PKD Nutrition Blog
December 13, 2023

Navigating the Holidays with PKD | Kidney Nutrition with Emily Campbell

KN_1.pngThe holidays only come once per year, and they are a great time to reinforce the idea that all foods can still fit within a PKD lifestyle. Foods at the holidays have much more than nutrition; they also have a lot of memories and emotions tied to them. If you’re living with PKD, you may be wondering how you can successfully navigate the holidays, and still enjoy foods while supporting your health. This blog post will walk you through some tips and tricks to be mindful of, to take the stress out of eating this holiday season – because this time of year is about being around loved ones and enjoying traditions that likely will involve foods. With some advance planning, you can make your holiday menus and traditional foods PKD-friendly.


Cooking from scratch is the best way to control the sodium content in foods. Using fresh or dried herbs, spices, citrus, or aromatic vegetables like onion, garlic, or leeks can pack a lot of flavour without the salt. If using packaged items, remember to read the food label, and look for foods with 5% daily value or less for sodium. Or look for ‘no added salt’ products like canned tomatoes or soup broths to use in your recipes. If a food has more sodium in it, be mindful of portion sizes.

If you are a guest, speak with the host ahead of time about the menu and your diet needs. If possible, offer to bring a dish that is typically higher in sodium, but prepare it with modifications. This could be a protein dish, casserole, condiment like gravy, or another side dish like stuffing or soup, so that you can enjoy the meal with peace of mind in how it was prepared.

At the holidays, some proteins can be high sources of salt. This could include cured meats like ham, bacon, smoked meats, or turkey (depending on how it is seasoned). If you are opting for cured or smoked meats, aim for a small piece. If you are preparing turkey, try this low-sodium turkey seasoning that is packed with flavour and comes out as a moist and juicy turkey.

2 green apples, cut into 4 wedges each
2 white onions, cut into 4 wedges each
2 lemons, cut into 4 wedges each
1 head of garlic
8 sprigs rosemary
1 tsp black pepper
3 TBSP olive oil


  1. Stuff the cavity of turkey with 2 wedges each of green apple, white onion, lemon, 4 cloves garlic, and 2 sprigs rosemary.
  2. Place the remaining items around the turkey in the pan.
  3. Drizzle olive oil on top of turkey and rub it in.
  4. Sprinkle black pepper over top of turkey.
  5. Cook turkey as directed.


It is important to remain hydrated with water, even over the holidays. But the holidays often include celebrations and other social events, so you may be wondering about alcohol. When it comes to drinking alcohol, moderation is key, because it can impair our judgment, increase our blood pressure, and lead to the progression of kidney disease, since the kidneys play a role in filtering alcohol. While there is no specific recommendation for how much to alcohol is safe to consume with PKD, for overall health it is important to limit alcohol as much as possible. Always check with your doctor to make sure alcohol is safe for you to consume, given your individual health and medications.

This holiday season, perhaps consider a “mocktail” instead of alcohol-containing beverages. Try preparing one of the recipes below, or offer to bring your own holiday beverages to parties, to ensure there are kidney-friendly options available like apple cider, tea, lemonade, or carbonated, flavoured water.

KN_4.pngLemon and Mint Soda

Servings 2

2 TBSP mint leaves
2 TBSP lemon juice
2 lemon wedges
2 cup sparkling water
4 ice cubes

Place mint and lemon juice in a bowl or mortar. Using the end of a pestle or spoon, carefully pound until mint leaves are crushed in lemon juice. Split mint and lemon juice between two cups. Add ice to mint mixture in each cup and top with sparking water and lemon wedge.

Pineapple, Cilantro and Lime Mocktail
Servings 2

¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, quartered
500 mL pineapple juice
500 mL sparkling water
4 ice cubes

Place cilantro and lime in a bowl or mortar. Using the end of a pestle or spoon, carefully pound until cilantro is crushed and juiced. Split cilantro and lime juice between two cups. Add ice to cilantro mixture in each cup and top with sparking water and lime wedges.

If you are consuming alcohol, remember to make it kidney-friendly and consume responsibly. Try to have half as much as you typically would, sip slowly, and avoid high-calorie mixed drinks. Or make a spritzer by mixing a small amount of wine (2 oz.) with sparking water (250 mL) and ice to reduce alcohol intake.


Every year around the holidays, we tend to feel anxious about our food choices, because our usual eating habits can become disrupted, there may be traditional or new foods around, and we may make less healthy eating choices. These changes can often leave us feeling guilty and afraid that our health will suffer the consequences.  But remember, no one meal will make or break the progress you’ve made in managing your PKD this year. It is important to be present during the holidays. Often the foods we eat are part of our culture or the celebration itself. So, try to remember to be mindful of portion sizes when having foods that you would not have every day.  

Remember to think about your plate, and always aim for half your plate in vegetables. The amount of meat should be about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards. Limit portions of higher-sodium foods like gravy, especially if they are a must-have on your plate.

Here are some great kidney-friendly options to include:

  • Appetizers: raw vegetables and dip, fruit, low sodium cheese and crackers
  • Vegetables: string beans, peas, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage
  • Sides: rice or stuffing prepared with whole grains and low-sodium seasonings
  • Sauces: cranberry sauce, applesauce, low-sodium gravy
  • Dessert: apple or berry pie, shortbread or ginger cookies, pound- or angel-food cakes

Speak with your renal dietitian or healthcare provider for specific recommendations based on your bloodwork.

Navigating the holidays with confidence is possible!

This holiday season, remember to be present and mindful, celebrate family recipes and traditions, and above all, nourish for overall health. Happy holidays! 

Written by: 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 renal nutrition helping those with kidney disease overcome the confusing world of nutrition to promote health. Emily can be found at