mind when reading food labels: 

  1. Food labels aid you in limiting your consumption of sugar, fat, and cholesterol.
  2. The nutritional information stated in a food label is based on one serving of that specific food. For example, the label of a pack of crackers may specify that the food contains 120 calories and 5 grams of sugar, but the serving size of the food may state 3. This means that eating the entire pack of crackers will give you 3 times the amount of nutrients indicated in the label (or 360 calories and 15 grams of sugar). Be meticulous and check the number of servings a package has.
  3. Read the amount of every nutrient which is stated in weight and/or “% DV.” Based on an estimation that an average person needs a total of 2,000 calories a day, % DV or Daily Value is the percentage of a certain nutrient you’d get for every food serving. A food must have less than 5% of sodium and potassium and less than 10% of phosphorus for it to be deemed safe to eat for CKD patients (this can vary depending on your doctor’s advice). 
  4. Phosphorus and potassium are not always indicated in the nutrition facts. Check in with your renal dietitian to know if a food you’re considering is safe for your health.
  5. Be wary of hidden phosphorus and potassium. Check the ingredients list and spot items that might have “phos-” in them. These are phosphorus additives. Foods labeled with “reduced sodium” might have sodium additives in them masked as potassium chloride or potassium phosphate. These ingredients can result in phosphorus and potassium buildup in your blood when overlooked.

Common Grocery Items for CKD Patients

Wondering which grocery food staples are safer for people with CKD? The following food items contain low levels of sodium, potassium, and protein. Plus, they don’t have hidden phosphorus so they’re easy on your kidneys.

Side note: Before buying them, run every item by your dietitian to see if they’re good for your health.

  1. Breads - A lot of brands of buns, bagels, and wraps are rich in sodium. Make sure to choose breads that contain less than 200 milligrams of sodium each serving. 
  2. Cereals - Choose whole-grain, high-fiber cereals as they aid bowel movement.
  3. Rice, pasta, and noodles - Skip packaged or seasoned varieties. 
  4. Juices - Most juice brands have high levels of potassium. It would be good to limit your intake to half a cup per day. If the juice has potassium content, ensure it’s not beyond 200 milligrams for every serving of ½ cup.  

    Examples of low-potassium juices are cranberry juice and lemonade (homemade or frozen concentrate). If you’re not on a low-potassium diet, ask your dietitian if you can drink other juice varieties.
  5. Fruit - Apple, blackberries, cranberries, fresh coconut, lemon, grapes, mango, peach, pineapple, strawberries, and watermelon all are low in potassium. Ask your renal dietitian if they’re advisable for you. 
  6. Vegetables - Asparagus, bean sprouts, broccoli, kale, cabbage, carrot, eggplant, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, squash, okra, pepper, and tomatoes are a few examples of veggies with low to moderate potassium content. 
  7. Plant-based protein alternatives - You can get your daily protein needs from plant proteins like tofu, chickpeas, green peas, quinoa, soy milk, oats, nuts, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and spinach.
  8. Dairy - Soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk are great plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk. However, some products may also contain certain amounts of phosphorus and potassium. Work with your dietitian in determining which type of milk is best for you. 

Bottomline

Ready meal plans and a running grocery list are your greatest tools in sticking to a CKD-friendly plant-based diet. No matter how you’d like to proceed with your diet, always consult your healthcare provider in every step. Get your doctor and renal dietitian onboard in your journey to healthier eating. They are your partners in improving your kidney health.

Now that we’ve cracked the code of CKD-friendly grocery shopping, the next step is to explore cooking techniques that help make your dishes more appetizing but easier on your kidneys. But that will be for another blog post. See you on the other end! 


Sources:

Grocery Shopping Guide for Kidney Disease Patients

http://www.stmichaelshospital.com/pdf/programs/hemodialysis/grocery-shopping-guide.pdf


Kidney-Friendly Shopping List

http://www.bcrenalagency.ca/resource-gallery/Documents/Kidney%20Friendly%20Shopping%20Guide%20Final.pdf  


The 17 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-for-vegans-vegetarians 


How to Make a Healthy Grocery Shopping List

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-grocery-list#TOC_TITLE_HDR_5 


Using a Grocery List Is Associated With a Healthier Diet and Lower BMI Among Very High-Risk Adults

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17288623/ 


Why Is Reading Food Labels Important?

https://www.livestrong.com/article/380166-why-is-reading-food-labels-important/