Festive Feasting: A Guide to Holiday Meals

Festive Feasting: A Guide to Holiday Meals

By: Lori Bohn, Renal Dietitian, MRP

The holidays are here!  It’s the season to spend time with family and friends.  And when there are get-togethers, there is food.   This time of year it’s tempting to cheat a little on your recommended diet. However if you do, try to limit it to one or two small portions of special foods. You can also cut back in other areas to account for overindulging. It’s easy to take in more salt, fluid, potassium or phosphorus than you intend, which might not make you feel so good later. Fortunately there are tricks to help eat wisely and plenty of kidney-friendly foods to treat yourself to.

Think positively! If you overindulge one day, don’t give up. Just get back on track the next. If you’re going to a party in the evening, eat smaller meals during the day to leave room for a little extra later. If possible, ask ahead what food they plan to serve, or offer to bring something so you can bring a kidney-friendly item. Variety makes it more difficult to stay within your diet prescription. So when at a buffet, limit yourself to one food from each food group. Take a small plate to help keep amounts reasonable.

Main dish:

Roasted turkey or chicken, goose, duck or fresh pork, or other wild game is a great main dish. Try to avoid ham, or other meat or poultry that is “seasoned”, which means salt and likely phosphorus are added. Stew made with moose or elk is also a great traditional dish. Presoak or partially boil carrots and potatoes before throwing them in the stew, so that some of the potassium leaches out first.


Small amounts of mashed potatoes can fit into your holiday dinner. Double-boil the potatoes before mashing. Try adding garlic and margarine instead of milk. Sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips or winter squash tend to be high in potassium, so try to avoid these. Rice, couscous or noodles make good side dishes. Use low salt broth and herbs to flavour them. Cut salt by making your own stuffing with bread, rice or couscous.


There are lots of low potassium vegetables that can be enjoyed by everyone at a holiday meal. Try something different like Crispy Eggplant French Fries from Davita.com or Cauliflower with Fresh Dill from kidneycommunitykitchen.ca.


Of course if you have diabetes, you need to limit desserts or stick to lower sugar ones.  Other people with kidney disease can benefit from the additional calories in desserts.  If you need to limit potassium and phosphorus, desserts with apples, lemon, berries or other low potassium fruits are good choices.  Cakes or cookies without chocolate, nuts, or lots of dried fruits are also good choices.  If you like puddings try making them with original rice milk, instead of regular milk.

Asian dishes:

White rice and mung bean or rice noodles are great basic ingredients to build on. Use low sodium soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, or sesame oil for flavour. Use vegetables low in potassium, like Napa or regular cabbage, snow peas, peppers, or onions, garlic, celery.  Use smaller amounts of vegetables higher in potassium, like bok choy and water chestnuts. Ube or purple yam is a popular beautifully-coloured vegetable which is high in potassium.  If you choose dishes with these vegetables, have a very small portion.   Limit desserts made with milk, coconut or coconut milk. Below are some other ideas for holiday celebrating.

  Instead of : Have:
Appetizers Processed cheese, cheese ball with lots of hard cheese and nuts.  Salty snacks like nuts, cheesies, chips. Low salt crackers with brie cheese or cheese ball with herbs and/or fruit, crab dip. Make a lower salt cereal mix, or popcorn balls.
Desserts Milk puddings, foods with chocolate, coconut, nuts, ice cream Desserts with allowed fruit, marshmallows, meringue, nondairy whipped topping, shortbread, sugar or spice cookies
Drinks Eggnog, hot chocolate, cappuccino or other drinks with milk or ice cream Try hot spiced apple cider, sparkling grape juice or cranberry cocktail, diet noncola sodas


Check out our PDF Kidney Friendly cookbooks here to look through recipes.


For additional recipes and tips visit:






For a list of foods with phosphorus and potassium values: