Low-Protein Diets

July 5, 2015
Side Effects of High Protein

If you have just learned that you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), your doctor may tell you to start limiting the protein in your diet. Changing your diet to meet your body's lower protein needs and still using the foods and recipes you are used to can be difficult. This fact sheet has ideas and tips to help you lower the protein in your favorite recipes, using the foods you normally use every day.

Why do I need to eat less protein?

Protein is needed for growth, upkeep and repair of all parts of your body. Protein is found in almost all foods. When your body breaks down and uses the food you eat, a waste product called urea is made. When your kidneys are not working well, urea is not removed as it should be. Urea then builds up inside your body. Side effects of a high urea level are fatigue (tiredness) and poor appetite. By decreasing the amount of protein you eat, you can help your kidneys have a lighter workload, with less urea to clean out.

What foods have the most protein?

There are two types of protein in the food we eat:

  1. Animal protein is called high-value protein. It is easier for your body to use. Examples of high-value animal proteins are: red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, eggs and dairy products.

* It is very important for you to eat enough high-value protein to keep your body healthy.

* Dairy products are high-value protein, but are also high in phosphorus. You may need to use less dairy products in your diet to control your blood level of phosphorus.

  1. Vegetable or plant proteins are low-value proteins. Examples of low-value proteins are: bread, cereals, dried beans, nuts, rice, pasta or noodles and vegetables.

A dietitian trained to work with those who have CKD can help you balance your protein.

How can I eat less protein and still feel like I am eating enough?

Here are some tips to help you stretch protein foods so that a smaller amount will still feel like enough.


  • Fill up sandwiches with lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, chopped celery, apple, parsley or water chestnuts.
  • Use meats that are sliced very thin; this will spread them out to look like a larger portion.
  • Use bread that is more thickly sliced, and consider more flavorful breads such as sour dough or rye bread.


  • Use lower-protein foods such as rice and pasta to add bulk to a soup without adding much protein.
  • Use milk substitutes that are low in protein when making cream soups.

Main Dishes

  • Use vegetables and grains as the main dish and meats or other high-value protein as the side dish.
  • Try kebabs, using smaller pieces of meats and more vegetables or fruits.
  • Prepare dishes with small pieces of meat or chicken mixed in with rice or pasta. Fried rice dishes or ground meat with pasta work well.
  • Toss together a chef salad with lettuce and crisp vegetables, adding smaller strips of meat and egg.
  • For casseroles, use smaller amounts of meat than the recipe calls for, increase the starch (rice or pasta). Buy low-sodium soups to use in all casserole recipes.
  • Allow yourself extra portions or larger servings of bread, rolls, pasta and rice to help meet your calorie needs without increasing your protein intake by very much.
  • For a stronger cheese taste with a smaller amount of cheese, buy sharp cheddar, Parmesan or Romano cheese. A little bit of these cheeses will go a long way.

What are calorie boosters?

When you are eating less protein, you may also eat fewer calories. Using fewer calories may cause you to lose weight. It is always important for you to stay at your healthiest weight for your body size. To keep from losing too much weight, you can "make up" some of the calories lost when cutting down on protein foods by using foods with higher calorie levels.

Source: www.kidney.org
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