Blog post

How to make your holiday menu kidney-friendly

Learn about kidney-friendly holiday recipes including appetizers, main course, drinks and desserts.
A family of six sitting around a festive thanksgiving meal

The holidays will be here before we know it, and with them come constant temptations and opportunities to "fall off" the food plan that is so important to your health if you have kidney disease. This time of year is all about being around loved ones and enjoying traditions that typically involve food. With some advance planning, here is how you can help make sure your holiday menus do not derail your health.

If you are the cook, you are in luck: You get to plan the menu and make sure it is kidney-friendly.

Cooking from scratch is the best way to ensure that your food is as tasty and healthy as possible. Instead of using salt to season meat and veggies, opt for herbs, spices, lemon zest and lemon. If you want to serve potatoes, you can reduce the potassium by half or more by "dialyzing" them in three steps: (1) Cut into small cubes. (2) Put them into a large pot and heat to boiling. Pour out the water and rinse. (3) Repeat step 2.

If you are a guest, talk to your host ahead to time about the menu and your restrictions. You can offer to bring an appetizer or side dish that is kidney-friendly, lightening the host's burden and making sure there is something to eat that is good for you.

Here are a few choices for each meal course that can help make your holiday menu kidney-friendly:


The eating often starts before you even sit down at the table. Be mindful and limit appetizers, and reach for the ones that will not derail your food plan. The serving size of your appetizer should be a little smaller than your palm. Remember that potassium, phosphorus and sodium are hidden in many appetizers.

Raw Veggies

  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Radishes
  • Carrots
  • Celery Sticks

Low-Potassium Fruits

  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Berries


  • Unsalted Popcorn
  • Unsalted Pretzels
  • Deviled Eggs


  • Cream Cheese
  • Low-Sodium Cheese
  • Mango Salsa

Main Course

It is important to limit your portions and keep them in the right proportion. The amount of meat should be about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards (keeping in mind that the amount of protein you can eat differs depending on the stage of kidney disease). Vegetables, stuffing and rice should be no bigger than the size of your computer mouse. And, last but not least, if gravy is a must-have for your holiday, use no more than 2 tablespoons on your plate.


  • Green Salad
  • Green Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Corn
  • Zucchini
  • Cauliflower


  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Goose
  • Duck


  • Stuffing without nuts or dried fruits
  • Plain Rice
  • Noodles
  • Bread or Rolls
  • "Dialyzed" Potatoes


  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Applesauce
  • Gravy


Thirsty yet? See the list below of safe beverages to sip through the evening. Reminder for your fluid intake: anything that is liquid at room temperature is considered a fluid, not just water.

Cold Drinks

  • Water with Lemon
  • Sparkling Water
  • Iced Tea


  • Apple
  • Cranberry

Hot Drinks

  • Tea
  • Coffee


Still have room for dessert? Enjoy a small portion of the treats below:

Fruit Pies

  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Berry


  • Sugar
  • Shortbread
  • Snickerdoodles


  • Pound
  • Spice
  • Angel Food

Hard Candies

  • Peppermint

Soft Candies

  • Jelly Beans
  • Gumdrops

This information was recently presented in a free webinar hosted by the American Kidney Fund. The webinar, "Kidney-friendly holidays," is available for on-demand viewing at this link:


Rory C. Pace, MPH, RD, CSR, FAND

Rory Pace has worked with kidney patients for 20 years. She is the Director of Nutrition Services at Satellite Healthcare, a not-for-profit dialysis provider.