Dining Out with Chronic Kidney Disease


Dec 26, 2022

Dining Out with Chronic Kidney Disease

Dining Out with Chronic Kidney Disease

Going out for a meal at a nice restaurant, or getting take-out, or delivery to enjoy at home for movie night, is something many of us enjoy and look forward to doing.   During the Holiday Season, you may receive invitations to eat out more often than usual as well as Holiday parties and gatherings where food takes center stage.  Living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) does not mean you have to stay at home and miss the fun, you just need to do some planning. This article will give you tips for managing your sodium, protein, potassium, and phosphorus while you enjoy yourself this season. Let’s get you ready to go out and have a good time!

Tips For Eating Out With CKD

  • Plan ahead  When you know you will be having a meal at a restaurant, or attending a social gathering where you will eat, planning ahead is important.  Plan your meals for that day, that way you can cut back on foods higher in sodium, potassium, or protein earlier in the day.
  • Talk to the host or restaurant. Ask the host/hostess about the planned menu. This is a good way to have a conversation about nutrition, even share ways to lower sodium in a recipe.  Some restaurants will prepare lower sodium meals and try to meet your needs, or suggest other options for you if you speak with them ahead of time. 
  • Preview the menu  Most restaurants have a website with their menu listed, so that you can decide ahead of time and plan your day, making sure your nutritional needs are met. This may help you to feel more at ease about eating out if you know ahead of time what you will be having. 

Balanced Plate

You should be mindful of portion sizes and make sure you have a balanced plate. Your plate should be balanced like this:

  1. Half of your plate should be vegetables
  2. One quarter of your plate should be grains such as rice, pasta, or potato.
  3. One quarter of your plate should be protein such as lean meat, fish, poultry, or tofu.
Balanced Plate Method

Sodium Tips

  • Read the nutrition information on the menu and aim for 700 mg sodium per serving. If you will be having something higher in sodium, you can ask for a half serving, or share with a friend, or ask for a take out container and take half home to enjoy later. 
  • Choose fresh foods when you are able to. Foods that are breaded or have sauces will be higher in sodium.
  • Do not add salt at the table.

Protein Tips

  • Use your hand to estimate portion size.  A palm size serving is about 2.5oz. of protein.  A fist is approximately one cup when estimating serving of beans, peas, and legumes.
  • Request a half portion of protein; or share a portion with a friend. You can also take half home for another meal the next day.
  • If restricting your protein intake, remember there may be extra protein in some foods such as cheeses and sauces; and you may be able to make a substitution, or ask for foods without the extra sauces. 

Potassium Tips

If you are following a low potassium diet, remember that choosing foods lower in potassium and your portion sizes are important. If planning on eating out, choose low potassium foods earlier in your day.  This will leave you able to have some foods not as low in potassium while eating out, giving you some flexibility. 

The following list is vegetables lower in potassium:

  • Arugula
  • Beans, string green/yellow
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Peppers, bell
  • Radish
  • Spaghetti Squash 
  • Snow peas
  • Turnip
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

Tips for Managing Phosphorus

Phosphorus is used as an additive in foods and you may not always have the nutritional information that would let you know phosphorus has been added.  A good tip is to choose fresher foods so there is less chance of phosphorus added. 

  • When it's time for dessert, opt for one prepared simply with less chance of hidden phosphorus as an additive. 
  • Share a dessert with someone
  • Choose a dessert that is kidney friendly, lower in phosphorus. The following are good choices:  gelatin, fruit, sorbet, angel food cake, apple or lemon pound cake, sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, pies and cobblers made with apple, berries or lemon. 

You can eat out when you have CKD, and eating out is a nice change from preparing meals at home, plus you have the added bonus of socializing with friends and family.  However, don’t be afraid to speak up about your dietary needs, and ask questions.  Afterall, your health is most important, and following the restrictions in your diet is part of keeping you healthy!  


This blog was based on a post written by Emily Campbell and published here with her permission. The original post can be found here.

Related Articles

What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

Why It’s Important to Control Fluids in a Hemodialysis Diet

Sodium and the Renal Hemodialysis Diet

Phosphorus and the Renal Hemodialysis Diet

Potassium and the Renal Hemodialysis Diet

Foods You Should Say No to if You Have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

About Emily Campbell

Emily Campbell is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with a Master of Science in Food and Nutrition who lives in Toronto, ON. Over the years, she has experience working with individuals with a variety of kidney conditions to help them improve their eating; and preserve their kidney function through her career in hospitals as well as her private practice Kidney Nutrition. Not only does she have experience as a renal dietitian with patients, but she also has family members living with kidney disease so she understand the stress and complexities mealtime and celebrations can present. She has been practicing as a renal dietitian for over six years and am also is a two-time cookbook author of The Complete Renal Diet Cookbook and Renal Diet Cookbook for Caregivers.

Patient Education Disclaimer

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the advice or counsel of a doctor or health care professional. KidneyLuv makes every effort to provide information that is accurate and timely, but makes no guarantee in this regard. You should consult with, and rely only on the advice of, your physician or health care professional.

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