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How to Plan a Kidney-Friendly Breakfast

It’s the most important meal of the day! Pancakes, bacon, eggs… just thinking about it makes me want to turn the coffee pot on and get my day started.

But, the question on every breakfast-loving kidney patient’s mind today is can we make a kidney-friendly breakfast that tastes good?

Absolutely, we can.

Macronutrients and Breakfast on a Renal Diet

You’ve probably heard a lot in the media and online about “macros”. 

Macronutrients are: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. 

That’s it. Our bodies need all three of them everyday- regardless of what your friend at the gym says.

Carbs give our bodies energy - think of them as the gas in the tank.

Proteins help with tissue repair and structure development. They're like the mechanic that fixes the car.

And fats are important to keep everything running smoothly from hormone development to protecting your organs - they’re the oil in this auto metaphor of ours.

Every person needs all three of these for their body to function properly. Albeit in differing amounts.

Ex: If you aren’t very physically active, you may not need many carbs, in the same way that a car that isn’t driven much doesn’t need much gas. But, it will need some otherwise, it won’t go. 

A good breakfast will generally have a balance of all three of these to give you energy and keep you full.

A bowl of yogurt with granola and blueberries.
Fat, fiber, and protein can help to keep you fuller, longer

Even people with diabetes need carbs throughout the day - however small an amount.

But, what does breakfast for kidney disease look like??

Plant-Based, Whole Food Breakfast

Well, that’s going to vary for everyone - and a Registered Dietitian can help you to figure out what works for you.

But, I like to focus on plant-heavy dishes like oatmeal with peaches and pecans, peanut butter toast, and yogurt with blueberries, walnuts, and honey..

Some foods listed may be on the dreaded "Do-Not-Eat" list, and you can read more about my feelings on that here. For a personalized list of foods that you should or should not eat, reach out to a renal dietitian.

Instead of peaches on oatmeal, you can chop up some apples and add a heavy shake of cinnamon - this is one of my favorite fall breakfasts.

And for cold cereal, I love Cheerios, plain, Honey-Nut, even chocolate. They’re pretty kidney-friendly especially when you pair them with unsweetened almond milk.

Animal Proteins vs Plant proteins

Animal proteins like eggs and cheese, have been shown to be harder on the kidneys than plant based proteins(1)

Now, this doesn’t mean that they have to be completely avoided. Unless vegetarianism is something that you’re passionate about, in which case, you have my encouragement and admiration.

But, current guidelines do recommend focusing on a diet that incorporates more plant based proteins and fewer animal based proteins in addition to limiting overall protein intake(2) - again, a Registered Dietitian can help you determine how much protein your body needs.

This is because eating animal proteins excessively - that includes milk, cheese, and eggs as well as meat, poultry, and fish - can increase phosphorus and potassium in the blood and has been linked to protein spilling over in the urine - known as proteinuria or albuminuria. 

These generally aren’t good news for your kidneys.  

My Top 6 Favorite Renal Breakfast Foods

1. Berries 

  • Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, they’re all great. They’re high in fiber and antioxidants that help with inflammation. They can be high in carbs if you eat more than a serving or two though, so make sure to enjoy them in moderation.

2. Apples

  • Apples have a ton of fiber in the skin and pair beautifully with a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter to keep you full all day long.

3. Nuts and Nut Butter

  • Peanut butter, macadamia nuts, and pecans are good sources of fiber, plant based protein, and healthy fat to keep your kidneys and blood vessels strong!

4. Steel Cut Oats

  • You may wonder “What makes steel-cut oats so special?” Well, they’re higher in fiber and plant-based protein than traditional instant oats. That’s it. Now, does that make instant oats a bad choice? No. But, if you like a more chewy oatmeal and you don’t mind the added cook-time, steel cut is a great choice. Whole Grain Bread

  • There’s just something simple about a piece of toast in the morning. I like to jazz it up with a heavy spoonful of peanut butter, but to each their own. I do like to aim for a bread that’s less than 200mg a slice with at least 5g of protein and 3g of fiber though. English Muffins

  • It’s just so easy to pop one of these bad boys into the toaster and make a sandwich with him. Peanut butter and apple, strawberries and cream cheese, or a marbled egg, options are endless. It’s low in phosphorus and potassium, you just want to make sure that whatever you sandwich into this little guy is kidney-friendly as well.

BONUS! My favorite easy to grab breakfast food:

Prepackaged waffles

  • We talk a lot about a whole food, plant-based diet and generally discourage processed foods. However, they aren’t all bad. Waffles can be low in potassium, not terribly high in sodium, and with about 30g of carbs for 2 waffles, you can pair them with some protein-rich peanut butter to start your day!

Breakfast Foods to Limit

I generally never ask my patients to completely cut a specific food out. But, these are kind of red-light foods that I don’t recommend for my kidney patients on a daily basis.

1. Processed breakfast meats

  • Bacon, sausage, ham, they’re all loaded with sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and saturated fats that are harmful to the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys. The turkey versions of these: turkey bacon, turkey sausage, etc often have even more sodium than the traditional pork versions. So, switching to turkey is not going to do your kidneys any favors.

2. Cow’s milk

  • It’s a good source of protein and calcium which is why it's recommended for growing children. But it also has a lot of phosphorus, potassium, and saturated fat. If you need something to add to your cereal in the morning, I like unsweetened almond milk. It’s lower in protein, phosphorus, and potassium than cow’s milk, and it actually has more calcium than cow’s milk. 

The main takeaway here should be balance. You want most breakfasts to be balanced with carbohydrates, fiber, healthy fats, and plant-based protein to keep you full and to keep your kidneys healthy.

There are very few foods that can’t be incorporated into a healthy kidney breakfast. But, if you have questions, you should reach out to a renal dietitian for help here.


Brandy Winfree, RDN smiling at the camera.

I'm Brandy Winfree, RDN.

When I was working in dialysis, I saw so many patients who had no idea that diet plays a HUGE role in kidney health.

I decided then that I needed to pass my knowledge onto people with kidney disease BEFORE they went into kidney failure. Not after.

That's why I became a board Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition and why I started this blog. 

You deserve to take care of the kidneys that you have now and I want to share my knowledge with you to make that happen.

Are they any topics that you'd like to hear my thoughts on?

Shoot me a message here.

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