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Eating Out Options

Not eating at home? Take along our guide to Dining Out on a Renal Diet for help with meal choices at your favorite restaurants.

If you’re on a kidney-friendly diet, you might think you can’t eat at a restaurant. Not true! Eating out can be a good break from cooking and give you a chance to spend some relaxing time with your friends and family.

Know what you’re eating

These days, many restaurants have “heart-healthy” or “low fat” menu choices. However, very often, foods sold as “low fat” have more salt and sugar, and the ones touted as “low salt” have more fat. You also need to be alert to limit foods that are extra-high in potassium.

Today, because many people are more aware of what they eat, restaurant servers know much more about what’s in each item on the menu. All you have to do is ask. As a customer, it is okay for you to say that you do not want added sugar, salt, or monosodium glutamate (MSG, a flavor enhancer), in your food, or that you want dressings on the side. Restaurants are service businesses, and they get more repeat customers if they make you happy.

Fast food is fast—not always healthful

Did you know that just one fast food fried chicken breast may have 1,190 mg of sodium? A fast food fish sandwich may have 1,330 mg of sodium. And a small cheeseburger at some fast food restaurants may have 750 mg of sodium. No wonder they super-size the drinks!

Still, if you are careful, you can find food that won’t leave you thirsty for the next two days. Download this guide to Dining Out on a Renal Diet, and find suggestions about low-salt options at fast food restaurants.  You can also ask for the nutritional facts at your favorite places, or check the company website.

Being prepared makes eating out easier

The key to eating out on a dialysis meal plan is to be prepared. When you plan to eat out, you can:

  • Ask the restaurant to prepare food to meet your needs. If you want to order a menu item that has something you wish to avoid, ask for a substitute item. For example, if you would like a chicken dish that contains cheese and tomatoes, you might ask to replace them with mustard.
  • Ask about ingredients and how the food is made. Be aware of foods that include salt, soy sauce, tamari, MSG, etc., because these will make you thirstier. If the food is made fresh for each order, they can leave out these seasonings. If a big batch is made up, you may want to make another choice. Good choices include:
    • Salads
    • Oil and vinegar or lemon juice
    • Vegetables (low to moderate potassium)
    • Fruits (low to moderate potassium)
    • Breads
    • Grilled or baked foods
  • Avoid high sodium choices such as:
    • Soups
    • Heavily marinated items
    • Cream sauces and gravies
    • Soy sauce and ketchup
    • Salad dressings
    • Deep fried foods
    • Salt-cured meats (including cold cuts, sausage, bacon, etc.)
    • All salt (including sea salt, garlic salt, etc.)
  • Avoid high potassium choices such as:
    • Dried fruit (raisins, prunes, dried apricots, figs)
    • Avocados
    • Mangos
    • Papayas
    • Cantaloupe
    • Kiwi
    • Bananas
    • Oranges
    • Tomatoes
    • Potatoes
    • Cooked spinach
    • Salt substitutes with potassium
  • Remember your binders! Some people keep spare containers of binders in the glove box of their car, in a purse, and in their pocket, just in case.
  • Try to avoid fast foods. When you go to a fast food restaurant, try to limit your sodium.

And remember… once in a while, we all have a splurge. When you do, don’t feel too guilty about it - just try to forgive yourself and get back on track.


Content from Kidney School, a program of the Medical Education Institute, Inc.