Embracing a Diabetes and Kidney-Friendly Meal Plan by Emily Weeks, RDN, LD

Living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and diabetes can be challenging, but one key aspect of managing these conditions is adopting a diabetes- and kidney-friendly eating plan. By following a thoughtful and balanced approach to nutrition, you can slow disease progression and reduce your risk of complications.

Embracing a Diabetes and Kidney-Friendly Meal Plan

Foods that Fit in Your Eating Plan

Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods that are minimally processed will help you achieve your health goals. Choosing food such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean poultry, seafood, plant proteins, heart-healthy fats, and low-fat dairy can help you slow the progression of CKD, help manage diabetes, and lead to better overall outcomes. And you may need to limit foods with potassium and phosphorus based on your individual needs—talk to your health care provider to find out.
Eating minimally processed foods also helps limit the amount of sodium you eat each day to stay within recommended levels. If you find yourself in a situation where packaged food is your only option, choose those that are labeled as low-sodium and/or no-added-salt and -sugar. Your health care team will advise if you need to limit your intake of certain foods to keep your nutrient levels within normal limits.
If you need to restrict your phosphorus and potassium intake, adjustments can be made to your eating plan. This can be done by eating fruits and vegetables that are lower in potassium and cutting back on the amount of dairy, nuts, and legumes you eat to keep phosphorus levels within normal limits. By adjusting your eating plan, you can still enjoy a variety of foods while effectively managing your health.

Using a Diabetes- and Kidney-Friendly Meal Planner

Kidney and Diabetes Friendly Meal Planner PlacematOne effective tool that can guide you towards healthier eating habits is using a diabetes and kidney-friendly meal planner, which provides guidance on how you can consume various foods in balanced portions to ensure a well-rounded and nourishing eating pan. Let's explore the different sections of the diabetes- and kidney-friendly meal planner and discover some delicious food examples for each.

½ Non-Starchy Vegetables

The first section of the diabetes- and kidney-friendly meal planner is dedicated to non-starchy vegetables. For those with CKD who need to limit their intake of phosphorus and potassium, the following options provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber while promoting overall health. Examples of non-starchy vegetables include:
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Green beans

¼ Starchy Vegetables and Grains

In the next section of the meal planning guide, you'll find starchy vegetables and grains. It’s essential to moderate your portion of these foods to manage your diabetes. They play an important role in a balanced eating plan by providing needed energy and nutrients. Choose whole grains whenever possible to get more fiber. Examples of starchy vegetables and grains include:
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Barley
  • Corn

¼ Protein

The third section of the meal planning guide focuses on proteins, with an emphasis on lean, animal-based, and plant-based sources. Interestingly, plant proteins have been shown to slow disease progression, reduce health complications, and support overall kidney health. Including a variety of protein sources in your eating plan helps ensure a balanced intake of essential amino acids. Here are some examples of proteins:
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Tofu
  • Lean, skinless poultry (such as chicken or turkey breast)
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Eggs

Moderating Protein Intake and Heart-Healthy Fats

Moderating protein intake is crucial for managing CKD and diabetes, as it helps reduce the burden on the kidneys and adds balance to meals. Additionally, incorporating heart-healthy fats while limiting saturated fats is beneficial for kidney and heart health. Aim for greater intake of omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Examples of heart healthy fats include:
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados or avocado oil
  • Canola oil
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and albacore tuna

Focus on Fluids

While water should be your primary choice of beverage, alternative drinks like flavored water, coffee, unsweetened tea, or 0-calorie clear carbonated drinks can be enjoyed and help you stay hydrated.

The Takeaway

Embracing diabetes and kidney-friendly meals can be a transformative step towards improved diabetes management and kidney health. By following the suggested meal planning guidelines and including the recommended food examples, you can create balanced, nourishing meals that support your overall well-being. Consult with your health care team, including a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) to tailor your eating plan to your specific needs. Using these meal planning tips will help you better manage your health and enjoy a healthier, more vibrant life.

For more resources on diabetes and kidney disease visit diabetes.org/kidney

 This article is brought to you by DaVita, National Sponsor of Living with Diabetes.

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