What you eat and drink can affect your health. How much you eat and drink also affects your health. Eat healthy portions of foods that are low in salt (sodium) and fat to help keep a healthy weight and a healthy blood pressure. Even small changes can make a difference in your health and can help keep diabetes and high blood pressure—the leading causes of kidney disease—under control.

Limit salt

Most Americans consume far more sodium (salt) than they need. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day—the amount of sodium in 1 teaspoon of table salt. That number includes sodium from all sources, including prepared or packaged foods. Here are some tips for limiting salt in your diet.

  • Do not add salt to your food when cooking or eating. Try cooking with fresh herbs, lemon juice or spices.
  • Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned. If you do use canned vegetables, rinse them with water before eating or cooking them. This helps to remove extra salt.
  • Shop for items that say “reduced-sodium” or “low-sodium.” If you have kidney disease, make sure to check that these items do not contain potassium as a salt-substitute.
  • Avoid processed foods, such as frozen dinners and lunch meats.
  • Limit fast food and salty snacks, such as chips, pretzels and salted nuts.
  • Limit foods that are pickled or preserved, such as pickles and olives.

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Limit fat

A healthy diet has a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, lean meats and beans. Even small changes like limiting fat in your diet can make a big difference in your health. You need some fat in your diet to stay healthy. Fat gives you energy and helps you use some of the vitamins in your food. But too much fat can lead to weight gain and heart disease. Here are some way to help limit fat in your diet and to choose healthier fats when you can. 

  • Choose lean meats or fish. Remove the skin and trim the fat off of your meats before you cook them.
  • Bake, grill or broil your foods instead of frying them.
  • Shop for fat-free or low-fat dairy products, salad dressing and mayonnaise.
  • Try olive or canola oil instead of vegetable oil.
  • Choose egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs.
  • You should also avoid trans fat. This kind of fat makes your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol higher and your "good" (HDL) cholesterol lower. When this happens, you are more likely to get heart disease, which can cause kidney damage.

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Control your portions

To control your weight, you need to do more than just choose a healthy mix of foods. You should also look at the kinds of food you eat and how much you eat at a time. A portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package, or at home.

  • Eat slowly and stop eating when you are not hungry anymore. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full.
  • Check nutrition facts to learn the true serving size of a food. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda is really two and a half servings.
  • Do not eat directly from the bag or box. Take out one serving and put the box or bag away.
  • Avoid eating when watching TV or driving. People often eat more when they are distracted.
  • Be mindful of your portions even when you do not have a measuring cup, spoon or scale. A typical four-ounce portion is about the size of the palm of your hand. A tablespoon is about the size of the top half of your thumb. A teaspoon is about the size of the tip of your index finger.

Talk to a dietitian about other tips for portion control and ways to limit salt and fat in your diet. Your doctor can help you find a dietitian in your area. Medicare and private insurance policies may cover your appointment with a dietitian.

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Keep a healthy cholesterol level

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance in your blood. Having high cholesterol and diabetes makes it more likely that you will have kidney disease, heart disease or a stroke. High cholesterol can also make your diabetic kidney disease worse faster.

There are two types of cholesterol you should pay attention to: HDL (“good” cholesterol) and LDL (“bad” cholesterol). For most people, normal cholesterol levels are:

  • Total cholesterol: less than 200
  • HDL (“good” cholesterol): more than 40
  • LDL (“bad” cholesterol): less than 100

Your triglycerides are also important. Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood. For most people, a healthy triglyceride level is less than 150.

Talk with your doctor about what your cholesterol and triglycerides levels should be and how you can control them.

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