Eat Healthy When You Have Lupus Nephritis
It’s important for everyone with lupus to eat healthy. But if you have lupus nephritis (a kidney disease caused by lupus), you may need to make some specific changes to your eating habits.
Some of these changes depend on how well your kidneys are working. Your doctor can do blood tests to see if your kidneys are having trouble filtering out certain minerals in your blood. Then you can work together to find a healthy eating plan that works for you. Your doctor can also refer to you a nutrition specialist called a registered dietitian to help with your eating plan. It is never too early to start working with a registered dietitian to protect your kidneys!
Start by learning these tips for eating healthy with lupus nephritis.
Cut down on sodium
Most people, including those with lupus, need to cut down on sodium — but it’s even more important to limit sodium when you have kidney problems. Eating less sodium can help control swelling and high blood pressure caused by lupus nephritis. Try these tips:
- Cook more meals at home using fresh ingredients — packaged foods and restaurant meals are often high in sodium
- At restaurants, ask about lower-sodium options on the menu, check out the nutrition information online or ask to have no salt added to your food
- Check the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods, and choose options with less sodium — or look for foods labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added”
- Rinse canned foods with water to help remove some of the added salt
- Flavor your food with herbs and spices instead of salt
Salt substitutes often replace sodium with potassium — and people with kidney disease may also need to limit potassium. Ask your doctor if salt substitutes are safe for you.
Eat smaller portions of protein
Your kidneys get rid of waste from the protein you eat, so eating too much protein can be hard on your kidneys. Talk with your doctor or dietitian about the right amount of protein for you — and try these tips to choose smaller portions of protein foods:
- If you have a protein-heavy meal like steak, pork, chicken or fish, eat a smaller portion and save the rest for the next day — or split protein-heavy meals with a friend
- Replace half of the meat in your tacos, wraps, or sandwiches with veggies
- Think of veggies and grains as the main part of your meal — and treat meat, poultry, and other protein foods as the side dish
- Consider more vegetarian meals. Plant based proteins like beans, nuts, seeds, lentils and tofu have smaller amounts of protein in them. Choosing these plant-based proteins in place of animal proteins like beef, pork, chicken or fish can lower the workload on your kidneys!
If you’re on dialysis (a treatment for severe kidney disease), you may need to change your eating routine in different ways. For example, you may need to eat more protein or limit the amount of fluid you drink each day. Talk with your doctor or dietitian about ways to eat healthy when you’re on dialysis.
Ask your doctor if you need to limit phosphorus and potassium
Some people with severe kidney disease have trouble filtering phosphorus and potassium out of their blood and need to limit these things in their diet. Make sure to talk with your doctor first —a healthy kidney diet is different for everyone. Your doctor will do tests to find out if you need to limit phosphorus or potassium.
Tips for limiting phosphorus
If your doctor or dietitian says you need to limit phosphorus, try these tips:
- Check for phosphorus (or any ingredients with “phos”) on ingredient labels and choose foods and drinks without these ingredients
- Eat more fresh fruits and veggies — these foods are naturally low in phosphorus
- Cut down on dairy and cheese— these foods are higher in phosphorus
- Avoid processed meat and cheese, cola, and frozen prepared foods — these often have phosphorus added to them
- Limit eating at fast food restaurants and convenience food products
You can also try these swaps to limit phosphorus:
Instead of these high-phosphorus foods
Try these lower-phosphorus options
Rice, almond, oat or coconut milk (look out for phosphorus ingredients)
Small amounts of natural cheeses
Sparkling water, unsweetened iced tea or clear diet sodas
Deli turkey, ham, hot dogs, bacon or sausage
Small amounts of fresh chicken, turkey, fish, beef or pork
Tips for limiting potassium
If your doctor or dietitian says you need to cut down on potassium, follow these tips:
- Avoid salt substitutes — these often replace sodium with potassium
- Choose healthy fresh foods that are lower in potassium — check out this list of high- and low-potassium foods
- Limit processed meats like deli meat, bacon, sausage or hot dogs, these meats often are packed with extra potassium
- Check the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods and drinks, choose options with less potassium and avoid potassium ingredients
You can also try these swaps to limit potassium:
|Instead of these high-potassium foods
|Try these lower-potassium options
|Oranges and bananas
|Apples and berries
|Fruit or vegetable juice
|Sparkling water, coffee, tea
|Rice, almond, oat or coconut milk (look out for potassium ingredient additives)
|Potatoes, French fries or hash browns
|Rice or cauliflower
Our health educators are available to answer your questions and give you the help you need.