21 Foods to Avoid for Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease, also known as CKD, is characterized by a progressive loss of kidney function over time.

Kidney disease is divided into five stages based on your eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) and how well your kidneys can filter out waste and excess fluid. 

Stage 3 kidney disease occurs when you have an eGFR of 30–59. This means there is moderate damage to your kidneys.

Foods to avoid with stage 3 chronic kidney disease

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If you have stage 3 kidney disease, you may not experience significant symptoms. However, by this stage, you are at risk for health complications as waste begins to build up in your body.

The good news is that you can make dietary changes to avoid the progression of kidney failure.

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

To delay the progression of kidney disease, it's important to adhere to a kidney-friendly diet. You'll want to limit foods high in potassium, sodium, and phosphorus unless otherwise instructed by your healthcare provider.

Here's a look at some of the top foods to avoid with stage 3 chronic kidney disease.

Whole Grain Bread

Typically, whole grain bread is recommended over white bread for individuals without kidney disease because it is rich in fiber and other important vitamins and minerals.

However, a person with moderate to advanced kidney disease is usually told to limit whole grain bread because it contains more potassium and phosphorus than white bread.

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

  • About 69 milligrams of potassium
  • 57 milligrams of phosphorus

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

  • 32.8 milligrams of potassium
  • 31.6 milligrams of phosphorus

Bran Cereals and Oatmeal

When shopping for cold and hot cereals, be sure to look at the food label. Many cereals that you 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 milligrams of potassium
  • 135 milligrams of phosphorus

One cup of cooked oatmeal contains:

  • 180 milligrams of phosphorus
  • 164 milligrams 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 milligrams of potassium
  • 136 milligrams of phosphorus

Cashews contain about:

  • 187 milligrams of potassium
  • 168 milligrams 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.

Macadamia nuts are a great choice for a kidney diet as they only contain around 104 milligrams of potassium and 53 milligrams of phosphorus per 1 ounce (28 gram) serving.

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 50–100 milligrams 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.

The best beverages to drink on a kidney diet are water, cream soda, lemon-lime soda (such as Sprite or 7UP), lemonade, or root beer.

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 stage 3 chronic kidney disease cannot get rid of excess sodium, canned foods should be limited.

Choose lower-sodium canned foods such as those labeled "no salt added" to reduce your daily sodium intake. You can also drain and rinse canned foods to reduce their overall sodium content.

Avocados

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 milligrams of potassium.

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

Although avocados are high in potassium, they can still be enjoyed in small quantities as part of a kidney-friendly diet. Limit the amount to one-fourth of a medium-sized avocado to keep your overall daily potassium intake low.

Dairy

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 with stage 3 kidney disease may need to limit protein, phosphorus, and potassium.

One cup of 2% milk contains:

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

Consider dairy alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, and rice milk. These options typically have less protein, phosphorus, and potassium compared to cow's milk.

Brown Rice

Brown rice is a whole grain that is high in fiber and is often recommended for healthy individuals to promote heart health.

However, like whole grain bread, brown rice has a higher phosphorus and potassium content than white rice.

For example, 1 cup of cooked brown rice contains about:

  • 208 milligrams of phosphorus
  • 174 milligrams of potassium

In comparison, 1 cup of cooked white rice contains:

  • 69 milligrams of phosphorus
  • 54 milligrams of potassium

White rice, wild rice, barley, and buckwheat have a lower potassium and phosphorus content than brown rice and are great alternatives.

Bananas

Bananas are one of the best dietary sources of potassium. One medium banana contains a whopping 422 milligrams of potassium.

On a kidney diet, it's important to limit the amount of potassium to avoid excess buildup in the blood, which can lead to heart problems.

Instead of bananas, opt for kidney-friendly fruit options such as apples and berries.

Oranges

Oranges and orange juice are both high in potassium. One orange contains around 255 milligrams of potassium.

One cup of orange juice contains 443 milligrams of potassium. If you've been instructed by your dietitian or kidney doctor to limit potassium intake, you'll want to avoid orange or orange juice.

Instead of oranges or orange juice, opt for a kidney-friendly fruit option like pineapple or pineapple juice. Other kidney-friendly fruit juice options include apple juice, cranberry juice, or grape juice.

Potatoes

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

If you plan to include potatoes as a part of your kidney-friendly diet, leaching or boiling them can reduce the potassium content by as much as 50%.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a high-potassium fruit that is often restricted or limited in those with stage 3 kidney disease.

This includes both raw tomatoes and tomato sauce. For example, 1 cup of tomato sauce contains around 910 milligrams of potassium.

One medium tomato contains around 292 milligrams of potassium. If you've been instructed to limit potassium, tomatoes and tomato sauce should be avoided.

Instead of tomato sauce, opt for a delicious roasted red pepper sauce that has less potassium per serving.

Granola

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 milligrams of potassium.

Instead of store-bought granola, consider making your own kidney-friendly homemade granola with lower potassium.

Beans

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 milligrams of phosphorus and 746 milligrams of potassium.

Leaching beans and legumes before cooking can help decrease the potassium content. However, be sure to speak with your kidney dietitian to discuss the amount of leached high-potassium vegetables that can be safely consumed.

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.

Instead of processed meats, opt for skinless turkey or chicken, fresh fish, or eggs. Remember, these are still high in protein, so be sure to speak with your dietitian to find out how much protein you need.

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 milligrams of sodium. A kidney-friendly diet usually recommends a person stay below 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Pickles and relish are high in sodium and should be avoided on a kidney diet. If you're craving a pickle, opt for low-sodium pickles to limit your daily sodium intake. Low-sodium options still contain sodium, so it's important to read food labels to be sure it fits in your recommended sodium intake.

Apricots

With stage 3 chronic kidney disease, it's best to avoid apricots because of their potassium content. One cup of sliced apricots has 427 milligrams of potassium.

Moreover, 1 cup of dried apricots provides around 1,510 milligrams of potassium. This can easily take up your daily recommended potassium intake.

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

Instead of apricots, choose a kidney-friendly fruit such as plums or peaches to stay within your recommended daily potassium range.

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.

When choosing premade or frozen meals, opt for choices with less than 600 milligrams of sodium per meal. Alternatively, you can meal prep and freeze your own low-sodium, kidney-friendly meals that can be heated in just a few minutes.

Swiss Chard, Spinach, and Beet Greens

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

For example, 1 cup of cooked spinach contains around 839 milligrams of potassium, which is nearly half of the daily recommended amount for someone with stage 3 chronic kidney disease.

Opt for lower potassium green vegetables such as green beans, asparagus, lettuce, and celery to limit your daily potassium intake.

Dried Fruits

Many dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, and prunes are high in potassium, sugar, and calories.

For example, 1 cup of prunes contains 1,270 milligrams of potassium. However, the potassium is significantly reduced in its raw state. One cup of plums contains just 259 milligrams of potassium.

Instead of high-potassium dried fruits, opt for fresh fruits. Choose low potassium fruits such as figs, plums, or grapes.

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 milligrams of sodium and 336 milligrams of potassium.

Instead of pretzels, chips, and crackers choose low-sodium snacks. Good kidney-friendly snack options include unsalted popcorn, low-sodium crackers, and pita chips.

Summary

If you have stage 3 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.

A Word From Verywell

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.

35 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.