PKD Nutrition Blog
June 04, 2024

Eating out with PKD | Kidney Nutrition with Emily Campbell

KN_2.pngThe warm weather is finally here, and that means many opportunities for celebrations and food. You may be wondering how you can attend and enjoy these events, and still put nutrition first with your PKD. This post will look at foods that you can eat at celebrations over the summer months.

This blog post contains product recommendations. These products are not endorsed by the PKD Foundation of Canada or by Emily Campbell, and are provided as educational examples. It is important to always read the food label, and speak with your healthcare team before making any nutrition changes.

What are the key nutrients to be aware of with PKD?

You have likely heard that choosing plant-based proteins instead of animal-based proteins can be helpful with PKD. Plant-based proteins can help to lower blood pressure and reduce heart disease. They’re also easier for the kidneys to filter.

At picnics and BBQs, look for ways to incorporate plant-based proteins into your dishes, like adding chickpeas to a salad; grilling tempeh or extra firm tofu instead of a hamburger; serving vegetables and hummus as a side dish or snack; or trying a black bean-stuffed bell pepper. Be wary of convenience plant-based foods, as these can be a source of sodium with PKD. Reading the food label can help you make the best choice.

KN_3.pngSome kidney-friendly plant-based proteins include:

  • Hummus (brands such as Sabra, President’s Choice)
  • Tofu (brands such as Sunrise, Rooster)
  • Tempeh (brands such as Lightlife, Henry’s Tempeh)
  • Beans and legumes that are dried or canned with no added salt (brands such as Unico or PC Blue Menu)

When eating out and choosing animal proteins, aim for a small portion – about the size of your palm – to help keep portion sizes in line. Choose leaner types of animal protein, like skinless chicken, turkey or fish, as these are lower in saturated fat and help to protect our heart. How animal proteins are prepared are also important to consider; aim for grilled or baked options, instead of fried, for a heart-healthy choice.

Some kidney-friendly foods to consider are:

  • Plain, unseasoned meats like chicken or turkey
  • Fresh or canned fish (brands such as Clover Leaf Low Sodium Tuna, Rain Coast, or Gold Seal Salmon)

Sauces, seasonings, marinades, dips, condiments, pickled items, deli meats, and breads can be high sources of sodium in our diet. Reading the food label can help to choose lower-sodium options. Look for foods with less than 5% Daily Value for sodium per serving. And choose foods with nutrient content claims that say “no added salt” or “low sodium”. These nutrient content claims can help you choose kidney-friendly products. These products will have less than 140 mg, or close to 5% Daily Value, compared to products that say “less sodium” or “reduced sodium,” which can still be a high amount of salt in our diet.

KN_4.pngSome kidney-friendly options include:

  • Snacks such as plain unsalted or plain popcorn (brands such as PC Blue Menu Natural Popcorn, Boomchicka Pop, SkinnyPop, unsalted trail mix, lightly salted or no salt chips like Lays, Miss Vickies, Tostitos, Que Pasa)
  • Sauces, seasonings (brands such as Good Food for Good, Bow Valley BBQ, PC Blue Menu, Pace Salsa Verde, Newman’s Own Pineapple Salsa, Aylmer or Hunts No Added Salt tomato products)

When eating out, look online for restaurants’ nutrition information. Many restaurants across Canada have the nutrition information available now. When eating at restaurants, these meals will always be higher in sodium. Remember that you have a daily target of sodium, and it should be spread out throughout the day. Aim to find the lowest-sodium option that helps you stay close to your daily target.

Most diet patterns showing health benefits with PKD are also diets that are high in fibre. And higher-fibre intake has been shown to reduce death and inflammation, cardiovascular and kidney disease, as well as having beneficial effects on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. Many Canadians do not get enough fibre. Some of the best sources to fill up on fibre with are vegetables and fruit. This time of year, we are fortunate to have access to many local and fresh in-season vegetables and fruit. Aim for half your plate to be made up of those.

KN_5.pngHere are some strategies for including more vegetables and fruit in your diet:

  • Use a veggie or fruit tray as a time-saving strategy; place them out at lunch and dinner to increase your consumption.
  • Add at least 3 types of vegetables to your pasta salad dishes; this will also increase the colour and fibre.
  • Packaged or bagged salads are nutritious and convenient; aim to use a low-sodium salad dressing, or make your own.
  • Frozen fruit makes a great snack, like a fruit popsicle, or blended in a smoothie.
  • Grill up some vegetables marinated in oil and vinegar with no-added-salt seasonings at your next BBQ, for a side dish.
  • When eating out, add an extra vegetable or side salad.
  • Pack fruit-based snacks like unsweetened fruit cups or applesauce.

What is the best strategy for eating out with PKD?
The best strategy when eating out is to start with the food that’s being offered (on the menu, or by your hosts). Then make choices for side dishes, sauces, salad dressings or desserts that build a balanced, kidney-friendly meal. Uses these reminders to help you feel confident and enjoy your time with friends and family.


  • Aim for a variety of colours from vegetables and fruit when eating. The fibre from these foods helps to keep you full. Choose low-potassium or low-oxalate options, based on your bloodwork or health history.
  • Look for low-sodium side dish options. Foods that have lots of sauces, seasonings, or cured meats will have more sodium. Choose fresher foods, and ask for sauces on the side so you can control the salt.
  • Be mindful of protein portions and choices; aim to include more plant-based options when possible.

Everyone’s needs are different with PKD. Working with a dietitian can help you determine how much of the various nutrients you need, and support you in gaining the confidence to eat the foods you love, especially at celebrations, and when eating out.

About the author: Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with a Master’s Degree in Foods and Nutrition. Emily specializes in helping those with kidney disease overcome the confusing world of nutrition to promote health. Emily and her team of dietitians can be found at