What Desserts Can You Eat on a Renal Diet?

Desserts Can You Eat on a Renal Diet

You may be curious about what sweets you can eat while on a renal diet. Since many sweets are high in potassium, phosphorus, and sodium, they can be difficult to incorporate into a renal diet. However, with some creative tweaking and swapping, you can still indulge your sweet tooth while on a renal diet.

This article will discuss which sweets are appropriate for a renal diet and give you some recipes for renal-friendly sweets. In addition, we will discuss how to make kidney-friendly sweets and how to make healthy food selections when dining out.

Renal Diet and Desserts

A renal diet is a specialized eating plan for individuals with kidney disease or kidney failure. The diet aims to manage the levels of potassium, phosphorus, and sodium in the body, which are critical for kidney function. The diet also focuses on limiting protein intake and increasing calorie intake if needed.

Desserts can be challenging on a renal diet because many contain high levels of potassium, phosphorus, and sodium. For example, chocolate desserts may contain high levels of potassium, while dairy-based desserts such as ice cream and cheesecake may contain high levels of phosphorus.

The role of desserts in a renal diet is to provide individuals with kidney disease with a sense of normalcy and enjoyment. While it's essential to limit high-potassium, high-phosphorus, and high-sodium desserts, it's also important to include desserts in a renal diet in moderation.

Desserts to Avoid on a Renal Diet

To manage potassium, phosphorus, and sodium intake, it's essential to avoid desserts that are high in these minerals. Here are some examples of desserts to avoid on a renal diet:

High-potassium Desserts To Avoid:

Chocolate cake
Banana bread
Fruit pies (such as apples and peaches)
Pumpkin pie

High-phosphorus Desserts To Avoid:

Ice cream

High-sodium Desserts To Avoid:

Canned fruit in syrup
Salted caramel
Salty pretzels
Potato chips

These sweets aren't off-limits entirely on a renal diet, but they need to be restricted or altered to meet the dietary requirements.

Desserts to Enjoy on a Renal Diet

Now that we've discussed desserts to avoid let's explore desserts that are safe to eat on a renal diet. Here are some examples of renal-friendly desserts:

Low-potassium Desserts To Enjoy:

  • Angel food cake
  • Jell-O
  • Shortbread cookies
  • Vanilla wafers
  • Pound cake

Low-phosphorus Desserts To Enjoy:

  • Sorbet
  • Lemon meringue pie
  • Angel food cake
  • Rice pudding (made with low-phosphorus milk)
  • Shortbread cookies

Low-sodium Desserts To Enjoy:

  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Baked apples
  • Chocolate pudding (made with low-sodium milk)
  • Vanilla pudding (made with low-sodium milk)
  • Ginger snaps

When following a renal diet, it is important to keep in mind that proper portion control is essential, especially when savoring sweets. Desserts should be enjoyed in moderation, and the recommended serving amount for most desserts is between a half cup and a full cup of the treat.

Dessert Recipes For A Renal Diet

If you enjoy baking and want to create your own renal-friendly desserts, here are some recipe ideas for low-potassium, low-phosphorus, and low-sodium desserts:

Desserts Recipes on a Renal Diet

Low-potassium dessert recipe ideas:

  • Strawberry Shortcake - Slice fresh strawberries and layer them on top of a slice of low-potassium pound cake. Top with whipped cream made with low-potassium milk.
  • Lemon Bars - Use a low-potassium shortbread cookie crust and fill it with a lemon custard made with low-potassium milk.
  • Vanilla Wafers - Make homemade vanilla wafers using low-potassium ingredients like all-purpose flour, low-potassium milk, and egg whites.

Low-phosphorus dessert recipe ideas:

  • Mango Sorbet - Blend fresh or frozen mango with water and a low-phosphorus sweetener like stevia. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker for a creamy, refreshing sorbet.
  • Rice Pudding - Use low-phosphorus milk and brown rice to create a creamy rice pudding. Add a low-phosphorus sweetener like honey or stevia and top with cinnamon.
  • Lemon Meringue Pie - Use a low-phosphorus shortbread cookie crust and fill it with a lemon custard made with low-phosphorus milk. Top with meringue made with egg whites and low-phosphorus sugar.

Low-sodium dessert recipe ideas:

  • Fresh Fruit Skewers - Cut up your favorite low-sodium fruits like strawberries, kiwis, and pineapple and thread them onto skewers for a colorful and refreshing dessert.
  • Chocolate Pudding - Use low-sodium milk and cocoa powder to make a rich and chocolatey pudding. Top with fresh berries for added flavor.
  • Ginger Snaps - Make homemade ginger snaps using low-sodium ingredients like all-purpose flour, low-sodium butter, and molasses.

Tips for Making Desserts Renal Diet-Friendly

Renal-friendly diets are essential for the well-being of people who suffer from kidney disease. But you don't have to give up sweet treats. You can maintain your diet and still have some of your favorite sweets by making a few simple changes. Here are some suggestions for adapting sweets to fit into a kidney diet:

  • Substitute high-potassium fruits like bananas and kiwis with low-potassium fruits like berries and peaches.
  • Use low-phosphorus milk and cream cheese in place of regular dairy products in recipes.
  • Use low-sodium sweeteners like stevia or honey in place of regular sugar.
  • Use low-sodium baking powder and salt in recipes.
  • Use fresh or frozen fruits instead of canned fruits to reduce sodium intake.
  • Making Smart Choices When Eating Out
  • Eating out can be challenging on a renal diet, but there are still ways to enjoy desserts at restaurants. Here are some tips for making smart choices when eating out:
  • Ask for low-sodium options or for the chef to prepare a dessert with low-sodium ingredients.
  • Ask for fresh fruit instead of a high-potassium dessert.
  • Share a dessert with a friend or family member to enjoy a smaller portion size.
  • Skip the whipped cream and toppings to reduce sodium intake.


With a few swaps and alterations, dessert can still be enjoyed while following a renal diet. Desserts that are high in potassium, phosphorus, and sodium should be avoided in favor of those that have low levels of these three nutrients. Moderation is key, so save room for dessert once in a while. Following these guidelines and selecting desserts that are kidney-friendly allows those with kidney disease to continue enjoying their favorites without jeopardizing their renal diet.

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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