Your Official Instructions
If you're on a kidney diet, your dietitian will usually explain to you the need to not eat too much potassium, phosphorus, or sodium. Then she'll give you some lists that conflict with each other. But you won't know this at the time she gives them to you. Then, you get to go home and figure it out for yourself!
The first thing I did was to look up the food I eat on those lists. I got so discouraged and angry. I threw up my hands and said “What the hell can I eat?”
You should get four different lists of
- ‘high' potassium
- ‘Low' potassium
- ‘high' phosphorus
- ‘low' phosphorus
- and possibly high and low lists for sodium
Well, what is high? What is low? The list does not tell you. I discovered that if an item was low in potassium, it was likely high in phosphorus. Or, the other way around, which is what got me so frustrated!
Did your dietitian tell you what your dietary limits for phosphorus, potassium, and sodium were? Mine didn't. She happily gave them to me, after I asked for them. Without them, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to stay within those limits, or even know what you can eat!
What To Do?
If a food is listed as ‘high' potassium (think potato) then you are made to believe that you cannot eat it anymore. Not so, if you're smart about it. If you know how many ‘potassiums' (mg) are in your potato, and you know how many ‘potassiums' you can have for the day, you can stay within your limits by juggling how much you eat at each meal. This works for phosphorus and sodium too.
But, how do you ‘know' how many mgs. of potassium, phosphorus, or sodium are in your potato? The USDA Food Data Central has the information for most food items and some branded foods. Beware, most branded foods do not test for phosphorus, so that as well as potassium may be missing. While the USDA food database is a great resource, it is difficult to use. KidneyDietCentral.com has a tool that makes it very easy and fast to look up a food's nutritional values.
With KDC;s Food Finder you can find the actual amount of potassium and phosphorus that is in the food, such as a potato in less than a minute! It is now free for your use through April 30th. You'll also get ‘A Dialyzor's Secret To Eating' eBook and it's Companion Workbook
Using potassium as an example, my daily limit was 2,000mg. I just need to balance out the day to stay within 2,000mg. If I want a slice of tomato on my sandwich, I find that a slice weighs about 20g with 47mg of potassium. That really isn't much. A whole tomato will give you 292mg of potassium, that's just 15% of my daily limit, leaving about 1700mg for the rest of the day.
Be careful not to eat too much all at once! I used to indulge just prior to dialyzing since that process would remove the excess.