Are there fast foods that are okay for kidney disease?
Your doctor diagnosed you with kidney disease and now the idea of eating feels overwhelming. You’re throwing out foods from your pantry. Wondering if you can eat at your favorite restaurants. What about road trips or quick meals? Is there fast food that’s okay for kidney disease? You may not know what you can eat, or how to balance this new diet with your other dietary needs. You are not alone. The renal diet can seem very complicated and contradictory. The internet is a dangerous place to go for information because it’s difficult to know what is actually right for you.
The reality is, everyone is different and your dietary needs are going to be slightly different than another person with kidney disease. Some have to limit potassium and phosphorus. Some benefit from a fully plant based diet. Some are on dialysis and their needs change drastically. It is extremely difficult to lay out a “renal diet” on the internet, because it truly depends on the person, their degree of kidney disease, and their lab work.
So some of these foods may have more potassium than others. You may see a french fry listed. But that is because if potassium is normal in labs, you don’t need to restrict potassium. So some people can eat more potatoes than others. However, what is universal across the board for kidney disease is to limit sodium. So in this blog, we’ll focus on lower sodium options from fast food restaurants. It is very likely that a meal eaten out of the home is going to be higher in sodium (as well as potassium and phosphorus). So if you know you’re eating out for one meal, try to be very mindful of your intake of those nutrients in your other meals.
Let’s get into it. Are there fast foods that you can eat if you have kidney disease? The answer is yes. Sparingly. No matter where you go, this meal is going to be high in sodium. You’ll need to adjust the rest of the day to allow for a higher sodium meal. I’ve rounded up some favorite items that are less than 1000 mg. That may seem like a lot, but when you look at the nutrition facts for most fast foods, under 1000 mg can be hard to find.
30+ Fast Food Items that are Okay for Kidney Disease
- Grilled chicken sandwich – 760 mg sodium
- 8 count grilled nuggets – 440 mg sodium
- 2 count chicken strips – 580 mg sodium
- Market salad with grilled filet – 1020 mg sodium
- Small fry – 190 mg sodium
- Medium fry – 240 mg sodium
- Fruit cup – 0 mg sodium
- Side salad – 690 mg sodium
- Greek yogurt parfait – 80 mg sodium
So you could put together a meal for less than 1000 mg. You could get the market salad or you could get grilled nuggets or chicken strips with french fries or you could get a grilled chicken sandwich with a fruit cup.
- Classic hamburger – 510 mg sodium
- Cheeseburger – 720 mg sodium (removing ketchup, pickles, cheese can reduce sodium to 380 mg)
- McChicken – 560 mg sodium
- 6 piece McNugget – 500 mg sodium
- Medium fry – 260 mg sodium
As you can see above, the toppings on a hamburger can add up quickly. Especially if there’s cheese, bacon, sauces, etc. But a regular old hamburger with a medium french fry only puts you back about 770 mg sodium. Not terrible.
- Crunchy taco – 300 mg sodium (supreme 320 mg)
- Black bean chalupa – 460 mg sodium
- Cheese roll up – 430 mg sodium
- Soft taco – 500 mg sodium
- Black beans side – 140 mg sodium
- Veggie power bowl – 870 mg sodium
- Veggie mexican pizza – 690 mg sodium
I like to include Taco Bell for my plant-based people out there. You can get a vegetarian option that isn’t just a salad. The MVP here is a crunchy taco for only 300 mg of sodium. You could get 3 for less than 1000 mg. Not too shabby.
- Jr Cheeseburger deluxe – 610 mg sodium
- Jr Hamburger – 420 mg sodium
- Grilled chicken sandwich – 850 mg sodium
- 6 piece chicken nuggets – 570 mg sodium
- Parmesan Caesar salad – 790 mg sodium (+320 mg for full packet dressing)
- Small fry – 470 mg sodium
Wendy’s has some tasty salads but most of them were well over 1000 mg once the dressing was accounted for. The caesar salad is a decent option, especially if you don’t use the entire packet of dressing.
- 6” rotisserie style chicken – 710 mg sodium
- 6” tuna – 670 mg mg sodium
- 6” veggie delight – 320 mg sodium
- Oven roasted turkey salad – 550 mg sodium (does not include dressing)
- Tuna salad – 390 mg sodium (does not include dressing)
- Sauces/condiments can range from 0-350 mg sodium
- Cheese can range from 30-200 mg sodium; Swiss is the lowest at 30 mg
The subs listed above are calculated out using the protein, bread, and fresh veggies. Cheese and sauces will increase the sodium content.
So now that we know what fast foods are okay for kidney disease, what about the other meals? If you’re looking for more information on what to eat for kidney disease, check out our list of kidney friendly snacks!
An award winning recipe developer, Dietitian Kaitlin’s mission is to empower others to reach their health goals by encouraging them to get back into the kitchen. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Diabetes.