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Make the Kidney Connection: Food Tips and Healthy Eating Ideas

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease. Other risk factors include heart disease and a family history of kidney failure. Eating healthy is one way to maintain good health. Small changes to your diet can help you manage your diabetes and high blood pressure and possibly protect your kidneys.

The National Kidney Disease Education Program (NKDEP) and National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), both of the National Institutes of Health, have a few tips to get you on your way to healthier eating!

Tips on How to Eat Less

  1. Make sure you eat breakfast every day.
  2. Share a single dessert.
  3. When eating out, have a big vegetable salad, then split an entrée with a friend or have the other half wrapped to go.
  4. Drink a glass of water 10 minutes before your meal to take the edge off your hunger.
  5. Listen to music while you eat instead of watching TV (people tend to eat more while watching TV).
  6. Eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to send a signal to your brain that you're full.
  7. Teaspoons, salad forks, or child-size utensils may help you take smaller bites and eat less.
  8. Make less food look like more by serving your meal on a salad or breakfast plate.
  9. Make a list before you go to the store. Don't grocery shop on an empty stomach.
  10. Try not to snack while cooking or cleaning the kitchen.

Tips on Making Healthy Food Choices

  1. Try getting one new fruit or vegetable every time you grocery shop.
  2. Cook with a mix of spices instead of salt.
  3. Choose veggie toppings like spinach, broccoli, and peppers for your pizza.
  4. Try different recipes for baking or broiling meat, chicken, and fish.
  5. Try to choose foods with little or no added sugar.
  6. Gradually work your way down from whole milk to 2% milk until you're drinking and cooking with fat-free (skim) or low-fat milk and milk products.
  7. Eat foods made from whole grains—such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, and wholegrain corn—every day. Use whole-grain bread for toast and sandwiches; substitute brown rice for white rice for home-cooked meals and when dining out.
  8. Read food labels. Choose foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
  9. Slow down at snack time. Eating a bag of low-fat popcorn takes longer than eating a slice of cake. Peel and eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice.
  10. Try keeping a written record of what you eat for a week. It can help you see when you tend to overeat or eat foods high in fat or calories.

Healthy Recipes and Food Substitutions

NKDEP wants to help you help your family maintain its kidney health by providing you information about healthier food options. Visit the following websites for more information on recipes and food substitution tips that may help you adapt meals for your family.


This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.


March 1, 2012

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