29 Foods to Avoid With Kidney Disease

Avoiding certain foods when you have kidney disease can help slow disease progression and make you feel healthier, longer. It's especially important to steer clear of those high in the minerals that your kidneys can no longer remove from your body. This includes foods high in sodium and, in later stages, phosphorus and potassium.

Foods to avoid with stage 3 chronic kidney disease

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Your dietary needs will change as kidney disease progresses. What's best for you should be determined by your healthcare team.

This article will discuss foods you should avoid if you have kidney disease.

Diet and Kidney Disease

Eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones can help slow the progression of kidney disease. A registered dietitian can help you develop an eating plan that's right for your stage of chronic kidney disease. 


Sodium is a mineral that is naturally present in many foods. When you add table salt to your food, you are adding sodium.

With kidney disease, the kidneys can't eliminate excess sodium like they should. This causes your body to have a sodium and water imbalance, which can lead to swelling of your face, hands, and feet, excess thirst, and high blood pressure.


Potassium is a mineral that plays an important role in the function of your heart. When you have too much or too little potassium in your body, it can cause dangerous health problems.

Kidney disease can cause potassium levels that are either too high or too low. When your levels are too high, your healthcare provider may advise you to avoid foods that are high in potassium. When they're too low, you may need to increase your intake of these foods.

Typically, a person on a potassium-restricted diet should limit potassium intake to less than 2,000 milligrams (mg) per day.


High phosphorus levels can lead to low levels of calcium in your bones, which can make them weak. They can also cause calcium to build up in other parts of your body, such as your blood vessels, your lungs, and your heart.

This can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Your dietary needs will be different depending on which stage of kidney disease you are in. In the early stages, for example, you will need to limit sodium. In later stages, you will also need to limit phosphorus and/or potassium. Being on dialysis means you will need to eat high-quality protein from sources like meat, chicken, fish, and eggs.

Foods to Avoid

Regardless of which stage of kidney disease you've been diagnosed with, it's important to make changes to your diet to help slow the progression of your disease and improve your overall health and well-being.

Foods people with kidney disease are often told to avoid include:

  • Whole grains
  • Bran cereals, oatmeal, and granola
  • Nuts and sunflower seeds
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Certain other fresh and dried fruits (e.g., bananas, apricots)
  • Dairy
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Swiss chard, spinach, and beet greens
  • Pretzels, chips, and crackers
  • Pickles and relish
  • Processed meats
  • Premade or frozen meals
  • Canned foods
  • Dark-colored sodas

Whole Grains

Whole grains are often recommended for people without kidney disease, but these foods are higher in potassium and phosphorus than refined grains. If you have moderate to advanced kidney disease, your healthcare provider may advise you to avoid whole grain foods such as whole wheat bread and brown rice.

For example, one slice (28 grams) of whole grain bread contains:

  • About 69 mg of potassium
  • 57 mg of phosphorus

In comparison, the same size slice of white bread contains:

  • 32.8 mg of potassium
  • 31.6 mg of phosphorus

1 cup of cooked brown rice contains about:

  • 208 mg of phosphorus
  • 174 mg of potassium

In comparison, 1 cup of cooked white rice contains:

  • 69 mg of phosphorus
  • 54 mg of potassium

Bran Cereals, Oatmeal, and Granola

When shopping for cold and hot cereals, be sure to look at the food label. Many cereals you can find at the grocery store are filled with hidden:

  • Sodium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

Limit or avoid cereals with the word phosphorus or "phos" listed on the ingredient list. A 3/4 cup of bran flakes cereal contains about:

  • 160 mg of potassium
  • 135 mg of phosphorus

One cup of cooked oatmeal contains:

  • 180 mg of phosphorus
  • 164 mg of potassium

Most granola is made with oats. While granola is a healthy option for most, it should be limited on a kidney diet because of its potassium content.

Two ounces of granola has approximately 306 mg of potassium.

Nuts and Sunflower Seeds

Nuts and seeds are popular, healthy snacks for most people. However, for a person with kidney disease, they can be harmful.

A 1 ounce serving, or about 23 almonds, contains about:

  • 208 mg of potassium
  • 136 mg of phosphorus

Cashews contain about:

  • 187 mg of potassium
  • 168 mg of phosphorus

If you enjoy nuts and sunflower seeds, consider pairing them with other low-potassium and low-phosphorus meal options. Alternatively, choose nuts that are lower in phosphorus.


Tomatoes are high in potassium. People in the earlier stages of kidney disease don't usually have to limit their consumption of tomatoes. If your healthcare provider says your potassium levels are high, however, tomatoes may have to be on your restricted foods list.

This includes both raw tomatoes and tomato products, like sauce and ketchup.

For example, 1 cup of tomato sauce contains around 910 mg of potassium. One medium tomato contains around 292 mg of potassium.


Avocados are a great source of heart-healthy fats and important vitamins and minerals. However, they are high in potassium and should be avoided on a kidney diet.

One avocado contains approximately 690 mg of potassium.

If your healthcare provider has instructed you to limit potassium, you'll want to avoid or limit avocado or guacamole consumption.

Certain Other Fruits

Some fruits are very high in potassium. If you've been instructed by your dietitian or kidney doctor to limit potassium intake, you'll want to avoid:

  • Bananas: This fruit is one of the best dietary sources of potassium. One medium banana contains a whopping 422 mg of potassium.
  • Oranges are also high in potassium. One orange contains around 255 mg of potassium and one cup of orange juice contains 443 mg.
  • Apricots: In later stages of kidney disease, it's best to avoid apricots because of their potassium content. One cup of sliced apricots has 427 mg of potassium.

Dried fruits can be problematic, too. Aside from dried apricots, raisins and prunes are also high in potassium, sugar, and calories. One cup of dried apricots provides around 1,510 mg of potassium. This can easily take up your daily recommended potassium intake.

Additionally, one cup of prunes contains 1,270 mg of potassium. However, the potassium is significantly reduced in its raw state. One cup of plums contains just 259 mg of potassium.


Dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, milk, and ice cream are a good source of calcium, protein, and other important nutrients. They are also high in phosphorus and potassium.

A person in the later stages of kidney disease may need to limit protein, phosphorus, and potassium, which will also mean limiting dairy.

One cup of 2% milk contains:

  • 8 grams of protein
  • 252 mg of phosphorus
  • 390 mg of potassium


Potatoes are naturally high in potassium. One medium potato contains around 610 mg of potassium.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the potassium content in potatoes. One of the best ways to lower the potassium content in potatoes is by a method known as leaching (soaking them in water) before cooking.

The most effective way to remove potassium through leaching is by cutting the potatoes up into small pieces and boiling them in water for approximately 10 minutes. Doing so can reduce the potassium content by at least half the original amount.


Beans are a great source of plant-based protein and fiber. However, they can also increase the amount of potassium and phosphorus circulating in your blood if consumed in large quantities.

Recently, studies have suggested that beans and legumes are a good source of protein for those with chronic kidney disease. Still, guidelines recommend limiting the intake of beans due to their phosphorus and potassium content.

For example, 1 cup of cooked pinto beans contains 251 mg of phosphorus and 746 mg of potassium.

Swiss Chard, Spinach, and Beet Greens

Most leafy green vegetables, including Swiss chard, spinach, and beet greens, are not recommended on a kidney disease diet due to their potassium content.

For example, 1 cup of cooked spinach contains around 839 mg of potassium, which is nearly half of the daily recommended amount for someone with chronic kidney disease who has high potassium levels.

Pretzels, Chips, and Crackers

Snack foods such as pretzels, chips, and crackers are typically high in sodium. They also lack important nutrients your body needs to function properly.

Potato chips are also high in potassium since they are made from potatoes and should be avoided.

One small bag of potato chips (22 chips) contains around 150 mg of sodium and 336 mg of potassium.

Pickles and Relish

Pickles and relish are cured foods. They are high in sodium and should be avoided on a kidney diet.

For example, one large pickle contains around 1,630 mg of sodium. A kidney-friendly diet usually recommends a person stay below 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

Processed Meats

Processed meats are meats that have been cured, salted, smoked, or fermented to improve flavor and extend shelf life.

Examples of processed meats include hot dogs, sausage, beef jerky, corned beef, and pepperoni.

Intake of processed meat and red meats is associated with a higher risk for chronic kidney disease.

Processed meat is not only high in sodium, but it is also high in protein.

Premade or Frozen Meals

Most processed foods, including premade or frozen meals, are high in sodium. Examples include frozen pizza, prepackaged frozen dinners, and soups.

Many premade meals can account for most of your recommended daily sodium allowance, making it important to avoid them on a kidney diet.

Canned Foods

Canned foods, including soups, vegetables, meats, and seafood, are popular because they are a quick and convenient way to add more nutrient-rich foods to your diet.

However, most canned foods are high in sodium because salt is often used as a preservative to extend their shelf life.

Since a person with chronic kidney disease cannot get rid of excess sodium, canned foods should be limited.

Dark-Colored Soda

Most dark-colored sodas are high in phosphorus additives to help preserve shelf life and enhance the flavor. They are also high in calories and sugar and should be limited on all diets.

Most dark-colored sodas contain anywhere from 50 to 100 mg of phosphorus in a 200 milliliter serving.

Studies show that the absorption rate for phosphorus additives is higher than natural or plant-based phosphorus.

Root beer is an exception, with less than 1 milligram of phosphorus and potassium per serving.


If you have chronic kidney disease, lowering your potassium, phosphorus, and sodium intake can help prevent or delay health problems associated with kidney disease.

It's important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all diet for every person with chronic kidney disease. To get a customized meal plan, speak with your nephrologist (kidney specialist) or dietitian, who can tell you what foods you can eat based on your labs and kidney function.

Following a kidney-friendly diet can feel restrictive at times. The good news is, working closely with a registered dietitian can help you customize your meal plan based on your individual preferences and lifestyle.

To locate a dietitian near you, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and search under "Find a Nutrition Expert."

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can you drink with stage 3 kidney disease?

    The best beverages to drink on a kidney diet are water, cream soda, lemon-lime soda, lemonade, or root beer.

  • Can you reverse kidney damage?

    No, you can't reverse kidney damage, but you can slow the progression. Choosing the right foods and avoiding the ones listed above are great first steps.

36 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Lindsey DeSoto, RD, LD
Lindsey Desoto is a registered dietitian with experience working with clients to improve their diet for health-related reasons. She enjoys staying up to date on the latest research and translating nutrition science into practical eating advice to help others live healthier lives.