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Health Library : Genitourinary and Kidney Disorders


Sodium and Fluid Restriction

Sodium restriction for children with renal failure

A low-sodium diet or salt restriction may be used to help prevent or reduce fluid retention in your child's body. The amount of sodium or salt allowed in your child's diet depends on your child's medical condition. Your child's doctor or dietitian will determine the amount of sodium allowed in your child's diet. This is usually expressed in milligrams (mg) per day. Some common sodium restrictions include 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 mg per day. With most sodium-restricted diets, high-sodium foods are limited and salt is not allowed in food preparation or at the table.

Foods high in sodium:

  • Canned foods (vegetables, meats, pasta meals)
  • Processed foods (meats such as bologna, pepperoni, salami, hot dogs, sausage)
  • Cheese
  • Dried pasta and rice mixes
  • Soups (canned and dried)
  • Snack foods (chips, popcorn, pretzels, cheese puffs, salted nuts)
  • Dips, sauces, and salad dressings

Foods low in sodium:

  • Plain breads, cereals, rice and pasta
  • Vegetables and fruits (fresh or frozen)
  • Meats (fresh cuts; not processed meats)
  • Milk and yogurt (these tend to be moderate in sodium)
  • Beverages such as juices, tea, fruit drink/punch, and soda, sports drinks have sodium so these may need to be limited

Low-sodium seasonings

The following low-sodium seasonings may be used more freely than those that are high in sodium:

Chili powder
Curry powder
Extracts (vanilla)
Garlic (fresh)
Garlic powder
Horseradish sauce
Lemon juice
Lime juice
Dry mustard
Mrs. Dash
Onion (fresh)
Onion powder

The following seasonings are high in sodium but can be used in limited amounts:

Limit to 1 tablespoon per meal:

  • Barbecue sauce
  • Cocktail sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Hot sauce
  • Low-calorie salad dressing
  • Steak sauce

How to reduce your child's salt intake

The following recommendations may help to reduce the amount of salt in your child's diet:

  • Don't use salt in cooking or at the table.
  • Cook with herbs and spices or, if permitted by your child's doctor, use salt substitutes like Mrs. Dash, NuSalt, NoSalt, or Morton's Lite Salt.
  • Seasonings with the word "salt" in the name, like garlic salt, are high in sodium. When seasoning foods use fresh garlic or garlic powder, use onion powder instead of onion salt, and try celery seed rather than celery salt.
  • Eat home prepared meals, using fresh ingredients, instead of canned, frozen, or packaged meals. When dining out, request dressings and sauces on the side. Ask the chef to hold the salt in food preparation.
Type of food


Foods to avoid

Milk, yogurt, cheese
  • Whole, 2 percent, or skim milk
  • Cottage cheese, regular hard cheeses, tofu
  • Puddings, custards, ice cream
  • Processed cheese, cheese spreads
Meat, fish, poultry
  • Fresh or frozen meats, poultry, fish
  • Low-sodium canned tuna or salmon
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Soybean or vegetable protein
  • Peanut butter
  • Salted or canned meats, fish (sardines, herring, anchovies), or poultry
  • Lunch meats (bologna, ham, corned beef)
  • Cured meats (ham, bacon, sausage)
  • Hot dogs, dried beef, jerky
  • Commercially frozen entrees
  • Kosher-prepared meats
  • Fresh, frozen, or canned fruits, fruit juices
  • None
  • Fresh, frozen, or low sodium canned vegetables
  • Sauerkraut, salted or pickled vegetables
  • Vegetables cooked with salted meats
  • Regular vegetable juices
Starches, breads, cereals
  • Potatoes, macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, rice
  • Unsalted potato chips, low sodium pretzels, unsalted crackers, unsalted popcorn, and nuts
  • Whole grain and enriched breads
  • Pancakes, muffins, French toast, waffles, biscuits, cookies, cakes
  • Whole grain and enriched cooked or commercially prepared dry cereals
  • Potato chips, slated snack foods or pretzels
  • Commercially prepared rice and noodle mixes
  • Salted breads, rolls and crackers
  • Salted popcorn and nuts
  • Chocolate, cocoa, horseradish, herbs and spices, such as onion powder, fresh garlic, garlic powder, celery seed
  • Flavorings, such as vinegar, lemon juice, Tabasco
  • Low-sodium condiments and seasonings, such as Mrs. Dash, Nu-Salt, Morton's Lite Salt, NoSalt 
  • Ketchup, chili sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, gravy (limit to 1 Tbsp per day)
  • Low-sodium canned soups, homemade soups
  • Commercially prepared meat sauces
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Onion salt, garlic slat, celery salt, seasoned salt
  • Olives, pickles
  • Relish, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce
  • Dehydrated soup or bouillon, canned soups
  • Butter, margarine, lard, shortening, vegetable oil, mayonnaise
  • Salad dressing (limit 1 Tbsp per day)
  • Salt pork, bacon fat, fat back
  • More than 1 Tbsp salad dressing per day

Sample plan for 3,000 mg sodium restriction

Orange juice (1/2 cup)
Dry cereal (1/2 cup)
Toast (1 slice)
Margarine (1 tsp)
Jelly (1 Tbsp)
Low-fat milk (1 cup)
Beef patty (3 oz)
Hamburger bun (1)
Mustard (1 Tbsp)
Ketchup (1 Tbsp)
Sliced tomato and lettuce
Low-fat milk (1 cup)
Baked, breaded chicken strips, homemade (3 oz)
Oven-baked french fries, homemade (1/2 cup)
Green beans (1/2 cup)
Dinner roll (1)
Margarine (1 tsp)
Apple juice (1 cup)
Frozen yogurt (1/2 cup)
Morning snackAfternoon snack 
Cereal fruit bar
Oatmeal cookies (2)

Definitions for sodium claims on food labels

The food label readsWhat this means
Sodium-freeLess than 5 mg sodium per serving
Salt-freeMeets requirements for sodium-free
Low sodium140 mg sodium or less per serving
Very low sodium35 mg sodium or less per serving
Reduced sodiumAt least 25 percent less sodium when compared to the same product without reduced sodium
Light in sodium50 percent less sodium per serving when compared to foods with more than 40 calories per serving or more than 3 gm of fat per serving
Unsalted; no added salt; without added salt
  • No salt is added during processing
  • The product it resembles and substitutes for is normally processed with salt

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Online Resources of Genitourinary & Kidney Disorders

 Sources & References


 Find an MUSC Doctor:
 »Pediatric Nephrology
 »Pediatric Urology



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