Low-Protein Diets

A low-protein diet is any diet in which the protein intake is reduced. Anyone diagnosed with kidney or liver disease may be prescribed a low-protein diet.

In any case, a diet which is especially low in protein should only be undertaken under medical direction.

Why is a low protein diet necessary?

Protein is needed, but can cause problems for diseased organs

low-protein-diet

Protein is necessary for a healthy body. When protein is metabolized by the liver and digested, urea is produced as a waste product. If the liver is diseased, then food metabolism is compromised.

If the kidneys, which are responsible for excretion of urea, are not functioning properly (renal failure), or if high levels of protein are continually present in the diet, urea builds up in the bloodstream causing loss of appetite and fatigue. A low-protein diet will reduce the workload on these organs.

It is usually the case that serious liver and kidney disease are accompanied by the need to limit salt or sodium intake due to high blood pressure or fluid retention. Table salt (the primary source of sodium in the diet) should therefore be limited, along with other foods with a high sodium content, as an additional feature of the low-protein diet.

Too much protein can worsen your health

It is generally accepted that a healthy person needs 40-60 grams of protein each day to remain in good health. However, it has been reported that the amount of protein typically consumed by people in affluent societies (American diet typically comprises 12-15% protein) may overtax the kidneys – to the extent that up to 30% of kidney function may be lost by the time someone is in their eighties.

High-protein diets for weight loss often recommend 30% or more protein in the daily diet, and in prolonged use can cause serious metabolic changes leading to bone loss and kidney stones!

Reduced protein intake can improve your health

Low protein diets (4-8% protein) are used routinely to treat patients with liver disease, kidney (renal) failure, and disorders involving the urea cycle, the metabolism, and amino acids.

How is a low-protein diet achieved?

Reduce the amount of protein

Some of each type of protein should still be consumed each day from the two main sources:

  • Animal products (fish, poultry, eggs, meat, dairy products) – considered high quality or complete protein.
  • Vegetable products (breads, cereals, rice, pasta, dried beans) – considered low quality or incomplete protein.

To reduce the amount of protein consumed, protein foods in recipes can be ‘stretched’ (to consume less) or reduced as against more of the low- or non-protein foods (less in proportion), making a smaller amount seem just as satisfying.

Sandwiches
  • Use thinly sliced meats.
  • Fill with salad items like lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, chopped celery, apple, parsley or water chestnuts.
Soups
  • Use lower protein foods (milk substitutes for cream soups, or rice or pasta) to make soups as filling but with less protein.
Main Dishes
  • Make the main dish of vegetables and grains, and treat meat as the side dish to your meal.
  • Use small pieces of meat and more vegetables in kebabs.
  • Make fried rice with vegetables and use less meat or shrimp.
  • For salads use crisp, fresh vegetables and only a few small strips of meat and egg.
  • For casseroles, reduce the amount of meat and increase the starch, pasta or rice. In recipes using soup, use a low sodium mix.
  • Use low-protein pastas and breads in the diet.
  • For cheeses, use smaller amounts of stronger-tasting cheeses (sharp cheddar, parmesan or romano) for plenty of flavor.

Boost calories to compensate

Decreasing protein in the diet may also mean a reduction in calories. To compensate so as to maintain a healthy weight, increase calories by substituting or adding certain ingredients with minimal protein content, such as:

  • Increase heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated vegetable oils (olive, avocado) and mayonnaise-type salad dressings.
  • Use candy and sweeteners (hard candy, gum drops, jelly beans, marshmallows, honey, jam and jelly – even sugar (diabetics need medical advice).
  • Use canned fruits in heavy syrup.

Sample low protein menu

Breakfast
  • Cheerios cereal or equivalent ¾ cup (3g)
  • non-dairy creamer ½ cup (0g)
  • ½ medium banana (.6)
  • orange juice ½ cup (.8g)
Snack
  • 1 cherry fruit roll up (0g)
Lunch
  • 2 slices white bread (1.6g)
  • turkey breast 1 oz/28 g (4.8g)
  • lettuce (0g)
  • tomato ½ cup (.8g)
  • green beans ½ cup (1.2g)
  • mayonnaise 3 tsp (0g)
  • 1 medium apple (.3g)
  • fruit punch 4 fl oz/118 ml (0g)
Snack
  • 1 popsicle (0g)
Dinner
  • lean hamburger 2 oz/56 g (10.5g)
  • white rice ½ cup (2.2g)
  • broccoli ¼ cup (.9g)
  • cauliflower ¼ cup (.6g)
  • tossed salad (1.5 cups) with 2 Tbsp ranch dressing (3g)
  • pineapple ½ cup (.2g)
Snack
  • gum drops 1 oz/28 g (0g)

Sample low protein menu contains

  • Protein: 30.5 grams
  • Calories: 1442
  • Fat: 48 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 237 grams
  • Sodium: 1270 mg
  • Potassium: 2282 mg

Download the Kidney Diet ebook

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)
    References:
  • Kopple, J. D., Levey, A. S., Greene, T., Chumlea, W. C., Gassman, J. J., Hollinger, D. L., … & Zimmer, G. S. (1997). Effect of dietary protein restriction on nutritional status in the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease Study. Kidney international, 52(3), 778-791. link
  • KOPPLE, J. D., & COBURN, J. W. (1973). METABOLIC STUDIES OF LOW PROTEIN DIETS IN UREMIA: I. NlTEOGEN AND POTASSIUM. Medicine, 52(6), 583-595. link
  • Fouque, D., Laville, M., Boissel, J. P., Chifflet, R., Labeeuw, M., & Zech, P. Y. (1992). Controlled low protein diets in chronic renal insufficiency: meta-analysis. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 304(6821), 216. link
  • Fouque, D., Laville, M., & Boissel, J. P. (2009). Low protein diets for chronic kidney disease in non diabetic adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 3. link

95 Comments

  1. asia

    excellent information.

    Reply
  2. joanna wright

    i need a low protein diet thanks

    Reply
  3. Bill Seaton

    Thank you for showing the one day diet. Where can I find more like it?

    Reply
  4. Boop

    I too am on low sodium low protein because of poor kidney function…just got a great book from amazon
    The no-salt, lowest sodium cookbook by donald Gazzaniga.
    very helpful.

    Reply
  5. TYChin

    my husband has glomerolonephritis. His serum creatinine
    and potassium are high. CAN you recommend a low protein diet
    THANK YOU
    28/6/09
    chin

    Reply
  6. Lois M. Brown

    My Mom need a low protein diet please give me one

    Reply
  7. Steve Wimer

    I’m on a low-protein, low-sodium diet. It works, but it’s hell: eat vegetables and fruits, supplement with 10 grams of amino acids (I use Amino bites). Find low protein “fun” food at cambrookefoods.com. Read Dr. Walzer’s book on kidney failure for more information.

    Reply
  8. RM

    People why don’t you do a search online for low protein diet suggestions… or ask your doctor. Nobody on this board is going to send you a personalized diet sheet!

    Reply
  9. Lea Santos

    My father needs a low potassium, low protein, low sodium, no vitamin K diet. Can you help me what foods I can give him? Thanks.

    Reply
  10. mary lou

    I HAVE STAGE 4 RENAL DISEASE I WOULD LIJE TO KNOW WHAT I CAN EAT I LOVE CANTELOPE , TOMATOES SPAGHETTI & i have always eaten wheat bread, i guess thats wrong. I EAT CHEERIOS FOR BREAKFAST&A SLICE OF CANTELOPE IS FISH ALLOWED?

    Reply
  11. Janeth

    My husband was told that he has too much protein in the 24hr urine test that he did,650 when it should be 150. Is there a chart to see the protein value of the Meats, Vegetables, grains…. that I can make for my husband. I’m very concern because he is very thin to beging with and now with this diet he will loss more weight. I don’t want him to get sick.

    Reply
  12. ramona

    My husband is on a 2000 mg sodium diet for high bp, low fat for heart disease and low protein for kidney problems. I am struggling with the low protein part of the diet. Can you give me a menus or diet guidelines to go by. Thank.

    Reply
  13. krishna prasad

    am suffering adult polycystic kidney disease… advice me if there is any specified restriction in food and lifestyle that i should practice

    Reply
  14. ruth

    Hello. My husband needs a 85 gram per day protein diet with 2000 grams of sodium. He is a diabetic, has high blood pressure and now his kidneys are at 33 % usage. I n eed help in some menu planning. Any cook books or recipes ideas would be most appreciative. Thanks. Ruth

    Reply
  15. lou

    i need a good low protein diet. i am in stage 4 renal disease. my doctor said to lose 60 pounds or i will go to dialysis in 3 years. please send me a 60gram per day protein diet to help me. thanks so much. lou

    Reply
  16. Jyothy Nair

    My father has liver cirrohsis and is also a diabetic. Can you please advice a low protein diet

    Reply
  17. humberto

    One of the problems I have is sticking to this low-protein diet. My nutritionist said I have to be on 5 oz. meats max per day I normally eat this in one sitting, but maybe I am not seeing the truth of the disease as I know something is bothering me. I could never follow directions without being watched. When I am watched and must report to some- one I will tend to follow more closely than when I am not watched at all.

    Reply
  18. Ram

    Can you please suggest or advise a dietary guidlines for Type 2 DM, HTN, Nephrotic syndrome and hypercholesteremia and vegetarian.

    Thank you

    Reply
  19. James

    I am 78 yrs old male and have been told I have too much protien in my urine and I would like to know how many grams of protien am I allowed daily..Thank you and waiting for your answer.

    Reply
  20. terena mcgarr

    mr friend is quite ill with liver disease, and told to go on low protein diet, but we havn’t a clue about this, could you please send a some kind of diet sheet. Are citrus acids such as apple juice or orange juice good or bad to take.
    Is there a good vitamin tablet she can take as she hates vegatables.

    Reply
  21. Brenda

    My mother is very ill and is to avoid high protein foods. Could you please send me a list of foods that are low in protein. My father is caring for her and is at a loss at what foods to prepare for her. A list broken down for him would be very helpful. Thank you

    Reply
  22. RM

    Wow, this diet is terrible, filled with starches and sugars and processed crap foods. I was on a similar diet for the past year and gained 30 pounds.

    There are ways to eat less protein and lose weight – just eat a lot of veggies, fruits and beans.

    Reply
  23. Matt Watson

    Help!

    My wife’s renal count was a 9 leading to an extended hospital stay saving her life. She never had kidney failure in the past however she may have internal bleeding from several intestinal surgeries ten years ago.

    The doctor has suggested that this may cause her kidneys from being able to regulate her potassium. The catch 22 is that she needs to loss weight before anymore surgery can be done.

    So, I need to find a low potassium diet that allows her to healthly loss weight for her surgery without aggravating the little bowel she has left.

    Can anyone please point me to a good website, program or diet book that I can use to create the proper meals for her recovery?

    Reply
  24. Emma Fessler

    Curious as to why the snacks are so sugar oriented even though I understand need for the calories…why not more fruit?

    Reply
  25. Steve Wimer

    Low protein diet? Eliminate meat, fish, beans, eggs, cheese, and nuts. Supplement with amino acids. I follow this diet, with low sodium, as well. I subsist on vegetables and fruits, pretty much, with a little bread or pasta for variety. I use JoMar Labs 21 blend amino acids. It’s a tough diet to follow, but even worse if you don’t.

    Reply
  26. jayne sandbothe

    I want to try the low protein diet, as I have end stage renal disese . I have 25% at this time.Am receiviing procrit shots.

    Reply
  27. kitten clemens

    send me some low protein &lowsodium ricpise

    Reply
  28. Kelli

    Unfortunately not possible for someone who has to follow a diabetic diet.

    Reply
  29. da da bill

    very good but I need alternatives to vary my meals as my kidneys are functioning at 21% at present and I am nearing dialysis I need urgent help
    bill

    Reply
  30. Mansi

    Very helpful with someone who has gout, low protein diets help to reduce uric acid formed crystals that tear at the soft tissue around joints in feet.

    Reply
  31. ghana

    it helped me at school

    Reply
  32. Elsie See

    My hubby had liver cirrohsis,his feet (near the ankle) is swollen (water retension)he feel his feet is heavy, once in a while he will take water tablet(fruetmide)but feel very tired. Please advise is it due to low protein. what are the
    protein that can help him solve this problem.

    Reply
  33. JAGADEESH H N

    Hi,
    My son Varun ( 2 year and 9 months) as been diagonised with Hyperammonemia-Hyperornithinemia-Homocitrullinemia (HHH) Syndrome.

    Following are the values which are having above the normal value.

    a) Leucine 394umol/L ( should < 385)
    b) ornithine 443umol/L ( should < 278)
    c) C5 OH 0.74umol/L ( Should < 0.68)
    d) orn / citru 7.9 ( should < 1.5)

    Plasma ammonia 54.8 mcg/dl ( 27.00 -102.00)

    In the report they mentioned that this is aminoacid disorder.

    Also suggested that treatment may include protein ristricted diet and supplimentation with ornithine.

    Protein ristriction to less than 1.2g/kg per day prevents postprandial hyper amonimia and results in decreased concentraion of ornithine in blood .

    After the birth, after two weeks , he started losing weight ( from 2.7 birth weight to 2.1 kg). And he was admitted in NICU to give liver infect treatment and hyper amonia. We have given sodium benzoate up to 1 year and came under control and stoped. Every six months we are testing blood samples and amonia is in control.

    His activities are normal and but he is not gaining weight. Now he is weighing around 9.6kg (2 year and 9 months). For that reason they asked us to conduct above mentioned tests.

    They asked us to contact dietitian and she told us to give lesser milk products , nuts, grams and higher protein products and normal food.

    Could you please suggest us how to control Hyperornithinemia with the food. Also suggest us which are the supplements that can be given to him to increase weight .

    Do we need to take care any other precautions.And does it have any long term effect on him.

    Regards,
    Jagadeesh h n
    Bangalore, India

    Reply
  34. Kimberly

    short-texas@excite.com
    My question is posted above

    Reply
  35. Kimberly

    I would like your advice I’m in stage 4 of kidney failure , and morbidly obese My BMI is 80 My Dr. can not agree on the kind of diet I should be on . One says do a high protein to lose the weight fast , the other says try vegan diet . My goal is to get my BMI under 30 so that I can receive a Kidney transplant . Yet I fill like I ‘m stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I lose 20 with the high protein diet , I lose kidney function I have not started dialysis yet we have been controlling it with diet up to this point

    Reply
  36. Rita

    Very Smart Diet. I like it.

    Reply
  37. Rachel

    Very helpful with someone who has gout, low protein diets help to reduce uric acid formed crystals that tear at the soft tissue around joints in feet.

    Reply
  38. wazyz

    Informative but as a diabetic the carbs are to high.

    Reply
  39. melba

    thanks soooo,much needed help immediately and found it here for my
    what sems to be over load of proten in my kidneys off to see specialist. Thanks again.

    Reply
  40. Syed Hassan Tanwir

    I appreciate the efforts. It is a user friendly document and worth considering for health improvements tips. Thanks

    Now tell me more about the balanced diet for patients having moderate or high level of Serum creatinine.

    Reply
  41. LIzabeth

    I have high ammonia levels in my blood and was told I need to lower my intake of protein. please tell me what I can eat and not eat and some more menus. Thank You.

    Reply
  42. elzieleon@yahoo.com

    my husband has the problem of needing a low potassium and protein diet also. We are very frustrated cause most fruits he can not eat and now a cut back in meats. Please help!

    Reply
  43. angelo5715@hotmail.com

    Thank you for the diet it helps to see how I plan my meals each day. I know what to do just need more ideas and diets on how to do it.

    Thanks

    Reply
  44. horsey@a-znet.com

    my husband’s kidneys are working only 40%. One of his doctors says he is producing too much potassium and needs a low potassium diet, while our family physician says he needs a low protien diet. So it is conficting and i am frustrated! Can you give me some ideas on what i can feed him to control the potassium and protien levels. please help.

    Reply
  45. hdichiera@bigpond.com.au

    I am a diabtic, but have now been told y my doctor to look after my kidneys and go on a low protein diet. What can i eat and what cant i eat?????

    Reply
  46. rom@deguzman.com

    I like this. Thanks. Do you have low protein diet package foods for sale?

    Reply
  47. It's ok

    Please post more low protein diets and post some that show what are high in protein.

    Reply
  48. Darcell E. Deane

    I was just informed that if I didn’t commit to a low protein diet that I would have to go on a dialysis machine

    Reply
  49. Mimi

    Please post more samples of low protein diets with lower sodium intake. I need help with lowering my protein intake

    Reply
  50. i like it

    it is very good because i like how the food is edible and nawt just cardboardy b.s. that we are normally fed

    Reply
Last Reviewed: January 16, 2018