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Food Label Reading: Tips for People with Chronic Kidney Disease

If you have CKD, you may need to limit some nutrients in your diet such as sodium, phosphorus, or potassium. You should limit saturated and trans fats, too. Read the food label to help make healthy food choices for your kidneys.

  • Check the Nutrition Facts label for sodium.
  • Check the ingredient list for added phosphorus and potassium.
  • Look for claims on the label, like “low saturated fat” or “sodium free.”

What Should I Look for on the Nutrition Facts Label?

Look for sodium on the Nutrition Facts label. Some Nutrition Facts labels will list phosphorus and potassium, too, but they do not have to.

An image of a food label showing that the serving size listed for the item is 1 cup, but the package contains two servings. If you eat two servings, the amount doubles. One serving of the item has 660 milligrams of sodium. This is 28% of the daily value for sodium. Food with 5% or less of the daily value for sodium is low in sodium. Food with 20% or more of the daily value for sodium is high in sodium.  

What Should I Look for on the Ingredient List?

1. Look for phosphorus, or for words with PHOS, on the ingredient list. Many packaged foods have phosphorus. Choose a different food when the ingredient list has PHOS on the label.

Ingredients: Rehydrated potatoes (Water, Potatoes, Sodium acid pyrophosphate), Beef (Beef, Water, Salt, Sodium phosphate), Wine...
This ingredient list shows that the food has added phosphorus.

2. Look for potassium on the ingredient list. For example, potassium chloride can be used in place of salt in some packaged foods, like canned soups and tomato products. Limit foods with potassium on the ingredient list.

Ingredients: Tomato juice, Vegetable juice blend, Potassium chloride, Sugar, Magnesium, Salt, Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid), Citric acid, Spice extract, Flavoring, Disodium inosinate, Disodium guanylate.
This ingredient list shows that the food has added potassium.

Did You Know? Ingredients are listed in order of the amount in the food. The food has the most of the first ingredient on the list, and the least of the last ingredient on the list.

Look for Claims on Food Packages to Help You Find Foods:

Lower in Saturated/Trans Fat:

  • Saturated fat free
  • Low saturated fat
  • Less saturated fat
  • Trans fat free

Lower in Sodium:*

  • Sodium free
  • Very low sodium
  • Low sodium
  • Reduced salt

*Sodium chloride (salt) is replaced in some foods with potassium chloride. If you need to watch your potassium, check the ingredient list.


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.


February 6, 2013

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