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Eating Healthy Diet and Nutrition

Healthy eating habits before and after your dialysis access surgery can make a big difference in your long-term health.  In fact, making good food choices is a good idea not only for you as a dialysis patient, but also for everyone in your family.

Weight Loss

The Dialysis Access Center offers a weight loss program for interested patients with a high Body Mass Index (BMI). Optimal weight loss is beneficial and also mandatory to prevent complications before, during and after your transplant surgery. 

Our nutritionist will provide you with the necessary tools and resources, such as meal plans, recipes and educational materials, to help you achieve a healthy weight.  We encourage follow-up appointments every 4 to 6 weeks with the nutritionist to check progress.  Some patients may also benefit from discussions with our psychologist, who can help address behavioral issues linked to overeating, such as depression and stress, and set strategies and goals. 

Diet in Patients with Kidney Disease

Patients who are not yet on dialysis should speak with our nutritionist regarding information on specific diet restrictions.  These restrictions are based on your glomerular filtration rate (GFR).  GFR is a measure of your kidney disease and your diet would need to be adjusted accordingly.  Our nutritionist is available to answer any of your dietary questions.

Immediately After Your Transplant

For the first few weeks after your dialysis access surgery, you will need good nutrition to help your body heal.  It is crucial to eat enough calories and protein to help any incisions you may have heal and fight infection.

When planning meals, these recommendations will help ensure a healthy diet:

  • Eat three meals each day, and include protein in every meal. Good protein sources include poultry (chicken and turkey), fish and seafood, red meats and yogurt. Although high in cholesterol, eggs, nuts and dairy products such as milk and cheese are also good sources of protein.
  • Consider taking a multivitamin supplement to meet your vitamin and mineral needs if your appetite is poor or if you are not eating a balanced diet. Check with your doctor or nutritionist before you take any vitamin/herbal supplements to make sure that they are safe for you.
  • Maintain a low salt and low potassium diet until the transplant team says you can increase salt and potassium. Check with your nutritionist for specific lists of food that are low in salt and potassium.
  • Be physically active, but consult with the dialysis access team before you start a new exercise regimen to make sure it is safe.
  • Avoid concentrated sweets and food high in saturated/trans fats. It is crucial to follow healthy eating guidelines long term to maintain good nutritional status.

To get the many nutrients your body needs every day, you must eat a variety of foods. Use the following chart to help you choose the right amounts of foods from each of the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grain products, dairy products, and meats (or meat alternatives).

Food Group Serving Size Suggested Daily Serving
Bread, cereal, rice and pasta 1 slice bread; 1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta; 1/2 medium potato; 2 to 5 whole-wheat crackers Five to 11 servings
Vegetables 1 cup raw, leafy vegetables; 1/2 cup cooked or chopped raw vegetables; 1/2 cup vegetable juice Three to five servings
Fruit 1 medium apple, banana, or orange; 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit; 1/2 cup unsweetened fruit juice Two to four servings
Milk, yogurt and cheese 1 cup low fat or fat free milk; 2/3 cup yogurt; 1 ounce natural cheese; 2 ounces processed cheese Two to three servings
Meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts 2 to 3 ounces cooked, lean meat (beef, veal, pork, chicken, turkey, fish) or meat alternative (see below) Two to three servings

Foods that equal one ounce of meat:

  • 1/2 cup cooked dry beans or lentils
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup nuts
  • 4 ounces firm tofu

Warning: Herbal Supplements

Please speak with your nutritionist or physician before taking any herbal supplements, as they may not be safe and may have potential harmful side effects.

Contact Information

Transplant Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building, 7th Floor
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215
617-632-9700