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 physician or dietician 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, etc.)
  • 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, soda, and sports drinks have sodium so these may need to be limited

Low-sodium seasonings:

The following low-sodium seasonings may be used freely:

bay leaf
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 can I help my child reduce his/her salt-intake?

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

  • Do not use salt in cooking or at the table
  • Cook with herbs and spices or, if permitted by your child's physician, use salt substitutes like Mrs. Dash®, NuSalt®, NoSalt®, or Morton's Lite Salt®
  • Seasonings with "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 that 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.

Sample plan for 3,000 mg sodium restriction:

Breakfast  Lunch  Dinner
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 snack Afternoon snack
cereal fruit bar
oatmeal cookies (2)

Definitions for sodium claims on food labels:

The food label reads: What this means:
Sodium-free Less than 5 mg sodium per serving
Salt-free Meets requirements for sodium-free
Low sodium 140 mg sodium or less per serving
Very low sodium  35 mg sodium or less per serving 
Reduced sodium  At least 25 percent less sodium when compared to regular version 
Light in sodium  50 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 

Contact us

For established patients with questions about their child’s care, contact the Renal and Hypertension Clinic nurse:

(414) 266-2018

For established Dialysis patients with questions about their child’s care, contact the Dialysis Unit:

(414) 266-2840

Make an appointment

To make an appointment, call our Central Scheduling team or request an appointment online.

(877) 607-5280

Request an appointment

Haga clic aquí para ver esta página en español

Request a dialysis appointment

To request a dialysis appointment, call:

(414) 266-2840

For those needing assistance for coordinating their care with multiple sub-specialists' appointments, or for attending the PKD Clinic for the first time, please contact our Renal Clinic nurse at (414) 266-2018.