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Kidney Nutrition: Modifying Recipes For PKD –

Nutrition is one tool to help keep you and your kidneys healthy with polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Nutrition helps to prevent cysts from growing and preserves kidney function, but can also help to manage blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars.

Everyone’s PKD diet should be customized to their own needs and blood work. You can use the tips and tricks in the sections below to help you modify recipes to suit your needs.


With PKD, too much salt intake increases the vasopressin hormone which can lead to increased cyst growth. Additionally, many living with PKD also have high blood pressure, and following a low sodium diet can help to reduce vasopressin levels and blood pressure.

Aim for 2300 mg of salt or sodium per day. This includes salt from all food sources, such as naturally in foods (e.g. breads, milk), salt added to foods when cooking or at the table, and packaged or processed foods (e.g. chips, fast food, etc.).

Reading food labels is a good strategy for reducing salt. Aim for 5% daily value or less per serving for sodium. Alternatively, look for foods that have nutrient claims of “no added salt” or “low sodium,” as these products will have sodium amounts of 5% daily value or less per serving.

One teaspoon of salt contains 2300 mg sodium. When preparing foods, reducing the salt in recipes can help lower your overall salt intake. You can automatically reduce the salt in any recipe by 25% without noticing any changes in texture or flavour. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt, you can reduce it to ¾ teaspoon.

Many recipes online will have the nutrition information per serving. Aim for 500 mg sodium per serving.

You can adjust the salt in cooking, read food labels for low sodium products, and add flavour with herbs, spices, citrus, or vinegars to pack a punch of flavour without the salt.


Fibre is often found in vegetables, fruit, plant-based proteins, and whole grain carbohydrates. Fibre helps to manage blood sugars, cholesterol, and bowel regularity with PKD. Foods that are high in fibre may also help to reduce inflammation and preserve kidney function.

One of the most common types of fibre in our diet is carbohydrates, like whole grains. The body prefers to use carbohydrates as its energy source and, with PKD, the type of carbohydrate and portion size are important considerations. Current recommendations are to consume minimally processed carbohydrates which include whole grains like barley, bulgur, and oatmeal instead of processed carbohydrates like white bread or baked goods.

Start by reading food labels and look for the word “whole grain” in the ingredient list; try aiming for a least half your grains to be whole each day. When cooking, look to use whole grains like barley, bulgur, brown rice, millet, oats, or quinoa. These whole grains have more fibre and vitamins compared to refined carbohydrates.

Other sources of fibre come from vegetables and fruit. Aim to include a variety of colours of vegetables and fruit in your recipes such as red, green, orange, yellow, purple, blue, and white. Each colour of vegetable or fruit has different vitamins and minerals. Remember to eat a variety of colours each day. When preparing recipes, aim for half of the meal to be vegetables or fruit. This helps to include additional fibre sources in the diet.


Adjusting portions for a recipe can help to modify the protein amount. Protein is important for our bodies because it helps to build muscle and fight infection. However, too much protein with PKD can lead to disease progression. A general rule for protein with PKD is to limit animal protein to one meal per day, and aim for about 3 oz (21 g of protein) or the size of a deck of cards at that meal.

Here are some strategies for managing protein in recipes:

  • When reading recipes, look to see how many grams of protein per serving. You can modify the number of servings you get per recipe up or down depending on your protein needs.
  • Alternatively, when reading recipes adjust the amount of protein you cook with, and keep the servings the same. For example, if the recipe has 50 g protein per serving, you can reduce the amount of protein in the recipe by half.
  • Replace half the meat with plant-based proteins. Beans and legumes are a great alternative to ground meats in dishes. This helps to reduce the portion of animal protein, and acid load on the kidneys.

If you have questions about how many grams of protein you need per day, a renal dietitian can help calculate your protein needs. Speak with your healthcare team for a referral.


Sugar gives us energy because it has calories. Natural sugar from fruit, vegetables, and dairy products also includes other nutrients like fibre, vitamins, and minerals that we need in our diet, whereas free or added sugars like white and brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc. have no additional nutritional value.

The body uses natural and added sugars the same way, and too much free and added sugars can lead to cyst progression and growth in PKD, difficulty managing blood sugars for those with diabetes, gout, and high cholesterol.

Here are some strategies for modifying sugar in recipes with PKD:

  • Read food labels and look for 5% daily value or less for sugar.
  • Aim for foods with at least 4 g of fibre per serving on the food label.
  • Look for nutrient content claims like “No Added Sugar” or “Unsweetened”.
  • When preparing baked goods, reduce the sugar by ¼, or swap in pureed fruit like unsweetened applesauce for half of the sugar.

KN_Mar_3-3.pngCooking with PKD

Cooking at home and preparing meals from scratch is a great step in managing your nutrition with PKD. Using recipe websites online that have the nutrition information allows you to modify recipes to fit your PKD needs.

And now finding recipes for PKD is even easier. This month, the Love Your Kidneys! cookbook is available through the PKD Foundation of Canada, and includes dietitian-curated resources and recipes to help manage your PKD. You can download a free digital copy of this 16-page booklet from the PKD Foundation of Canada website, here!

Additionally, join me and the PKD Foundation of Canada live on Wednesday, March 20 at 7:00pm EST for an interactive cooking demonstration and nutrition information for PKD.

Register here today!

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