CKD Tips for Enjoying Summertime Food

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Marika Wamback, BSc. R.D.
Registered Dietitian |

Enjoying Summertime Food

CKD Tips for Enjoying Summertime Food

Summer is here and barbeque season has begun!  Camping, trips to the cottage, barbeques, bonfires, and other fun events can be exciting and can be stressful at the same time if you have chronic kidney disease (CKD).  Worrying about what to eat and how much to eat can take the fun out of enjoying food at a summer event. Planning ahead and coordinating event menus with friends and family may be helpful.  

Here are some simple tips, tricks and swaps to help you enjoy all kinds of wonderful summer food.

  1. Hamburgers: Hamburgers are the epitome of bbq season and they’re so easy to make and prepare.  Make your own burgers using lean ground beef, herbs, and spices. This ensures you’re getting a good quality protein without added sodium and fillers that may be found in pre-made/processed burgers.   
    Enjoying Summertime Food
  2. Hot Dogs, Sausage, and Kielbasa: They are easy to prepare, taste great grilled, and are usually very economical.  However, they are usually heavily processed, not a good quality protein source, and high in fat, sodium, and phosphorus.  Depending on your level of CKD, this should be a very occasional summer time item, or an item to be avoided altogether.
    Enjoying Summertime Food
  3. Kabobs:  Who doesn’t love a meal on a stick?  It’s an easy way to cook, eat, and control portions of favorite foods.  Try using some high quality proteins such as lean beef, chicken, pork, or tofu, along with some low potassium produce such as green and red peppers, red or white onions, chunks of corn on the cob, eggplant, zucchini, pineapple, or grapes.  Try using sodium free herbs, marinades, and spices to flavor up your kabobs.
    Enjoying Summertime Food
  4. Vegetarian Burgers: Vegetarian burgers may be an option depending on what’s in them.  Making your own from scratch avoids unwanted added sodium and phosphorus which may be found in pre-made and processed products. 

If they are made with tofu, beans or lentils combined with a starch such as rice, then they are a complete protein.  This is a better source of protein for CKD management.   

If they are made from pea-hull protein, they may be highly processed.  

Be an avid label reader!  Look for veggie burgers that contain less than 200 mg of potassium, phosphorus, or sodium per burger.  Vegetarian proteins are usually high in phosphorus so be sure your phosphorus level is stable.  

5. Vegetarian Hot Dogs: Meatless hotdogs are an alternative to conventional hot dogs, however, reading the label is very important.  They can still be highly processed, contain processed proteins, along with a high amount of additives and preservatives.  They may be an occasional item or an item to avoid depending on your level of CKD.

6. Chicken: Chicken is a very versatile, complete protein that can easily be prepared in a variety of ways such as on the grill, kabobs, barbequed pieces such as thighs, legs, backs, and wings.  Be creative with different herbs and spices to prepare tasty chicken options that you can enjoy.
Enjoying Summertime Food

7. Ribs: Ribs are a barbeque staple that are fun and messy to eat (hold the bone!).  They are a tasty treat and can be easily prepared by using sodium free herb and spice rub blends, homemade or commercial marinades, or sauces.  Ribs are usually higher in fat with a small amount of protein, so enjoy them in moderation.
Enjoying Summertime Food

8. Fish and Seafood: Summer time cooking methods can be a delicious way to enjoy some fish and seafood.  Flavor them with a simple marinade of lemon and garlic. Try making foil packs with your choice of fish or seafood and low potassium vegetables–easy to prepare and clean up!

9. Steak: For many people, summer isn’t complete without barbequing steak.  A portion size of 2.5 ounces (75 grams) is a great source of high biological value protein.  Trim it, add a simple rub (see rub recipe on Kidney Chef), grill it up and enjoy! Try lean cuts such as ribeye or round.
Enjoying Summertime Food

10. Grilled Vegetables: Grilling is a great alternative to steaming, roasting, or eating vegetables raw. Grilling vegetables gives them a unique and delicious flavor that can help give you variety of tastes in your renal diet.
Enjoying Summertime Food

You can skewer them on kabobs, use vegetable grill baskets, or wrap them in foil and grill them.  Brush on a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon or lime, and a sprinkle of herb or spice before cooking to create a flavorful side dish.  If you have to watch your potassium intake, stick to these grill friendly veggies:

  • Red, green, orange, or yellow peppers
  • Mushrooms (check your phosphorus)
  • Red or white onions
  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Summer squash
  • Cabbage
  • Corn on the cob

11. Grilled Fruits: Renal friendly fruits such as pineapple, watermelon, peaches, and plums grill well and gives an amazing enhanced flavor.  Try a sprinkle of pepper, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for heightened flavor.
Enjoying Summertime Food

Condiments and Toppings Do’s and Don’ts

Be mindful of your condiment amounts and choices.  Many contain preservatives such as sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Avoid or Limit Adding These:

Enjoying Summertime Food

Try Adding These Toppings to Flavor up Your Meal: 

Enjoying Summertime Food
  • Try this rub recipe: 

These tips can help you enjoy some tasty summertime foods while sticking to your CKD diet. You’ll be sure to have a great meal and an enjoyable time!

The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. KidneyChef urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. KidneyChef advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency service immediately. KidneyChef does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the website. KidneyChef does not guarantee the accuracy of information on the Website and reliance on any information provided by KidneyChef is solely at your own risk.


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