Bag Lunch Ideas For Patients Recommended To Follow Renal Diets

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Nephrology News

Planning your lunch

Now that school is back in session, it is very important to continue to eat renal-friendly foods when away from home. Packing a bag lunch and snack will help take away the pressure of having to choose the right foods at lunch time. Planning your lunch ahead of time will allow you to be in control of all of your diet restrictions.

School cafeteria foods are generally loaded with sodium and phosphorus. Even some foods that you may think are “safe” often contain hidden sources of sodium, phosphorus and potassium. If a bag lunch isn’t an option, and you must buy a school lunch, stick with what foods you know are safe. Remember the freshest and least processed items are best for the renal diet.

Be open with the school lunch director, and let him or her know about your dietary restrictions. They should be able to help you identify what foods are lowest in sodium and phosphorus. They may even be able to make you special lunch orders using lower sodium and phosphorus substitutes.

On dialysis days, try bringing your bag lunch with you, and eat it before or after your dialysis session. By bringing your own lunch on treatment days, you will be less tempted to skip lunch or buy lunch in the cafeteria, or even worse, fast food!

And don’t forget, no matter what you choose to eat for lunch, always remember to take your phosphorus binders! Here are quick tips for packing a lunch:

  • Pack your lunch the night before
  • Use an ice pack to keep foods cool
  • If buying a school lunch is a must, talk with the cafeteria director about your diet restrictions
  • Choose a variety of foods that are safe for your diet
  • Always remember to take your binders

Packing your sack lunch

Here are a few tips for putting together a super sack lunch:

  • Fresh is always best. If possible, make meat sandwiches from low sodium, fresh-cooked meats such as chicken, turkey breast, roast beef, pork or fish. Use meat leftover from dinner, or cook fresh meat specifically for lunch sandwiches. Consider freezing cooked meat in 2- to 3-ounce portions until needed.
  • Egg salad or fried egg sandwiches are good low-sodium, high-protein choices.
  • When selecting canned tuna or chicken, pick the no-salt-added brands or rinse salted products for three minutes to reduce sodium content.
  • Make sandwiches to pack in your sack the evening before. If you make it a habit, you will always be ready with a lunch to go.
  • Freeze bread and meat sandwiches in individual sandwich-size freezer bags. Before leaving home, pack it up with a separate container for toppings, such as mustard, mayo, lettuce, oil, vinegar, cucumbers, bell peppers or onions.
  • Remember to pack your phosphorus binders!

Add variety to your sandwich

  • Breads: bagels, cracked wheat, dinner rolls, tortillas, buns, pita, rice cakes, sourdough or plain white bread
  • Spreads: cranberry sauce, cream cheese, flavored mustard, horseradish, hot sauce, jam, jelly, mayo, low sodium ketchup and salad dressing, sour cream or yellow mustard
  • Toppings: alfalfa sprouts, basil leaves, bean sprouts, bell peppers, cilantro, cucumber, lettuce, low-sodium pickle, onions, one tomato slice or water chestnuts
  • Adding flavor: black pepper, curry powder, flavored oil, Mrs. Dash Herb Seasoning, olive oil, red pepper flakes, sweet pickle relish, vinegar or Worcestershire sauce

Lunch ideas


  • Turkey, roast beef, egg salad, chicken, tuna
  • White bread, bagel tortilla, pita, dinner roll and hamburger buns
  • Jelly mustard mayo and horseradish


  • Apple juice, grape juice, cranberry juice, lemonade, Kool Aid, Sprite, ginger ale, 7-UP, water


  • Apples, plums, pears, grapes, raspberries, strawberries
  • Applesauce
  • Canned peaches, pears, fruit cocktail and pineapple


  • Angel food cake, vanilla cupcake, Rice Krispy treats
  • Gingersnaps, shortbread cookies, vanilla wafers, graham crackers
  • Hard candies, gum

Snack ideas

  • Unsalted pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Bread sticks
  • English muffin
  • Bagel with cream cheese
  • Graham crackers
  • Rice or Chex cereal
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Protein bag
  • Custard
  • Nilla Wafer
  • Shortbread cookies
  • Fruit pie
  • Cupcake
  • Fig Newtons
  • Dry cereal
  • Popsicle
  • Sorbet
  • Unsalted tortilla chips
  • Piece of fruit
  • Animal Crackers
  • Unsalted Saltines with cream cheese
  • Teddy Grahams
  • Doughnut