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Oxford Kidney Unit

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Healthy eating

Following a healthy eating pattern can help control blood pressure and reduce blood fats including cholesterol. This can often be difficult with kidney disease, due to the varying diets you might be on.

Here is some general healthy eating advice, which should be safe for everyone.

Follow a regular meal pattern

  • Aim to have three meals a day. Missing meals, especially breakfast, can lead to snacking later in the day.
  • Avoid high fat snack foods, such as crisps, pastries, pies and chocolate.
  • Base meals on starchy carbohydrates.
  • Include starchy foods at each meal, such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice and breakfast cereals.
  • Try to choose foods that are higher fibre by having wholegrain pasta / rice / bread or porridge / Weetabix / Shredded Wheat. High fibre varieties are lower in calories, help prevent constipation, improve blood sugar control and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
  • Avoid adding too much butter, spreads, cheese etc. to foods.

Eat fewer sugary foods and drinks

  • Sugar is just 'empty calories', which provide no nutritional value. High amounts of sugar in your diet can lead to weight-gain, and raise blood glucose levels.
  • Try to replace fizzy drinks with diet or low-calorie drinks and 'no added sugar' squashes.
  • Try to replace sugar-coated cereals, sweets, chocolate, cakes, biscuits and puddings with plain cereals (e.g. porridge, Weetabix, Shredded Wheat), plain biscuits (e.g. Rich Tea, crackers, rice cakes) and yoghurts labelled 'no added sugar', 'diet' or 'light'.
  • Try to replace jam with reduced-sugar jam / marmalade.
  • Remember to cut out sugar in your drinks, and use artificial sweeteners instead such as Candarel, Splenda or Sweetex.

Eat fewer fatty foods and snacks

  • Saturated fats are animal fats, found in foods such as butter, lard, pastry, cheese, cream or creamy sauces, mayonnaise, fatty meats, pies and sausages.
  • Eating these foods can lead to weight-gain and heart disease. Try to avoid them, or only have them very occasionally.
  • Polyunsaturated or mono-unsaturated fats are vegetable-based and found in olive oil, rapeseed oil and sunflower spreads. These types of fats are better for your health, however, should not be eaten to excess.
  • When cooking try and bake / grill / steam foods, instead of frying or roasting.
  • Choose lean meats, fish or chicken, and remove fat and skin.
  • Use low-fat dairy produce such as semi-skimmed milk, low- fat spreads, reduced-fat mayonnaise, smaller amount or reduced-fat cheeses and yoghurts.


  • Healthy eating allows a moderate alcohol intake, keeping to the recommended set limits for men (21 units per week) and women (14 units per week).
  • A unit is half pint of lager, 25ml pub measure of spirit or 125ml glass of wine.
  • Try to limit alcohol intake and have 2 or 3 alcohol free days a week as alcohol is high in calories and contributes to weight gain.
  • Try low calorie mixers with drinks to make them last longer!
  • Some alcoholic drinks are high in potassium, so refer to your potassium diet sheet if you need to follow a low potassium diet.


Christmas is a time to enjoy food, but you may be unsure if specific festive foods are suitable if you have been advised to follow certain dietary restrictions.

We have a Christmas diet sheet, with hints and tips, and a booklet for some renal-friendly festive recipes which may help if you are following potassium and salt restrictions.