Fast Foods that are okay for Kidney Disease: Renal Dietitian Approved!
Who doesn’t love picking up fast food when you’re having a busy day? Knowing which fast foods are okay for kidney disease can be tricky!
Nutritional Considerations for Kidney Disease
Balance Your Plate
When you’re eating fast food, the goal is to get as many fruit and vegetable servings as possible. I recommend getting at least 2 fruit servings and 3 vegetable servings a day.
A helpful tip in making sure you’re getting your fruits and vegetables is to make your plate colorful!
Balancing your meal by including carbohydrates (carb) and fiber is another essential part of balancing your plate.
Oatmeal, beans, seeds, lentils, and fruits, especially berries, are all examples of high-fiber foods that you may be able to get while eating at fast food restaurants. Most of these foods also contain your carb but you can also get your carb from potatoes, bread, tortillas, pasta, and rice.
Sodium helps keep your fluids and blood pressure in balance, your muscles contract, and carry nerve signals from your brain to your body. (1)
I recommend getting less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, which is a little more than 700 mg per meal. (2)
Eating fast food makes it difficult to stay within your sodium amount with kidney disease because fast food is notorious for containing tons of sodium!
Stay tuned while we give you tips for each restaurant option below!
Eating a low-protein diet while including more plant proteins than animal protein is generally recommended when you have kidney disease. (2)
Focusing on vegetarian options is your best bet at fast food restaurants.
Some plant protein ideas you can get in fast foods are: beans, rice, pastas, lentils, seeds, and tofu. Eggs, dairy and fish options can also give you some protein and are better choices than beef and pork.
Higher levels of potassium in your diet can be beneficial to those with hypertension depending on the type of potassium. (3)
Foods that have higher fiber and are minimally processed like raw tomatoes are better choices than foods with potassium additives and heavily processed foods like low-sodium ketchup. (3)
I generally recommend avoiding all potassium additives. You can do this by reading the ingredient lists on the fast food restaurant’s website. If you see potassium listed under the ingredient list, that food contains a potassium additive.
If you are aiming to either limit or increase your potassium, these foods all have more than 200 mg of potassium per serving and are included in some of our fast food suggestions further below
|Food||Serving Size||Potassium (mg)|
|Black Beans||½ cup||306|
|Pinto Beans||½ cup||373|
|Beef, ground||4 ounces||340|
|Peanut Butter, chucky||2 tablespoons||238|
|Spinach, raw||2 cups||334|
|French fries||1 small (71 g)||411|
***Nutrition information sourced from USDA.
Phosphorus is found in our food naturally (organic) and as a food additive (inorganic). Most people with kidney disease don’t need to worry about phosphorus found in our foods naturally.
Whenever possible, everyone with kidney disease should definitely avoid added phosphorus in our food. These added phosphates are absorbed at a much higher rate (80-100%) than natural phosphorus (40-60%) in our bodies. (4)
Avoiding phosphates protects your bones and decreases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. (5)
The best way to avoid phosphate additives is to read the ingredient lists on the nutrition labels you can find on the fast food restaurant’s website. You want to look for ingredients that do not have any words containing “p-h-o-s” in them.
Most dark colored sodas all have phosphate additives!
Now that you have a good understanding of what we’ve based our recommendations on below, let’s move on to the main attraction!
Renal Diet Fast Food Ideas
Here’s our list of the best kidney friendly meals from popular fast food restaurants!
Pick your favorite meal depending on what you’re craving!
A salad made of romaine lettuce, veggie in substitute of protein, brown rice, black beans, sour cream and fajita veggies makes an excellent meal.
It has 15 grams (g) of protein, 580 milligrams (mg) of sodium, 11 g of fiber and one serving of vegetables.
If you really want a salsa, the tomatillo-green chili salsa has 260 mg of sodium. Steer clear of the fresh tomato salsa with 550 mg sodium and the chipotle-honey vinaigrette with 850 mg sodium!👀
You can also get three crispy corn tacos filled with pinto beans, tomatillo-green chili salsa, fajita veggies and romaine lettuce. This contains 12 g of protein, 13 g of fiber and 620 mg of sodium.
The Veggie Power Bowl contains black beans, reduced-fat sour cream, seasoned rice, lettuce, guacamole, cheese, avocado ranch sauce and tomatoes.
It has 870 mg of sodium, 11g of fiber, 12g of protein and one serving of vegetables. You can remove the ranch sauce and sour cream to save 80 mg of sodium and no added potassium or phosphates.
This is a very colorful, low-protein, high-fiber plate!
This burrito has exactly what it sounds like it has: cheese, rice and beans.
It contains 720 mg of sodium, 12 g of fiber and 11.5 g of protein.
Leave the cheese off the burrito and add some guacamole so you increase your vegetable intake for the day!
Tropical Smoothie Cafe
This flatbread sandwich is made with peanut butter, banana, granola and honey.
It contains 810 mg of sodium, 8 g of fiber and 17 g of protein. The banana counts for one serving of fruit so you get bonus points there!
This meal has a balanced source of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It’s also a great choice to satisfy your sweet tooth!
Tropical Smoothie Cafe
This smoothie has spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, banana & fresh ginger which makes it naturally sweetened. You can also add some chia seeds for some more fiber!
This smoothie with the chia seed addition included has 35 mg of sodium, 8 g of fiber and 4 g of protein plus one serving of both vegetables and fruit.
The amount of fruit and vegetables is a major upside in ordering this smoothie!
This smoothie bowl includes an açai base, Purely Elizabeth® granola, whole blueberries, diced strawberries, honey and goji berries.
It only has 170 mg of sodium and 4g of protein! Plus it has 8 g of fiber and two servings of fruit.
This bowl is an excellent, well-rounded meal for breakfast or lunch!
The Whopper Jr. gives you 15 g of protein, 2 g of fiber, and 560 mg of sodium.
To make this burger even more kidney-friendly, you can take off the ketchup (125 mg) and mayonnaise (75 mg). This will reduce your sodium amount to just 360 mg.
Add applesauce to get a serving of fruit in your meal and also give you 1 g of fiber with no added protein and sodium.
You could even add a value fry to your meal for 170 mg of sodium while adding 2 g of fiber.
Cottage cheese, eggs, monterey jack cheese, portabella mushrooms, kale, swiss cheese, parsley, garlic and more are all ingredients in these egg bites.
This breakfast gives you 350 mg of sodium, 2 g of fiber and 15 g of protein and a serving of vegetables. A bonus for this meal is no added phosphates or potassium!
This is a great meal to pair with your morning coffee! Keep in mind that many of the beverage options at Starbucks contain added phosphates and potassium.
This delicious salad has lettuce, grilled chicken, Italian cheeses, a crunchy Parmesan crumble, and creamy Caesar dressing for 960 mg of sodium, 3 grams of fiber, and 32 grams of protein.
You need to ask for no chicken to make it kidney-friendly. This will make it only 370 mg of sodium and 12 grams of protein, which makes it perfect for us.
You can use the Caesar dressing but you’ll need to account for 450 more mg of sodium and 2 more grams of protein. The better choice of salad dressing would be the pomegranate vinaigrette dressing for 190 mg of sodium with no protein.
Add a side of apples to fulfill one of the two recommended servings of fruit a day. They also have no sodium or protein!
Want just a snack? Try Wendy’s oatmeal bar with 230 mg of sodium, 4 g of fiber and 3 g of protein. It has blueberries and cranberries alongside the oats to make an excellent afternoon snack!
McDonald’s has several great options for you when eating with kidney disease.
One of our favorites includes ordering a 4-piece chicken nugget entrée that has 340 mg of sodium and pairing it with any size of fries (ranges between 90-260 mg of sodium).
If chicken nuggets aren’t your thing, pairing a hamburger with 510 mg of sodium with apple slices and/or any size fry is another great option!
Our blog post, McDonald’s Low Sodium Options, walks you through how to choose the best McDonald’s meals for you with many more low sodium options than listed above.
Renal Diet Sandwiches
This wrap includes avocado, onions, cucumber, tomatoes and cheese.
This makes a kidney-friendly, nutritious meal with 1 serving of veggies, 8 g of protein, 7 g of fiber, and only 269 mg of sodium! Woo-hoo!
This is a tuna salad sandwich topped with lettuce and fresh-sliced cucumber and tomato.
It gives you 1 serving of vegetables, 10 g of protein, 3 g of fiber, and only 590 mg of sodium.
This is a refreshing sandwich that will help you get some variety in the type of protein you are consuming!
Romaine lettuce, diced tomato, green bell pepper, cucumber, and mozzarella are included on this salad!
It provides 1 serving of vegetables, 290 mg of sodium, 5 g of fiber, and 10 g of protein.
A warm, winter option would be the chili. It contains 510 mg of sodium, 11 g of protein, and 3 g of fiber.
Consider pairing it with a side salad to get in some vegetables as well!
As you go through the line, you’ll want to choose SuperGreens, roasted vegetables, tomato + cucumber, avocado, and pickled onions.Top it with a preserved lemon vinaigrette to finish off this mineral and nutrient packed bowl.
This bowl will give you 700 mg of sodium, 16 g of fiber, and 8 g of protein, this is one of the best options out of all the restaurant suggestions!
You can add crumbled feta to get 3 more grams of protein for only 125 mg of sodium.
You can also customize this salad bowl to have whatever you want in it, too. For example, you can add broccoli, baby spinach, and pita chips to make it your own!
While you go through the line, you’ll pick the bowl option. You’ll get steamed white rice as your side and the mixed veggies (AKA SuperGreens) for your entree. This will give you 260 mg of sodium, 3 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein.
If you want to get an extra entree, go ahead and order the 2 entree plate with the steamed white rice as your side with mixed veggies (supergreens) sweet and sour chicken as your 2 entrees. This will give you 680 mg of sodium, 4 grams of fiber, and 24 grams of protein.
You’ll get your serving of vegetables with both of these meals!
Your best option for an entree is the 5 count grilled nuggets for 270 mg of sodium, 0 fiber, 16 g of protein.
Your next best entree option at Chick-Fil-A is the grilled chicken sandwich but it comes with 770 mg of sodium and 28 grams of protein all by itself! You do get 3 grams of fiber with it, though.
You can pair one of these entrees with any of the following sides:
|Side Name||Sodium in milligrams||Fiber in grams||Protein in grams|
|Greek Yogurt Parfait||80 mg||1 g||3 g|
|Kale Crunch Side||250 mg||4 g||4 g|
|Waffle Fries||240 mg||5 g||5 g|
|Fruit Cup||0 mg||1 g||2 g|
Remember, sauces have all kinds of hidden sodium!
Honey roasted BBQ sauce has the least amount of sodium (75 mg) while the zesty buffalo has the most (570 mg). Eeek! My favorite, chick-fil-a sauce, has 170 mg.
Your Take Home
Fast food is a great option when you are in a hurry. Healthy options are available at these restaurants!
Taking small steps, like removing condiments or focusing on plant-based options, will make a huge difference in the grand scheme of everything!
Aim to include fruit and/or vegetables in your fast food meals and use the Nourished Kidney Plate as your guide.
Let me know in the comments what you’re most excited to try while supporting your kidneys!
And remember, every meal does not have to be perfect for you to meet your goal for better kidney kidney health.
Practice giving yourself grace!
This article was co-written by dietetic student and digital marketing intern Eva McIntosh & reviewed, edited, and co-written by Candace Mooney, MS RDN CSR.
*** The information provided in this post was last updated 10/13/2023. To find the most up-to-date nutrition information, check the nutrition menus of each restaurant available on their own websites.