**Note: This post is geared towards people with pre-dialysis chronic kidney disease. People with pre-dialysis kidney disease will generally benefit from a lower sodium, lower protein, more plant-based diet.**
As a renal dietitian, a common request I get from people with kidney disease is, “I don’t always feel like cooking. Are there any kidney-friendly frozen meals out there?”
You might be surprised to hear my answer: YES! There are many kidney-friendly meal options to be found in the freezer aisle.
Now before we get to what some of those options actually are – I need to clear something up about frozen foods…
“But Aren’t Frozen Foods Bad?”
A big misconception about nutrition for kidney health is that frozen foods are “bad” or “off limits”. I’ve had clients tell me they’re been avoiding frozen meals because they heard they’re “too processed”.
What I need you to know is this: yes, frozen foods are processed foods — but processed isn’t necessarily a problem.
Technically, a processed food is any food that has undergone changes from its natural state.
There are different degrees of processed foods, ranging from minimally processed foods (i.e. frozen fruit) to highly processed foods (i.e. frozen pizza). The more highly processed a food is, the most likely it is to include extra salt, sugar, artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or other additives.
In terms of kidney health, the things most concerning about highly processed foods are excessive amounts of salt and sugar.
What Makes a Frozen Meal Kidney-Friendly?
So – how is “kidney-friendly” defined? Kidney nutrition is highly individualized, but there are some common threads that most people with chronic kidney disease would do well to consider.
- Lower in sodium. Salt tends to increase blood pressure, and keeping blood pressure well controlled is key for optimal kidney health.
- Low or moderate protein content. The current kidney nutrition guidelines recommend a lower protein diet to people aiming to slow kidney disease progression and preserve kidney function.
- Rich in plant foods. Plant foods are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they also reduce the dietary acid load on the kidneys. This means the kidneys have less work to do.
- No phosphorus additives. Added, artificial phosphorus in foods is the most important kind to avoid to keep blood phosphorus levels well controlled.
My criteria for frozen meals are as follows:
- Less than 750 mg sodium
- Contains plant based protein
- At least 3 grams of fiber
- No added phosphorus
So without further ado, here are my suggestions!
1. Amy’s Black Bean Veggie Burger (300 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 6 g protein)
A black bean burger is a classic plant-based meal! Heat it up on the stovetop, on a grill, or in the microwave then serve on a bun, in a wrap, or over a salad.
Sodium: 300 mg
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 6 grams
2. Healthy Choice Unwrapped Burrito Bowl (550 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 8 g protein)
I love burrito bowls. Nothing beats a nice simple combo of grains, beans, and veggies. With this dish, you’ll find brown rice, black & pinto beans, corn, bell pepper, and a tomatillo sauce. You can even add some extra veggies on the side if you wish.
Sodium: 550 mg
Fiber: 8 grams
Protein: 8 grams
3. Tattooed Chef Veggie Hemp Bowl (260 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 12 g protein)
Another “bowl” meal! This one includes sweet potatoes, kale, chickpeas & hemp seeds over riced cauliflower & red quinoa with a turmeric almond butter dressing.
Sodium: 260 mg
Fiber: 8 grams
Protein: 12 grams
4. Sweet Earth Cacio E Pepe (540 mg sodium, 7 g fiber, 16 g protein)
Have you ever tried cacio e pepe? It is a simple pasta dish that literally translates to “cheese and pepper.” This meal actually features plant based parmesan cheese, as well as some veggies like peas and broccoli. In terms of protein, please note this meal is slightly higher in protein than some other options on this list. The amount of protein you need is individualized based on your weight, stage of kidney disease, and other factors.
Sodium: 540 mg
Fiber: 7 grams
Protein: 16 grams
5. Amy’s Gluten Free Tofu Scramble Breakfast Wrap (420 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 10 g protein)
Are you always rushing out the door in the morning? Amy’s Tofu Scramble Breakfast Wrap is a great option for a meal on-the-go! This wrap is made with organic tofu, hash browns, and veggies. As a bonus, it’s also a good pick for my gluten-free friends out there.
Sodium: 420 mg
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 10 grams
6. CedarLane Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie (610 mg sodium, 7 g fiber, 9 g protein)
You don’t have to give up a dish like shepherd’s pie just because you’re trying to eat more kidney friendly – just make it plant-based! Instead of the traditional beef or Iamb, CedarLane blended veggies and green lentils in a savory gravy, then topped with creamy whipped potatoes.
Sodium: 610 mg
Fiber: 7 grams
Protein: 9 grams
7. Saffron Road Vegetable Biryani with Basmati Rice (650 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 10 g protein)
This vegetable biryani dish contains flavors such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, and red chili pepper. In terms of the plant powered ingredients here, you’ll find cauliflower, green peas, cashews, chickpeas, and caramelized onions. Yum!
Sodium: 650 mg
Fiber: 6 grams
Protein: 10 grams
There you have it – seven tasty plant-based options that couldn’t be easier to prepare! I like to suggest that my clients stock up on a few “quick” meal options to be prepared just in case – or, to put into your usual meal rotation, if you find quick & easy meals to be a helpful option in general.
What other plant-based meal options have you found that you enjoy? If I missed your favorite and you’d like to share it, comment below!
For more help and guidance personalized to you, consult with a Board Certified Renal Dietitian (like me!). I’m also on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook dishing up helpful info and meal ideas to help you out in the meanwhile. Until next time, be well. — Kate, Your Kidney Dietitian