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What's on your table this Thanksgiving?

Are you planning Thanksgiving dinner for yourself or a loved one and wondering how you can make the dinner enjoyable and still stay on a healthy track? Dietary restrictions for dialysis do not have to stop you from having an amazing Thanksgiving meal. You can still enjoy plenty of traditional treats while sticking to your renal diet. It may take some planning, but it’s definitely doable and you likely won’t miss a thing. Below are some suggestions and things to keep in mind to help you with your planning.


A lot of dishes tend to be on the salty side, however you can easily lower the sodium content of your meal by these simple suggestions below. Keeping the meal lower in sodium will also help prevent thirst and fluid overload!

  • Do not use salt while cooking and use fresh and dry herbs and spices for flavoring.

  • Avoid box mixes and processed pre-packaged dishes (like stuffing, pre-flavored grains, and canned soups).


Turkey is typically the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table, and is an excellent source of high quality protein. Try to buy fresh turkey that hasn’t been brined, as frozen turkeys and/or pre-flavored turkeys may have a lot of added sodium and phosphates.

Seasoning options to consider that don't include salt:

  • Lemon juice, thyme, pepper, garlic, onion, parsley, rosemary, and sage.

  • If your recipe calls for butter or broth: use unsalted butter and low sodium broths.


Potatoes are high in potassium but there are tricks to lower the potassium content. If you want to make mashed potatoes double boiling the potatoes prior to cooking them not only makes the perfect soft consistency, but can also cut the amount of potassium in half, as the potassium leaks out into the boiling water. Pair with unsalted butter, some sour cream and chives, or a small amount of salt-free gravy.

To release potassium from high potassium vegetables including potatoes per NKF:

  1. Peel and place the potato in cold water so they won’t darken.

  2. Slice potato 1/8 inch thick.

  3. Rinse in warm water for a few seconds.

  4. Soak for a minimum of two hours in warm water. Use ten times the amount of water to the amount of vegetables. If soaking longer, change the water every four hours.

  5. Rinse under warm water again for a few seconds.

  6. Cook vegetable with five times the amount of water to the amount of vegetable.

Green beans/green bean casserole:

Green beans are low in potassium and can be enjoyed on their own, roasted with olive oil and salt-free seasonings, with an unsalted butter and garlic sauce, or as a part of a green bean casserole. If you are thinking of using Campbell’s cream of onion soup as a base don't - it has too much salt and phosphorus, you can use sour cream as a substitute as in this Green Bean Casserole recipe.

Cranberry sauce

Cranberries are also naturally low in potassium. If you are watching your blood sugar, make your cranberry sauce with a sugar substitute. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy this sweet side to balance out your heavier, savory dishes. If your recipe calls for oranges, use a couple of clementines sparingly to keep overall potassium content low. Canned cranberry sauce can also be enjoyed, as it is low in sodium. Look at the ingredients label and try to select ones where the only ingredients are cranberries and sugar, try to avoid any that list preservatives that include phosphorus. You can also try this Jellied Cranberry Sauce recipe.


Skip the boxed stuffing, which can be very high in sodium, try this homemade Baked Stuffing recipe as an alternative, or alter your traditional family stuffing recipe to include low potassium and low sodium substitutes.


  • Roasted: Carrots, asparagus, and radishes are excellent when roasted with olive oil, garlic, and salt-free seasonings.

  • Fresh: Low potassium vegetables like peppers, celery, raw broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots dipped in a low sodium ranch, or you can make your own dips with plain Greek yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, and salt-free seasoning packets.


  • Romaine, green leaf lettuce, iceberg lettuce, even kale are good to go.

  • Be mindful of the mix-ins and stick with a low-sodium dressing or simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil.


  • Dinner rolls with unsalted butter.

  • Low sodium corn tortilla chips: Crackers may be high in sodium and phosphorus.


  • Apple is an excellent low potassium fruit to help celebrate the season. Apple pie, apple crumble (with minimal sugar) or apple puffs are all good options.

  • A slice of cheesecake is also a sweet way to end the meal.

As you can see, there are many options available to you despite your kidney diet restrictions. Below are additional resources that have holiday tips and recipes specifically for people on dialysis.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


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