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

106 Comments or Reviews

Comments now closed
  1. Debika 12 months ago

    Hi
    My grand mother age is 93 and she has two damaged kidneys. please tell me without protein food list or lowest protein food list. please send me soon. thank you.

  2. Mallie A Calimpon

    My husband was diagnosed of stage 5 Chronic Kidney Failure and he was advise to undergo dialysis but due to financial constraint, we went home and have a diet. Can you pls. give me a recipe for his daily foods, since i observed him he is now weak. Thank you so much.

  3. Joshi

    Want to coconut is in high fat or low fat diet

  4. Shari D Roten

    Thanks. I have polycystic kidneys and liver so need to reduce the protein in my diet.

  5. Mark Matias

    Pls send me reciepe for and in low protein and low calories

  6. Richard Daquis

    My son showing 2+ protein on urinalysis. I need low protien diet thanks

  7. Lorena may

    Hello please help I want to lose weight am a post renal transplant patient.i want go on a low protein diet.how much protein am I supposed to eat in my condition?

  8. Ravi Myatra

    Uric Acid is detected in my blood report docter has asked me take low protein diet can u plseae suggest me a what are fruits and vegetables that have low protein and what other things are good for me.
    Thanks

  9. Dennis Strahan

    Have had diabetes since two yrs old am now forty nine doc says I have kidney damage and should get on a low protein diet thanks for your input.

  10. Ms. S

    Just bought the Kidney Diet Secrets and although it contains some good info I found it confusing that it touts a low protein diet (less than 25g) and yet their daily sample menu’s are 70g of protein.

    Shouldn’t the daily sample menu’s provide menus for a diet of less than 25g of protein?

    I wouldn’t buy this book if you are looking for help and sample menus for a low protein diet.

  11. Jake Ross

    I started having some kidney problems 3 years ago and my crea abruptly dropped to very dangerous levels. I thought surgery or dialysis was the only way to go but the good thing is, I found nurse rachelle gordon’s “Kidney Diet Secrets”. I tried it started getting results after 3 weeks or so.

    I highly recommend her guide ebook for anyone who has kidney disease as its very thorough and it comes with recipes and diet plans.

    If you need more help, let me know. Ill be coming back to this site. 🙂

    All the best,
    Jake R.

  12. Eric

    General principles are good. How about diet for diabetic with somewhat more, but high quality calories — no candy, etc. I would also like to see sample diets for a few days, not just one day, to help me determine more acceptable food options for such a low protein diet, since I will have to eat according to its principles for the rest of my life.

  13. Linda Page

    I had my right kidney removed 30 yrs ago and half of my left kidney removed 6 months ago due to cancer. Since I only have a partial kidney left and I am 65 yrs old, I have to watch my protein intake because as a normal part of aging our kidneys lose some function and urea can create serious problems for our kidneys. So I am on 30 grams of protien or less daily as a preventitive measure to keep my remaining partial kidney working for as long as I can. So just because a person consumes a high amount of protein daily and has healthy checkup now does not mean that the person will continue to have healthy, funtioning kidneys and other organs as that person ages. We have to think about the longevity of our bodies and not just how we feel today. I limit myself to 4 ounces of meat/fowl/fish twice a week and eat only vegetables the rest of the time. I also limit my intake of carbs and sugar because I do not need to add a risk of diabetes to my overall health. There are lots of vegetables and fruit out there to keep me healthy as I plan on living to be at least as old as my mother is now which is 94. I drink lots of water, restrict salt and use herbs/spices instead, no caffeine, use sugar substitute and read all food labels.

  14. Mom of a kid on low protein diet

    @ Steve, I believe the article out line some danger of a too high protein diet. My daughter is on a strict low-protein diet due to a metabolic disorder. What the article suggests is what we have followed for hte past 13 years and she is in great health. For those individuals that a low-protein diet is benefical, it would serve them well to look into how a lower protein diet could help their health. It is great to hear that you are in prefect health, but a high protein diet is not good for everyone. The suggested menu is a well around plan for those looking to lower their protein. There are some great websites and low protein products that you can research because at some point you may have to stop eating as much protein espcially if your muscles become less active with age or lifestyle. Just my two cents

  15. grace

    I need help making a menu 4 myself for a low protein, low sodium and low potassium diet..jus need an example for a week…pleas help thank u 🙂

  16. ron rivers

    im on a low protein low sodiue diet can you please send me a 7 day meal plan and tips on snacking,i always feel hungry,i currently have sirrosis to the liver

  17. Steven

    Its actually hilarious, popsicles, white rice, its as if you’re telling people to spike their insulin continuously until they’re insulin resistant and type 2 diabetic. Folks dont listen to these liars.

  18. Steven

    I’m calling Bull@*$t on that its unhealthy to eat a lot of protein. I eat about 30% of my diet in protein and have done so for years. I semi annually get a comprehensive bloodtest and have been doing so for 6 years and my urea is high but who cares, it doesnt matter. On another note in your opinion high urea causes liver and kidney problems, however my liver and kidneys function perfectly and have perfect blood levels. My doc even says that high protein diets are healthy and that protein being bad for you is made up. I digress, but I thought I’d speak my mind and let you hear the lunacy in the statements given in the page above. BTW what have our ancestors ate for millions of years? High protein, high fat diets, with barely any carbs so there.

  19. JAN RUNYON

    My brother has been diagnosed with liver failture and his doctors stress low protein diet. Do you have a sample 7-day low or no protein diet that a single sick man can follow?

  20. SHAHUL

    pls advice, i have skin problem since 2 years, when i checked the blood, infection in liver, they are saying body produce more toxin
    pls advice

  21. LaShayae

    i need a diet to lower my protein its 2 high and causing me kindey promblems

  22. diya

    sir,recently i had to take an excessive protein diet…everything was fine untill one day i went for a walk and felt quite fatigued.the dr asked to take tests of urine and all the minerals which i did and my protein level was surprisingly high!what should i do?can you give an advice for my diet..hurry!!

  23. Prakashsampanna

    Sir iam suffering from gout since two years,i love eating non veg, please advice some good diet to control uric Acid.

  24. Paul P. Kay

    I am in stage4 please E- mail mea list of foods I can eat.
    Hurry

  25. rene

    My father is in Stage 4 of CKD. Please help by emailing me low sodium low protein diet for a week.
    Please….

  26. neva pefley

    my friend is on a low protein diet and a diabetic salads gives her diahhrea some ideas of some diet plans would be appreciated. than you

  27. Andolyn

    I have pku.. which means i must always be on a lo protein diet. if you must also .. look at low protein food companies.. such as Cambrooke Foods or Nutricia. They should have some foods you can buy and substitute for higher foods. stay away from cheese milk meat .. that means fish and chicken too . you can have some grains i would think . as i only get 10 grams of protein per day .. you may be as high as 50 if you have a problem with kidneys or other wise. i hope that this helps someone ?

  28. Paul ventura

    I am a chef for over 35 years. A good friend age 63, has divisuin chronic prancriatities. I would like to help him with his diet, a low protien low carb meals, under his doctors suggestion. I have seen dessert and sides, but I am looking more for entree recipes. Can you suggest a place to look.

  29. Jenny

    My mom just got out the hospital and she needs to be on a low protein diet..and she cannot have any salt. Can you give me any ideas as to what i can make her that tastes good.

  30. Savio

    My Dad is advised to have a low protein diet as his Urea as well as Creatinine is running high. Could you Pls mail me a diet plan for him for the whole week.

    Thanks & Regards

    Savio

  31. shirley

    I have the same problem as Glen only I have a palm could you recomend a diet for her thank you

  32. Glen

    I am looking to find a low protein diet for my Pug who has a liver shunt, she has been eating a perscription diet for 2 years and now refuses to eat it ..I have tried all types of reduced protein diets and she will not even try them, I am now looking to home cook for her, but I really don’t kn ow how to calculate the protien, if I use something wit 2 grams of protein and something with 3 protien and something with 1 is that 6 grams of protein she will be consuming she can only have up to 4.5 grams …could you please help me with this and maybe recommend a diet for her …Please she is sinking fast …

  33. Debbic McPherson

    My husband has been told he needs to be on a low sodium and low protien diet. But he is always hungry could you please send me a 7 day meal plan or send me a list of food that he could possibly snack on.

    Thank you

    • Jen 8 months ago

      Add healthy hi fat foods. They help you to feel full. Avocado is good. Olive oil or coconut oil salad dressings or drizzled over veggies.
      Some sites suggest high sugar treats…these are unhealthy. Ignore them!

  34. Rusti

    My husband just received his blood work results and his kidneys are failing. What do we do? Should we change his diet? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

  35. glen

    I am looking to find a low protein diet for my Pug who has a liver shunt, she has been eating a perscription diet for 2 years and now refuses to eat it ..I have tried all types of reduced protein diets and she will not even try them, I am now looking to home cook for her, but I really don’t kn ow how to calculate the protien, if I use something wit 2 grams of protein and something with 3 protien and something with 1 is that 6 grams of protein she will be consuming she can only have up to 4.5 grams …could you please help me with this and maybe recommend a diet for her …Please she is sinking fast …

  36. lizmistica8

    my best friend’s crea is already 3.9 and her doctors advised her to be on a no protein or low protein diet. what can we cook or serve her to help her since she already has uremia? please email us more options. thank you.

  37. DAVID DREYER

    i am sorry my e-mail may have been sent to you incomplete,so i will start over
    i went for a complete exam and my doctor noticed my creatinine level was high 1.4-1.7 iam very upset and wonder if i am in kidney failure soon. he seems to be keeping from giving direct
    answers .maybe he wants to run other tests.i want to avoid dialysis, and want to change my diet to lower protein.will that help me, and could you send me a sample of a menu for different days of the week.your sample i saw on the website shows breakfat,lunch,dinner for only 1 day
    maybe you have some alternate choices.
    i like meat once in a while but eat mostly fish and chicken .which of the 3 has the least protein.i am really sorry asking all these questions,but my wife has terminal cancer and i am her caregiver. HOW CAN I TAKE CARE OF HER IF I HAVE KIDNEY FAILURE! PLEASE HELP ME

    REGARDS,
    MR. DAVID DREYER

  38. Jenn

    My body doesn’t break protein down but my favorite foods are meats (and PB&J or PB&Bananas) I need suggestions for a low protein diet since my Dr wont send me to a nutritionist and it probably wont help anyways since I’ll be dropped from my insurance two months after i give birth.

  39. jo

    I would like a renal low prorein diet for 7days asI have been told bythe consultant

  40. gemma

    3 years ago i had 1 kidny removed. it had a large non cancerous tumor growing in it. my other kidney is not doing that good. i have been told told eat a low protien diet. i have lots of fruits and vegetables growing on my farm. how much fruits and vegetables can i safely eat. my sugar level is slightly high. thank you

  41. DEV DAVIS

    MY 13YR OLD DAUGHTER HAS KIDNEY DAMAGE. THANKS FOR THE SAMPLE MEAL. IM STILL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW YOU MEASURE THE GRAMS. IF YOUR TURKEY HAS 28G AND THE LEAN MEAT HAS 56G, HOW DOES THE DAY END UP 39G? WOULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN AND EMAIL OTHER IDEAS TO ME?

    • ted

      @Dev- The turkey and the lean meat wouldn’t be all protein. Some of the grams would be from the water content and the fat content among other things. 39grams would just be the total protein grams. Use a metric converter to figure out the grams if you don’t have a metric scale. http://www.worldwidemetric.com/metcal.htm

  42. david altier

    my dr. wants me to eat the least protein I can. I also have to eat the least potassium also . What can i eat.??? Almost every thing has potas. in it. Is there a book that can help me. thank you

  43. David Prince

    my doctor told me that my creatinine level is 1.7 . He put me on a low protein diet. Is there a book available to list protein levels in all foods and receipes such as listed here , one for each day ? My age is 66 as of this month.

  44. Ed Lara

    Ok, so you showed a low protein sample for eating one day.
    Can you personally send me how it would look for the other 6 days! My doctor told me to eat low protein foods because of kidney failure. I am 60 years old. Can you help me with this request?
    Thanks
    Ed Lara

  45. BrandiCotton

    My dad was just diagnosed with cirrosis of the liver. Being a non-drinker, we are worried about his diet. What can we do to help him?

  46. nisar

    my uricacid level is6 what indian low protein diet and cholestrol diet should i follow pls recomendthe diet should be based on indian food

  47. Ahamed hussain

    my doctor told me that my creatinine level is 1.4
    is that ok or risky for my future my age is 26 now

  48. Shailendra Singh Rawat

    My wife aged 21 Yrs is diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure + High BP + Pulmonary TB. Can you suggest a diet that can help patients with above three diseases ? Thanks a lot for such useful information.

    • Jen 8 months ago

      One option is to reduce inflammation in the body via an anti inflammatory diet (many books in your local library or bookstore) coupled with low protein (no animal protein, nuts, legumes). You can focus on quinoa, buckwheat and hemp). If no animal flesh supplement with vitamin b12

  49. Joan Staaleson

    My doctor rcommended a low protein diet due to kidney problems. Looking at the above I already eat a low protein diet. Any suggestions where to look for more help would be appreciated. I already cannot eat spicy, tomatoes, chocolate, caffein and must limit fat content. What can I eat?

  50. John Schallhorn

    I have been diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis with my ck check at 12,500. Dr. wants me to eat no meat or anything with potassium. Any suggestions?

Last Reviewed: January 16, 2018