A to Z Health Guide

Dining Out With Confidence - On Dialysis

Main Points

  • Plan ahead
  • High protein
  • Low salt (sodium), potassium, and phosphorus
  • Smaller portion sizes
  • Talk with your dialysis dietitian before you go for more advice.

Planning Ahead

  • Follow your diet extra closely before and after dining out
    • Extra low salt
    • Extra low potassium and phosphorus
    • Less fluid intake
  • Choose a restaurant where you can ask for your food to be made without added salt and where they have freshly cooked options

High Protein

  • Since you’re on dialysis, animal proteins (beef, pork, poultry, fish, and eggs) are helpful to maintain muscle mass, fight infections, and keep healthy levels of protein (albumin) in your blood.  You need albumin in your blood to lower your chances of holding on to extra fluid. 
    • Choose the lean cuts of meat like skinless chicken or turkey breasts, pork chops or tenderloin, and beef tenderloin, flank steak, top loin, porterhouse, T-bone, and trimmed veal.
  • Here are some simple ways to increase your protein
    • Order a 3-4 egg (or egg-substitute) option
    • Add protein to salads
  • Include plant-based protein options like soy burgers and freshly-made non-dairy cheese and milk substitutes (ask if any preservatives have been added, as these may increase the phosphorus and sodium content)

Low Salt

  • Salt can raise your blood pressure and also make you thirsty
  • Most restaurants add a lot of salt to their foods, especially fast food restaurants
  • Ask for your food to be made without added salt
  • When possible, choose freshly prepared foods and avoid salty items like soy sauce, French fries (also high in potassium) and macaroni and cheese. Instead, order vegetables like carrots, green beans, or corn.

Smaller Portion Sizes

  • Avoid the trap of “super-sized” portions, and order only what you need to enjoy your meal
  • Ask for a to-go box when your food arrives and put half of your main dish in the box before you even start to eat.
    • This may help to control potassium, phosphorus, salt, and calories, depending on the types of food ordered.

Phosphorus

  • Phosphorus is a mineral found in many foods like proteins, milk, cheese, fast foods, and packaged foods.
  • Limiting phosphorus can help to protect your bones and keep them strong.
  • Choose freshly cooked foods whenever possible and skip the cheese.
  • Remember to take your phosphorus binders with you and take them during your meal.

Potassium

  • Avoid:  tomato sauces and tomato juice, tropical fruits including bananas, melons, and orange juice, potatoes (white and sweet)
    • Instead, order: garlic and olive oil or white clam sauce with pasta,, rice or noodles.

Fluids

  • Limit what you drink if your dialysis team has told you to follow a fluid restriction.  One glass of liquid should be okay, but remember to count soup, ice cream, and gelatin as part of your daily fluid intake.  Consider the amount of fluid you already had during the day and how much you will want to have after your meal.
  • Choose cranberry, apple, or grape juice.

If you would like more information, please contact us.

Acknowledgment: Reviewed by the Council on Renal Nutrition (06/2019)

© 2019 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.