Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Kidney Stones in Children

Can what children eat or drink help prevent kidney stones?

Drinking enough liquid, mainly water, is the most important lifestyle change a child or teenager can make to prevent kidney stones. A teenager should drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses a day, unless he or she has kidney failure. Younger children can follow their health care professional’s guidance on how much liquid to drink to prevent kidney stones.

Studies have shown that the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can reduce the risk of kidney stones. Learn more about the DASH diet.1

Studies have shown that being overweight increases a child’s risk of kidney stones. A dietitian can help plan meals to lose weight.

Does the type of kidney stone affect a child’s food choices?

Yes. If a child has already had kidney stones, ask what type he or she had. Based on the type of kidney stone, changing the amount sodium, animal protein, calcium, or oxalate eaten may help prevent kidney stones.

Specific diets may help with each of these types of kidney stones:

A dietitian who specializes in kidney stone prevention can help plan meals. Find a dietitian who can help.

Calcium Oxalate Stones

Reduce oxalate

Most children who have calcium oxalate stones don't need to limit how much oxalate they take in through food. The best diet depends on the underlying causes of each child's kidney stones. However, when kidney stones are linked to the amount of oxalate eaten, a child may want to avoid these foods to help reduce oxalate in the urine:

  • nuts and nut products
  • peanuts—which are legumes, not nuts, and are high in oxalate
  • rhubarb
  • spinach
  • wheat bran

A health care provider can explain other food sources of oxalate and how much oxalate is safe to eat.

Reduce sodium

The chances of developing kidney stones increase when children eat more sodium. Sodium is a part of salt. Sodium is in many canned, packaged, and fast foods. It is also in many condiments, seasonings, and meats.

Talk with a health care professional about how much sodium is right for children who are trying to avoid kidney stones. See tips to reduce sodium intake.

Limit animal protein

Eating animal protein can make a child more likely to develop kidney stones.

A health care professional may recommend limiting animal protein, including

  • beef, chicken, and pork, especially organ meats
  • eggs
  • fish and shellfish
  • milk, cheese, and other dairy products

Although a child may need to eat less animal protein each day, he or she needs enough protein for good health. Consider replacing some meat and animal protein with beans, dried peas, and lentils, which are plant-based foods that are high in protein and low in oxalate.

Talk with a health care professional about how much total protein a child may need—whether from animal or plant sources—depending on the child’s age, size, and activities.

Get enough calcium from foods

All children need a certain amount of calcium to remain healthy and to keep their bones strong. Talk with a health care professional about how much calcium to consume to prevent getting more calcium oxalate stones. Getting the recommended amount of calcium—from food, not supplements—is important to help prevent another kidney stone from developing. In the right amounts, calcium can block other substances in the digestive tract that may lead to stones.

It may be best to get calcium from low-oxalate, plant-based foods such as calcium-fortified juices, cereals, breads, some kinds of vegetables, and some types of beans. Ask a dietitian or other health care professional which foods are the best sources of calcium.

Calcium Phosphate Stones

Reduce sodium

The chances of developing kidney stones increase when children eat more sodium. Sodium is a part of salt. Sodium is in many canned, packaged, and fast foods. It is also in many condiments, seasonings, and meats.

Talk with a health care professional about how much sodium is right for children who are trying to avoid kidney stones. See tips to reduce sodium intake.

Limit animal protein

Eating animal protein can make a child more likely to develop kidney stones.

A health care professional may recommend limiting animal protein, including

  • beef, chicken, and pork, especially organ meats
  • eggs
  • fish and shellfish
  • milk, cheese, and other dairy products

Although a child may need to eat less animal protein each day, he or she needs enough protein for good health. Consider replacing some meat and animal protein with these plant-based foods that are high in protein:

  • legumes such as beans, dried peas, lentils, and peanuts
  • soy foods, such as soy milk, soy nut butter, and tofu
  • nuts and nut products, such as almonds and almond butter, cashews and cashew butter, walnuts, and pistachios
  • sunflower seeds

Talk with a health care professional about how much total protein a child may need—whether from animal or plant sources—depending on the child’s age, size, and activities.

Get enough calcium from foods

All children need a certain amount of calcium to remain healthy and to keep their bones strong. Talk with a health care professional about how much calcium to consume to prevent getting more calcium phosphate stones. Getting the recommended amount of calcium—from food, not supplements—is important to help prevent another kidney stone from developing. In the right amounts, calcium can block other substances in the digestive tract that may lead to stones.

It may be best to get calcium from plant-based foods such as calcium-fortified juices, cereals, breads, some kinds of vegetables, and some types of beans. Ask a dietitian or other health care professional which foods are the best sources of calcium.

Uric Acid Stones

Limit animal protein

Eating animal protein can make a child more likely to develop kidney stones.

A health care professional may recommend limiting animal protein, including

  • beef, chicken, and pork, especially organ meats
  • eggs
  • fish and shellfish
  • milk, cheese, and other dairy products

Although a child may need to eat less animal protein each day, he or she needs enough protein for good health. Consider replacing some meat and animal protein with these plant-based foods that are high in protein:

  • legumes such as beans, dried peas, lentils, and peanuts
  • soy foods, such as soy milk, soy nut butter, and tofu
  • nuts and nut products, such as almonds and almond butter, cashews and cashew butter, walnuts, and pistachios
  • sunflower seeds

Talk with a health care professional about how much total protein a child may need—whether from animal or plant sources—depending on the child’s age, size, and activities.

Cystine Stones

Drinking enough liquid, mainly water, is the most important lifestyle change children can make to prevent cystine stones. Talk with a health care professional about how much liquid a child may need, depending on the child’s age, size, and activities.

References

May 2017
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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 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.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Michael J.G. Somers, MD; Harvard Medical School; Michelle A. Baum, MD, Harvard Medical School; Jeffrey M. Saland, MD, MSCR, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai