Looking after your diet

Eating a healthy diet is a very important part of looking after your diabetes and your kidneys. It can also lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Most people with kidney problems should follow guidelines for a normal healthy diet. If your kidney problem becomes more advanced that advice may change. If you have any questions always check with your doctor or dietician. 


How do I eat a healthy diet?

A healthy diet means eating regular meals low in fat, sugar and salt and high in fibre and vitamins. Avoid snacking on crisps, cakes and biscuits. If you feel hungry between meals try eating fresh fruit and raw vegetables instead.

Try to drink plenty of fluid during the day. Water or sugar free drinks are the best options. To keep your kidneys healthy, try to drink about 1.5L per day – this is about 6 mugs or 8 cups in total.

4 healthy diet tips

  • Regular mealsEat regular meals low in fat, sugar and salt and high in fibre and vitamins.
  • CakeAvoid snacking on crisps, cakes and biscuits.
  • Fruit and vegIf you feel hungry between meals, try eating fresh fruit and raw vegetables instead.
  • FluidDrink plenty of fluid during the day – water or sugar free drinks are the best options.

BMI calculator

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BMI is a standard way of measuring if people are a healthy weight for their height.

For people of Asian descent, 23+ puts you at risk of heart disease and diabetes.


 Portion control

Portion sizes

Choosing moderate portion sizes will help you to maintain a healthy weight. One trick to help you with this is to try using a smaller plate and eating more slowly. This should help you to notice when you start to feel full so that you are less likely to over eat. Doctors tend to use Body Mass Index (BMI) as a way to tell if your weight is healthy or not. You can ask your doctor to give you a target weight or use the online calculator (you’ll need to know your height and weight).

Limit your salt intake

A diet high in salt puts extra strain on the kidneys both directly and by causing high blood pressure, so it is important to be aware of your salt intake and reduce it as much as you can.

Hidden salt

Salt is added to lots of the food we buy from the supermarket without us knowing. This includes ready-made meals as well as everyday items like bread and cereal. The recommended daily intake of salt per day is less than 1 teaspoon. Supermarkets have started to print the amount of salt on the front of their packaging which is really useful because you can use these labels to help keep track of how much you are eating in a day.

Added salt

Unfortunately there are no “good” types of salt. Rock salt and sea salt are not healthier than table salt. Salt replacement products such as “Lo-salt” are high in a different kind of salt called potassium which can be difficult for the kidneys to remove. Flavoured salts e.g. celery salt and garlic salt and ready mixed seasonings should also be avoided. We like salt because it adds flavour to our food so try using herbs and spices instead.

To reduce the amount of salt in your diet:

  • SaltDon’t add salt to your food whilst cooking or at the table.
  • TakeawayAvoid takeaways and ready meals.
  • HamAvoid crisps, nuts, processed meats and salted fish.
  • Herbs and spicesDo use other flavourings such as herbs and spices.
  • Food labelsDo check food labels and choose low salt options.



Avoid sugar

Diabetes affects your body’s ability to manage your sugar intake. Sugary food and drink cause high sugar levels in the bloodstream which can cause irreversible damage to cells in your body specifically in your eyes, kidneys and nerves.

So it is important to avoid foods like cakes, biscuits and sweets. Pure fruit juice and fizzy drinks have very high sugar contents and should also be avoided. Choose products that are labelled ‘low in sugar’ instead and use artificial sweetener in place of sugar.

Cut down on fat

Eating less saturated (animal) fat will help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your body. Cholesterol is a type of fat that can build up in your blood vessels and narrow them. This can lead to problems like high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. Instead, choose low fat dairy products and use small amounts of unsaturated fats such as sunflower oils and spreads.

Blood pressure

Learn more about blood pressure

To reduce the fat intake in your diet:

  • ButterDON’T use butter, lard or ghee.
  • OilDO use a small amount of unsaturated fats such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils or spreads.
  • MeatDO trim all visible fat and skin from meat before cooking.
  • DairyDO choose low-fat dairy products such as semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurts and reduced fat cheeses.
  • Frying panDON’T fry food.
  • Steam pansDO steam, microwave or grill food.

The Eatwell Guide

The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what you eat should come from each food group. You can download a copy from the NHS Choices website.



The Be Food Smart app you can find out how much salt, sugar and saturated fat is in a product just by scanning the barcode.


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