A List of Foods to Avoid When You Have Kidney Problems: Adjusting Your Diet to Prevent Complications

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Chocolate lovers who have kidney problems need to reduce their intake of this sweet food. Patients with kidney problems have two reasons to avoid chocolate or eat only very small servings. Chocolate contains potassium, which builds up in the bloodstream when the kidneys do not function properly. Chocolate also contains phosphorus, which also builds up in the bloodstream when the kidneys cannot maintain normal mineral levels in the body.

Cola Drinks

Cola drinks contain phosphoric acid, which means they also contain a considerable amount of phosphorus. Patients who need to reduce their phosphorus intake should avoid or drink very limited amounts of cola drinks. Instead of cola drinks, try lemon-lime soft drinks or non-carbonated beverages.

Fast Food

Patients with kidney problems need to limit their sodium intake to prevent several complications. When someone with kidney disease or kidney failure eats too much sodium, the increased sodium content of the bloodstream causes the body to retain water. This water adds extra volume to the blood, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood to the body’s tissues. This extra work increases the risk for high blood pressure. Sodium intake also increases thirst, so those who are on fluid restriction should limit their sodium consumption. Fast food items, such as fries, burgers and even desserts, contain high levels of sodium.

Salty Snacks

Those with kidney problems should avoid salty snacks like salted nuts, potato chips, salted popcorn and salted pretzels. Instead of eating these salty snacks, try unsalted snacks or substitute low-potassium fruits and vegetables with low-fat dip for unhealthy foods.


One way to prevent potassium levels from increasing is to avoid high-potassium foods or strictly limit their consumption. Potatoes contain high levels of potassium, with the USDA Nutrient Database reporting that one medium baked potato contains 926 mg of potassium. One way to reduce the potassium content of potatoes is to leach them before preparing them. Leaching removes some of the mineral content from the potato, reducing the overall potassium content of this food. DaVita, a hemodialysis company, recommends peeling potatoes and cutting them into small pieces. Soak the pieces in a large amount of water for a minimum of four hours. After soaking the potatoes, drain the water and rinse the potato pieces under running water. Cook the potatoes and drain them again before preparing them.

Canned Foods

Food manufacturers add sodium to canned foods to add flavor and increase the shelf life of these products. Those who have kidney problems should avoid canned foods because of the increased sodium content. Fresh and frozen vegetables have significantly less sodium than their canned counterparts. Corn, for example, contains only 1 mg of sodium in one fresh ear and 7 mg of sodium in 1 cup of the frozen variety. Colorado State University Extension reports that 1 cup of canned corn contains 384 mg of sodium.

Dairy Products

While dairy products have several health benefits, patients with kidney patients need to limit their intake of milk, cheese and yogurt. Milk contains protein, phosphorus and potassium, all of which increase the workload of the kidneys. Rice milk, non-dairy creamers and soy milks make a suitable alternative to dairy products.


USDA Nutrient Database: Potatoes, Baked

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Eat Right to Feel Right on Hemodialysis

Colorado State University Extension: Sodium in the Diet

DaVita: Phosphorus and Chronic Kidney Disease