Picture of raw meat with title: The best low phosphorus meats for kidney disease over the top of image

The Best Low Phosphorus Meats for Kidney Disease

Looking for some healthy low phosphorus meats for kidney health? Look no further! Read on to understand why phosphorus in meat is important, as well as my low phosphorus meat recommendations.

Meat, Protein & Kidney Disease

First, it is important to know a little bit about meat, protein and kidney disease. This will help you understand more about how to eat low phosphorus meats in a kidney friendly way!

How Much Protein Do I Need?

Protein needs are very different based on what stage of kidney disease you have.

In general, people who have kidney disease stages 1-3a should avoid high protein diets. If kidney disease progresses to stages 3b-5, a low protein diet is ideal. If kidney disease progresses further and dialysis is needed, you actually need a HIGH protein diet. (1)

Learn more about how nutrition is different for people with kidney disease.

Protein needs are also different based on your medical and nutrition history. Ask your dietitian exactly how much protein is right for you.

Is Meat Good for Kidney Disease?

Again, the answer depends on your labs and stage of kidney disease. People on dialysis need lots of protein. So, meat may be a good way to make sure you are getting enough protein.

For people with kidney disease who ARE NOT on dialysis, limiting meat, poultry, fish and seafood may help stop kidney disease from getting worse. (2) (3) People who eat fewer animal products (especially meat) have a slower progression of kidney disease and they are less likely to need dialysis. (4) (5)

However, not everyone wants (or needs to!) follow a diet that is 100% vegetarian. Work with your dietitian to figure out what makes the most sense for you!

Why Low Phosphorus Meats Are Important

If you do eat meat and have kidney disease, it is important to choose low phosphorus meats. Meat (and most proteins) are a major source of phosphorus in our diet. A high phosphorus diet can damage your heart and bones.

Importantly, high phosphorus levels are also associated with faster progression of kidney disease and higher mortality. (6)

Eating low phosphorus meats can help keep phosphorus levels in check!

Not All Phosphorus is the Same!

Phosphorus from different kinds of food acts very different in our bodies. Only about 30% of phosphorus from plant foods (like nuts, beans, seeds and lentils) is absorbed. (7) (8)

A much higher percentage of phosphorus from meat is absorbed. About 90% of phosphorus in meat ends up in our bodies. Unfortunately, ALL meat has some phosphorus in it. This phosphorus matters quite a bit since we absorb so much of it.

Phosphorus that is ADDED to our food is nearly 100% absorbed. Phosphorus additives tend to be, by far, the biggest concern when it comes to a low phosphorus diet. Learn more about phosphorus additives.

Potassium in Meat

Potassium is an important part of a kidney friendly diet. Some people with kidney disease need to limit how much potassium they eat.

Although fruits and veggies tend to be most known for being high in potassium, meat also adds a lot of potassium to our diet! Meat, poultry, fish and seafood all have potassium in them. Also, potassium is often added to these foods during processing.

If you need to limit potassium, I recommend checking the ingredients for potassium additives.

High Phosphorus Meats

Because those phosphorus additives are so important, any meat that has phosphorus additives in it should be avoided.

Processed meats tend to be the biggest culprit for phosphorus additives. These meats are usually very high in sodium too.

Cartoon pictures of high phosphorus meats: bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deli or lunch meat and ham

Meats that tend to have phosphorus additives:

  • Bacon
  • Sausage or hot dogs
  • Bologna
  • Salami
  • Corned Beef
  • Lunch or deli meat (turkey, ham, roast beef)
  • Artificial crab or lobster
  • Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store
  • Meat from fast food restaurants

Some meats that might not seem “processed” can have phosphorus additives. Rotisserie chicken is a good example – it is usually pumped full of phosphorus (and sodium!) solutions to keep it juicy and flavorful. ALWAYS check for “PHOS” ingredients on the food label.

Top 5 Low Phosphorus Meats

Here are some of good low phosphorus meats. Remember, all kinds of meat, poultry, fish and seafood have phosphorus in them. Most natural meats have about 200mg of phosphorus in a 3 oz portion. Any kind of unprocessed, natural animal protein can likely fit into a low phosphorus diet.

The keys to eating low phosphorus meats are:

  • Choose meats without phosphorus additives
  • Eat the right portion size. All meat has some phosphorus in it. Even a low phosphorus meat can become a high phosphorus meat if you eat enough of it! Ask your dietitian what is right for you.


Most unprocessed chicken breast, legs or thighs are low in phosphorus. One 3oz portion of chicken breast has 196mg of phosphorus. As always, check the ingredients for any sneaky phosphorus additives!


Tilapia, or other white fishes such as cod or whitefish, are heart healthy low phosphorus meats. One 3oz portion of tilapia has 175mg of phosphorus.

Pork Loin

Pork loin tends to be leaner than pork chops and other cuts of pork. It can be a good low phosphorus meat choice. Without additives, a 3oz portion of pork loin has 190mg of phosphorus.

Cartoon pictures of low phosphorus meat choices: chicken, shrimp, salmon, pork loin and tilapia


Famous for it’s heart health benefits, salmon can be a kidney friendly low phosphorus meat. A 3oz portion of salmon has 315mg of phosphorus. Try this honey mustard salmon recipe – seriously one of my favorites!


Who doesn’t love shrimp!? A 3oz portion of shrimp has 200mg of phosphorus. But, be especially careful of phosphorus additives in shrimp and other seafood!

The Best Low Phosphorus Proteins for Kidney Disease

Ultimately, the best low phosphorus proteins for kidney disease are plant proteins. Because most phosphorus in plant foods is not absorbed, plant proteins are the best low phosphorus protein!

Here are some of my favorite plant proteins for people with kidney disease:

  • Beans (black, pinto, kidney, navy – really any kind of bean will do!)
  • Nuts (look for unsalted or lightly salted options!)
  • Seeds (buy unsalted or lightly salted options here too!)
  • Tofu
  • Whole grains (yes! whole grains tend to have surprising amounts of protein in them!)
  • Green peas
  • Lentils

As always, a healthy diet for kidney disease must be individualized to YOU based on your lab results and medical history. Ask your dietitian how to healthfully eat these plant proteins!

Phosphorus & Plant Based Meats

Many people ask about the many “plant based” meat alternatives available at the grocery store. Plant based meats such as Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger are becoming increasingly popular!

Even though these products are “plant based”, they are not as healthful as unprocessed plant proteins, like beans or lentils. Many of these products are FULL of sodium, and many even have phosphorus (and potassium!) additives.

Also, many of these products have JUST as much (if not more) protein as meat. This is a downside for people with kidney disease who are not on dialysis who may need to limit protein. Unprocessed plant foods like beans and nuts tend to have less protein in them compared to meat.

Bottom line, occasionally having a plant based meat replacement is probably fine. However, I don’t recommend that people with kidney disease include them on a regular basis. I’d MUCH prefer the focus be on whole, unprocessed plant proteins for a healthy plant based diet.

Happy Eating!


48 thoughts on “The Best Low Phosphorus Meats for Kidney Disease”

  1. I don’t have Kidney stones. The information in this blog is so educationa, helpful and understandable. I want to thank you so much for doing this work, for us wandering souls that stumble into the Kidney surprise. The silent killer! I’m astounded at the numbers of people that have Kidney Disease. These statistics could also be the best kept secret in the medical profession! The very first-ever “National Kidney Disease day” is in April of this year, 2024. Stay tuned! This national recognition is long overdue!!! It’s shameful how hard I’ve had to dig to try to figure all of this out on my own. I finally got a dietician at my HMO. Get in line for an appointment! Thank goodness for you!

  2. Doctor says my kidneys are not functioning well as I have high microalbumin. This came out of the blue so I don’t know why, other than being diabetic. My eGFR is still in the 90s though. I have read about the importance of low potassium, sugar and sodium for some time, but am only recently learning about the importance of low phosphorus. It seems people seem to think oatmeal or oat bread or oat cereals are ok to eat, which I do not. Oats have alot of phosphorus in them. Also, read labels of any processed foods because they use various forms of phosphorus as a preservative. After going thru my cabinet, what little processed food I have, nearly ALL had some form of chemical phosphorus added–which as you have stated is about the worst kind. We all need to really read the labels to avoid those chemicals.

  3. joseph e. stolz, jr.

    I forgot to mention that I eat only fresh fruit between meals. Apples; pears; berries; watermelon. I get the fruit and veggies at local orchards in season. Thery are way better than from the grocery. It is worth the extra drive—and at current grocery prices a little cheaper.

  4. Your offerings are so helpful. I have done so much online research in trying to find something to eat. Watching sodium, phosphorus and potassium levels and reading recommendations, always brings up a couple of fish options. Tilapia, which is prone to parasites and must be cooked carefully, and sounds like a disgusting trash fish – and light canned tuna, i have found a canned tuna with no sodium added, which seems to be the recommendation. But I see no mention of light ( not albacore) tuna in your wonderful generous articles. Can I have your comments about tuna? So glad I have found you! Carol

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hi Carol! I’m so glad this is helpful for you! Just like all foods, tuna can absolutely fit into a kidney-friendly diet. It is an animal protein, so I would work with your dietitian to see how much and how to incorporate this into your day!

      1. I understand what food choices to make but I’m not sure how much on a daily basis. recently diagnosed with stage 2 and phosphorus and potassium levels are in normal range. I would like to consume more calories as I feel I am a little thin
        thank you

        1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

          You aren’t alone! Trying to follow all of these renal diet things can often result in inadequate calorie intake. This is one of the reasons it is so important to work with a dietitian – to make sure you are eating enough to nourish your body! I have a list of kidney dietitians I recommend on my resources page!

      2. Hello Melanie, I have had 3 blood tests since April. I am 70. April Creatine 130 GFR 36
        May ” 111 ” 43
        July ” 130 ” 36 .
        Everything else was normal including Urine. A year ago, 2022 all my blood levels were normal. I see my doctor on Monday but researching my levels above and they appear to indicate chronic kidney disease. Just really worried and though I would see what you could tell me 🙁

  5. Hi Barbara, thank you for all you do. I lost my right kidney 2yrs ago due to cancer. Now my left kidney shows GFR 63 which means Stage 2 KD. I drastically changed my diet to no sugar, less protein & very low sodium, and now doing Intermittent Fasting by eating One Meal A Day. What is your take on IF-OMAD? Will I really benefit from it? I heard so many benefits and good results of people who have CKD and on a renal diet and doing OMAD altogether. Thank you.

    1. I am concerned about my kidneys as my recent blood test (2 days ago) numbers indicate CKD. Your GFR is 63? That is in the normal range is it not? Mine is 36. My creatine is 128.

  6. My husband is has ckd and liver cirrhosis. I need help to come up w a diet pertinent to both these health issues. Dietician at dialysis center focus on renal diet without factoring in the liver cirrhosis. Any advice? Can you recommend a dietician that manages patient like my husband? Thank you.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hi Lynn! I’m sorry to hear about your husband. Your dietitian at the dialysis center should be taking both conditions into consideration. It can be hard to find dietitians, so I would recommend utilizing that dialysis RD as much as you can! Honestly, a lot of the nutrition recommendations for cirrhosis are similar to what she would be talking about for kidneys. I’d ask her what he can do for his liver – I bet she would have some very good info for you!

  7. hi, I’m 61 yr old male no diabetes BP under control now cholesterol under control my egfr has bounced up and down for last 10 years. from 66 to 56 right now it’s 58. I have no symptoms. wondering how I got here. dr is doing a ultrasound and a protein test in another month because I fell back below 60. why don’t they alram us before this stage. I eat alot of meat red chicken turkey pork . I eat eggs for breakfast. occasional bacon. I’m over weight about 15 lbs. I’d like to cut back on proteins some and less eggs. is potatoes fruits vegetables whole grains the way to go. I haven’t been told to change my diet yet. but I think cleaning it up could help

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Absolutely! It is NEVER too early to work on making kidney healthy choices. I’d recommend working with a dietitian NOW to make those changes. Why wait? I have a list of kidney dietitians who work with patients on my resources page if you are interested!

  8. Thank you for being here for me as I struggle to cook for a husband with stage three chronic kidney disease. It’s very confusing! Too many things contradict each other as I study and learn about phosphorus, potassium and proteins. Thanks so much for being here!

    1. Hello Tracy,
      I’m struggling with the same problem. Even a nutritionist handed me a Type ll Diabetic worksheet and food list. I found Lee Hull’s cookbook, and it’s brought my scores to almost within normal limits! He has severe CKD and has done his own research. Good luck.

    2. This site is great, but you dont need to worry to much at stage 3, just eat right and not to have to much of anything that could make your kidneys worse

      1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

        The guidelines actually do make recommendations for people with CKD stage 3. There is a lot you can do in stage 3 to slow the progression. The data shows the earlier people work with a dietitian, the more impact we can make on slowing progression!

  9. Stage 3 Moderate since 2004. No left kidney due to cancer, 2004. Partial right kidney due to mass removed, 2014. In 2004 I totally gave up sweets, all of it, because the surgeon said if I want to stay off dialysis, then stay off sweets first and foremost.
    My diet is complicated because I also have no lower intestines. But, what I have found keeps my labs okay is green and red vegetables, nothing with seeds, but with me they must be cooked, no raw. Fresh chicken, turkey, fish and Salmon are my meats, except once a week, a hamburger patty, 85 % lean, once a week, the size of a deck of cards only. A Bagel once in awhile. No bread, potatoes, broccoli, of anything with more than 70 in potassium. I have oatmeal with 100 % pure honey, rice chex with instant dry milk-no sugar, rice with real butter, no salt added, American cheese within limits on Low Fat Ritz crackers. A boring diet, but has kept me off dialysis 18 years now, and my labs are stable. GFR 48, Creatinine 1.2, Bun 21 and all else within the good range. What messes me up is medication, like Cipro which shuts the kidney down, contrast dye that shuts the kidney down. Many other medications cause Acute Renal Failure. Medications and food that have yellow dye in them, raise my BP to stroke levels, so it is always a challenge being put on new meds. They want me to take baby aspirin, I am 81, but ALL baby aspirin has yellow dye in it, even Bayer white ones, and even original cherry chewables for babies have yellow dye in them. Did not intend to leave a book, but I came here to see if there was anything else I can eat, like ham or pork. Thanks for this site. I will follow this because it holds very good imformation.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hi Ruth! I am glad you’ve found my site helpful. A renal diet is different for every single person. I can’t say what is best for you. I’d check out the dietitians I recommend that help people with CKD on my resources page. Working with a dietitian is the best way to know what is best for YOU! Good luck, you’ve got this!

    2. I envy your number, but I’ve been living easy relatively. No medications, nothing processed, trying to study the food thing and also doing more exercise. Only 74, feel fine, but the labs say my eGFR is 35 (and rising, I think) and my creatinine is 1.55. I’m also here for information, and there seem some helpful things here. But I am trying to find out whether I should be eating raw meat (because a research article kept referring to cooked meats) and it’s just impossible to find. (Raw eggs would be easy to do.)

      1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

        There is definitely no reason why you should eat raw meat for kidney health (or any health condition). This actually puts you at risk of getting sick. The nutrition content of meat doesn’t change significantly after being cooked.

    3. Thanks for the ‘book’. I think you’ve done remarkable at fighting it what is safe for you to eat. I appreciate the remark about yellow dye I have resistant hypertension even though I’m”doing everything right” but I never thought about the dye in the meds, and probably in supplements too. I’m going to see if I can eliminate any suspects to see if it helps.

    4. I just found this site. A recent report of gfr at 30 has caused me to research. Your comments are so helpful! It is hard to find anything to eat with levels of phosphorus, potassium and sodium low enough. It pot is low, then phos is too high. The fda should cause labels to list natural phosphorus AND added phosphorus!

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hi Barbara! You are so welcome. I’d ask your doctor for a renal dietitian referral. That is definitely the best way to help you know what is best for your meals and snacks!

  10. Glad I read this article. I’m at stage 4, I’m healthy, but was concerned that I wasn’t getting enough protein. Im a senior, I workout regularly but was not maintaining muscle mass and so I was searching for healthy food proteins and powders. I’m reading here that t my stage staying low protein may delay the need for dialysis so I guess I must accept this.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      We live in a very “pro-protein” world (largely fueled by gyms and protein powder companies!) that makes it easy to think we need more protein. However, most of us are getting WAY more protein than we need. All this protein can definitely be harmful for people with kidney disease. A dietitian can help you better assess how much protein you are eating now, how much you need, and if any changes should be made.

  11. Midhat Abraham

    Great ideas and very informative information. I have learned a lot as i have bee looking all around the internet to for my own diet for my stage 3 CKD. Even my primary care doctor would not recommend a plan. Did you ever develop a diet plan for CKD such as what best to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack.

    Thank for all what you do to help in this very important health issue and problem.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hello! Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so glad you’ve found my site helpful. I don’t work with individual patients, but do have a list of other wonderful kidney dietitians I recommend on my resources page.

    2. joseph e. stolz, jr.

      When I was diagnosed with stage 3, I read everything I could find– a couple of books– and dozens of internet articles like this one. National Kidney Foundation, Mayo Clinic have lots of info.
      I eat nothing but fresh fruit and vegetables; white chicken meat; tilapia; salmon. I have 9 different vegies in zip lock bags; I eat 4 or 5 with each meal (lunch and dinner) Fish for lunch. Chicken for dinner. #4-ounce portions individually wrapped from Giant. Bake everything. Meat or fish for 23 minutes. Vegies for 12 minutes. at 375 degrees. Use extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon. I love this food. For breakfast either quaker oats (half cup) with low fat milk and a big handful of blueberries; raspberries; black berries; and five strawberries. OR POST SHREDDED WHEAT BISKETS instead of Quaker Oats.
      I drink only water with lemon squeezed into it; or BAI –some flavors no sugar, potassium or phos or sodium. I love it. Or Mineral water with no sugar or sodium or. Low potassium, No phos.
      One coffee with 3 cream and two splenda and a blueberry muffin ( I know–bad) for mid morn snack while I read the paper.
      It has been 6 months since diagnosis. I have lost 28 lbs.
      Kidney function has gone from 49 to 71.
      I exercise 3 or 4 times per week for 30 min. Twice is physical therapy. Twice is walking.
      I am 74. My Doc now says I have 92% of kidney function for someone my age.
      My blood pressure medication has been reduced by 75%. My type 2 diabetes meds reduced by one-third.
      Usual BP 120/60-80
      Usual blood sugar 95 to 110—varies some lower– some higher

      I think I have won the game


      1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, FAND

        Thanks so much for sharing Joe! I’m so happy to hear you’ve found something that works for you.
        Just one minor comment – I’d remove that “bad” comment about the blueberry muffin. NO foods are inherently “good” or “bad” 🙂

  12. Thank you. This made the most sense out of everything I have read about phosphorus. Very helpful. Thanks

  13. Thank you for this great article. I had questions about these very proteins so you have answered many of my questions. Thanks!

  14. I have been struggling for a while, trying to find information on what to eat while dealing with diabetes and kidney stones. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this information available to us. Life it’s hard enough when you are diagnosed with a chronic disease, but it is harder not to know how to properly manage your condition. I think I can get a better handle of my life now. Thanks again, Melanie! 🙂

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Thank you SO much Barbara! I’m SO SO happy that you’ve found my site helpful and it is helping clarify a “kidney” diet for you! Hearing things like this truly makes my day and keeps me motivated to keep going! Thank YOU for being here!

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