Diet and Nutrition

Kidney Disease Diet for Patients Not on Dialysis

March 7, 2018   /
Anne Danahy, MS RD LDN

For patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) but who are not on dialysis, it is useful to know some basic information before learning about their dietary needs.


For example, kidney function is sometimes expressed as the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Normal GFR is 90 to 130 milliliters (mL)/minute. Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) is normally 5 to 25 mL/deciliter (dL). Urea is a product from the metabolism of protein. Normal kidneys maintain the BUN range of 5 to 25 mg/dL. When the kidneys begin to fail to eliminate urea in the urine, urea will build up in the blood, and BUN levels will increase.


The 5 stages of kidney disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), are:

▪ Stage 1—GFR is more than 90 mL/minute, with persistent protein in the urine

▪ Stage 2—GFR is 60–89 mL/minute, with persistent protein in the urine (mild disease)

▪ Stage 3—GFR is 30–59 mL/minute (moderate disease)

▪ Stage 4—GFR is 15–29 (severe disease)

▪ Stage 5—GFR is less than 15 or individual is on dialysis (kidney failure)


Approximately 14% of people in the United States have some stage of kidney disease. Many of these people have diabetes or high blood pressure. At present, about 460,000 people are on dialysis (Stage 5) (NIH NIDDK).


Heart Health and Kidney Disease
Calcium and Chronic Kidney Disease

The National Kidney Foundation has suggested further guidelines for renal dietitians who are preparing and teaching special diets for persons with kidney disease. Specifically, if the amount of protein eaten is limited to the RDA, it may help alleviate the symptoms of uremia. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, bad taste, and weight loss.

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