Emergency Diet For Dialysis Patients. Helpful Tips So That You Can Be Prepared. Picture of first aid kit and canned food and water bottles. Dialysis Dietitian

Emergency Diet for Dialysis Patients

March is a special month which has been designated National Kidney Month and also includes World Kidney Day (March 9th this year). This year the emphasis is on kidney health for all and preparing for the unexpected. I thought a blog covering an emergency diet for dialysis patients would support this theme.

It is always good to be prepared in case of emergencies. This is especially important when you are on dialysis. If roads are closed and power is down your ability to dialyze may be compromised.

Without dialysis toxins and fluid can build up in your body. This makes what you eat and drink even more important in order to better control the build-up of potassium, phosphorus, fluid and urea (the breakdown of protein) in your body.

We will cover some helpful tips on how to be prepared and give ideas of what to keep on hand in case of an emergency.

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Emergency Supplies to Keep on Hand

Picture of an emergency supply checklist

It’s easy to put planning for an emergency on the back burner. Who wants to think about being prepared for a disaster? But, you just never know when you may need it.

You will feel much more confident in handling an emergency situation once you stock up on your emergency supplies and foods on hand. Being prepared makes these stressful times easier to manage.

First, let’s take a look at non-food items that will be helpful to have in your emergency supply kit:

  • Flash lights and battery operated table lamp (camping supplies)
  • Batteries
  • Candles
  • First Aid kit
  • Wand lighter
  • A sharp knife
  • Trashbags
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paper plates, bowls, cups
  • Plastic utensils
  • Zip lock bags
  • Paper towels, napkins
  • Can opener (manual)
  • Emergency diet list
  • Battery operated radio (if you can find one!)
  • A week’s supply of your medications

Now that you are stocked up on these basic supplies, let’s look at important non-perishable foods to have on hand.

Emergency Diet For Dialysis Patients

Often during emergencies or natural disasters you can be without cell or phone service, power or transportation. Hospitals may not be able to provide treatment right away. This may compromise your ability to receive dialysis in a timely manner.

Contact your dialysis center or emergency hotline number as soon as you can to get instructions. If you don’t have power or aren’t able to do dialysis for a couple of days, don’t freak out! You are going to be prepared with your 3 day emergency food supply along with the supplies listed above.

The goal of an emergency diet for dialysis patients is to better manage fluid and toxins in your blood in order to keep you safe until you are able to receive dialysis again. This diet plan is only temporary and should not be followed outside of an emergency.

Key Objectives:

  • Control potassium levels by avoiding high potassium foods and limiting fruit, vegetable, dairy and meat portions.
  • Avoid fluid overload by restricting your fluid intake to half of what your usual daily target is.
  • Avoid salt and salty foods which will also help better control your fluid retention and your thirst.

Water and Fluids

Your daily fluid intake will need to be even more restricted if you are unable to dialyze. For most people this will be 2 (8oz) cups or 500 ml of fluid a day.

I know what you are thinking, but yes you can do it! Remember, this is only temporary.

Water is the ideal thing for you to drink – especially when your fluids are so limited. If you have diabetes it may be a good idea to keep 4 oz containers of juice* on hand if you don’t have glucose tabs available.

Despite the limited amount of water you will be drinking each day, it is always good to be prepared with a few extra gallon jugs.

This can come in handy especially if you don’t have access to clean water to cook or clean with. Ideally your drinking water should be distilled which removes salts and other minerals.

Grains and Cereals

So, some key things to consider when looking at grains and cereals is to look for unsalted or very low sodium and low potassium/phosphorus options.

This means you should avoid most boxed cereals, especially those made with nuts, dried fruit, bran or granola. One good option is Nature’s Path Rice Puffs.*

As much as I dislike recommending white bread, an emergency is the time to use it. Since white bread is lower in nutrients – like protein, potassium and phosphorus – it is the better choice while you’re not being dialyzed. Look for low sodium white bread as bread usually contains a lot of salt.

If you need a gluten-free low sodium white bread alternative, check out Ener-G Brown Rice Loaf. Keep your emergency supply bread in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.


As previously mentioned, you will need to limit how much protein you eat to better control the build-up of urea in your blood. In this situation, canned protein such as tuna, chicken, salmon and turkey are much more convenient and don’t require refrigeration.

The key is to look for salt-free (which may be hard to find) or low sodium on the label. Most cans will contain around 5 oz but sometimes you can find a 3 oz can which is your protein goal for the day.

A good salt-free canned tuna option is Wild Planet No Salt Added Tuna*. You can also use unsalted peanut or almond butter as your protein source. This makes for an easy to prepare sandwich or a spread on a low sodium cracker or melba toast.

If looking for another plant-based protein source you can add shelf stable packaged tofu to your emergency grocery list. This is a good option when you have the ability to use a stove to cook it as you usually don’t eat tofu straight out of the container (but you can!).

Non-Dairy Milk

Most emergency diets for dialysis patients include powdered milk or evaporated milk. While convenient, these are high phosphorus and potassium options. Just 1/2 cup (126g) of evaporated milk can contain 382 mg potassium and 256 mg of phosphorus.

In contrast, Silk vanilla almond milk* contains 30 mg potassium per 4 oz (1/2 cup) serving. You can buy it in 8 oz individual containers which do not require refrigeration until after you open it. This would be a better option to use with your cereal.

Fruit & Vegetables

Choosing low potassium fruit and vegetables and limiting your portions to 2-4 (1/2 cup) servings a day will help control your potassium levels.

There are handy 4 oz packaged fruits like applesauce*, pears, peaches, and mandarin oranges. I found these cool pineapple pouches* which would make a fun addition to your emergency supply.

No salt added canned vegetables like green beans, carrots, peas, corn are an option. They also come in convenient low sodium 4 oz cups*.

Fat, Sweets & Miscellaneous

Individual packets of mayonnaise are good to have for making sandwiches and don’t require refrigeration. If you have the option of cooking, it’s good to add a bottle of olive or avocado oil to your emergency supply in addition to unsalted butter or unsalted plant based butter. Keep the butter in the refrigerator until you need it.

A salt-free herb blend like “Dash” may be a nice flavor addition. Just make sure that you avoid salt substitutes like Nu-Salt and No Salt because they contain very high amounts of potassium (in place of sodium) which can be dangerous for people on dialysis.

Packets or containers of honey, maple syrup, jam/jelly,* sugar and hard candies can be good to have on hand for added calories. If you have diabetes these can also be helpful to have access to in case your blood sugar levels get too low.

It might also be good to have a natural sweetener on hand like stevia or monkfruit which will not raise your blood sugar in case your blood sugar level is too high.

Helpful Tips

  • Once you get your emergency supply kit together it is important to keep track of expiration dates and rotate items out.
  • If you have a power outage keep the refrigerator door shut and only open when needed. Refrigerated items usually last about 4 hours and the freezer items can last up to 24-48 hours (depending on how full it is) if doors are kept closed.
  • Keep all of your important medications in a weekly organizer and make it easy to pack up and take with you if needed.
  • Make sure to avoid high potassium foods such as nuts/seeds, dried fruit, granola, bran, potatoes, tomatoes/tomato sauce, bananas, oranges, avocado, lentils, beans, and sports drinks to name a few.
  • Drain excess liquid from canned meats, fruits and vegetables.
  • Throw away spoiled food and used plates, bowls and cups.

3 Day Emergency Grocery List

Use the following checklist as a guide and click on the link below for a printable option.

3 day emergency diet grocery list for dialysis patients. Dialysis Dietitian.
For a FREE printable PDF click HERE

Emergency Diet for Dialysis Patients Summary

No one wants to worry about a disaster or plan for an emergency, but if you take the time today to plan ahead it can potentially save your life.

Remember, this emergency diet is only temporary. By planning ahead and being prepared you will feel more confident and be able to better manage your health during these stressful situations.

I hope you find these tips and 3 Day Emergency Grocery List helpful. Happy National Kidney Month!

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