Low Protein Diet

Author:  Frank W. Jackson, M.D.

Purpose

Protein is a nutrient needed by the body for normal growth, wound healing, and the ability to fight infection. People with severe kidney or liver disease often must limit the amount of protein they eat because their bodies cannot use the protein properly. Dangerous waste products can build up in the blood from eating too much protein.

The major food sources of protein are:

Highest Amount of protein

  • Meat, fish, poultry, eggs
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter

Small Amount of Protein

  • Vegetables
  • Starches such as breads, cereals, and pasta (the protein in these foods is of poorer but still good quality)

Trace Amount of Protein

  • Fruits
  • Fats
  • Sugars

Nutrition Facts

For the healthy person, between 40-60 grams of protein are needed each day to achieve and maintain good health. This, of course, will depend on the weight and health of an individual. A person recovering from an illness or injury often needs more. It is satisfactory to eat less than this amount for a short period of time, depending on health and diet objectives. If you are instructed to begin a low protein diet, discuss with your physician the maximum amount of protein permitted. Use the following tables to calculate the amount of protein in your diet.

Special Considerations
  1. Protein is never completely eliminated from the diet. The physician and dietitian can determine how much protein the body is able to handle. However, since the amount of protein is limited, it is important to eat foods that contain high quality protein (meat, milk, fish, poultry, eggs, and peanut butter). These proteins are complete. They contain all the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein). Even though the protein in vegetables and starches is incomplete, it is still important to include these foods in a daily meal plan for a well-balanced diet.
  2. Salt and Sodium: Many people with serious kidney or liver disease may also need to limit salt or sodium intake because of high blood pressure or fluid retention. The greatest source of sodium in the diet is table salt. Therefore, the first step in reducing sodium intake is to limit the use of table salt. Certain other foods have a high sodium content and will also need to be limited.
Fats
One serving contains: virtually no protein, 55 mg sodium
One serving equals:

regular butter or margarine

1 tsp

mayonnaise

1 tsp

vegetable oil

1 tsp

gravy

1 Tbsp

reduced calorie margarine

1 Tbsp

reduced calorie mayonnaise

1 Tbsp

salad dressing (oil type)

2 Tbsp

low calorie salad dressing (oil type)

2 Tbsp

low calorie salad dressing (mayonnaise type)

2 Tbsp

tartar sauce

1 1/2 tsp
Avoid the following if you are reducing sodium intake: commercially prepared gravy, gravy mixes, bacon fat Remember, fats are a substantial source of calories. Some people may need additional calories and should therefore use fats freely. Those who need to lose weight should use fats sparingly.
Fruit
One serving contains virtually no protein or sodium
One serving equals:

fresh, frozen, or canned fruit or fruit juice

1/2 cup

dried fruit

1/4 cup

 

Meat and Meat Substitutes
One serving contains 7 gm protein, 25 mg sodium.
One serving equals:

lean beef

1 oz

chicken

1 oz

fish

1 oz

lamb

1 oz

fresh pork

1 oz

low-sodium tuna

1/4 cup

turkey

1 oz

veal

1 oz

egg

1

peanut butter*

2 Tbsp

kidney beans

1/4 cup dry

soybeans

1/2 cup

garbanzo beans*

1/2 cup

lentils

1/2 cup

low-sodium cheese*

1 oz
Avoid the following if you are also reducing sodium intake:

  • bacon
  • cold cuts (bologna, salami, loaf-type luncheon meats, or processed meats)
  • corned beef
  • ham
  • sausage
  • low-salt ham or cold cuts
  • hot dogs, chicken dogs
  • turkey ham, turkey bologna
  • regular canned tuna
  • regular TV dinners (special low-sodium dinners may be acceptable — check protein content)
  • cottage cheese
  • processed cheeses such as American, Velveeta, cheese spreads
  • canned kidney beans

*higher in sodium

Breads, Starches,Cereals, and Desserts
One serving contains 2 gm protein, 80 mg sodium 42
Breads – One serving equals:

white, wheat

1 slice

rye or pumpernickel

1 slice

Italian or French bread

1 slice

dinner roll

1

croissant

1

pita pocket

1

hamburger roll

1/2

hot dog roll

1/2

bagel

1/2

English muffin

1/2

biscuit

1

doughnut

1

muffin

1

unsalted breadsticks

2

Melba toast

4 slices

unsalted crackers

4

unsalted pretzels

4

unsalted potato chips

15 chips

rice cakes

2
Starches, cooked - One serving equals:

noodles, macaroni, pasta

1/2 cup

rice

1/2 cup

unsalted popcorn

1 1/2 cups

homemade bread filling

1/2 cup

potatoes

1/2 cup or 1 medium

pancake (homemade)

1 medium
Cereals - One serving equals:

unsalted cooked cereal (cream of wheat, cream of rice, oatmeal, Farina)

1/2 cup

ready-to-eat cereal*

3/4 cup

shredded wheat

1 biscuit
*may be high in sodium
Cakes, Pastries, and Desserts - One serving equals:

cake

1 piece (2 1/2″ square)

coffee cake

1 piece

Danish

1 piece

fruit pie

1 slice (1/6 of 9″ pie)

cookies

1 medium

granola bars

1
Avoid the following if you are reducing sodium intake:

  • instant hot cereals
  • cornflakes, Rice Krispies, Total, Wheaties
  • salted snack crackers, pretzels, potato chips
  • packaged noodles, pasta, rice, or potato mixes
  • stuffing mixes
  • pancake mixes
  • baking mixes
  • croissants, rolls, biscuits made from commercially packaged refrigerator dough
  • waffles

Special low-protein pasta, bread, crackers, cookies, and baking mixes are available. A dietitian can discuss these with you.

Vegetables
One serving contains 1 gm protein, 15 mg sodium
One serving equals:

fresh, frozen, or low-salt canned vegetables

1/2 cup
Avoid the following if you are reducing sodium intake:

  • canned vegetables
  • sauerkraut
  • pickles
  • canned tomato juice or vegetable juice
  • canned or bottled tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce
Milk Products
One serving contains 4 gm protein, 80 mg sodium
One serving equals:

whole, lowfat, or skim milk

1/2 cup

homemade pudding

1/2 cup

ice milk, ice cream

1/2 cup

yogurt, plain or fruit flavored

1/2 cup

sherbet

1 cup

sour cream

4 Tbsp

cream cheese

3 Tbsp

light cream or half & half

1/2 cup
The following may be used as a milk substitute: One serving contains 1.0 gm protein, 40 mg sodium
liquid non-dairy cream, polyunsaturated 1/2 cup
dessert, non-dairy frozen 1/2 cup
dessert topping, non-dairy frozen 1/2 cup
Sweets
One serving contains virtually no protein or sodium

hard candy

4 pieces

gum drops

15 small

Gummi Bears

1 small pouch

jelly beans

10

lollipops

2

marshmallows

5 large

butter mints

14

water ice

1/2 cup

popsicle

3 oz = 1 bar

gelatin

1/2 cup

sugar (brown or white)

2 Tbsp

honey

2 Tbsp

jelly, jam, marmalade

2 Tbsp
Remember, sweets are a source of calories. Some people may need additional calories and should therefore use sweets freely. Those who need to lose weight should use sweets sparingly.
Beverages
One serving contains virtually no protein, <50 mg sodium

coffee

fruit juices or fruit drinks

tea

lemonade

soft drinks

mineral water
Avoid milk-based beverages unless counted as part of milk allowance.
Low-Protein Shake Recipe:

marshmallows

4 oz

fruit ice or Italian ice

4 oz

corn syrup

1/4 cup

vegetable oil

1 Tbsp

vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix thoroughly.
600 calories – 2.5 gm protein – 170 mg sodium
Condiments
Recommend:

pepper
fresh or dried herbs
flavored powders (garlic, onion, etc.)
lemon juice
vinegar

Avoid:

bacon bits
barbecue sauce
chili sauce
cooking wine
ketchup
meat tenderizers
monosodium glutamate
prepared mustard
regular salad dressings
seasoned salt (e.g., celery salt, garlic salt, onion salt)
sea salt
soy sauce
steak sauce
tartar sauce

Special Low-Protein Products
The following product is low in protein, electrolytes, and fluid, it can be ordered by calling Ross Laboratories at 1-800-986-8502.

  • SUPLENA
The following low-protein products can be ordered by calling Dietary Specialities at (888) 640-2800. or email: info@dietspec.com

  • Low-Protein Bread
  • Low-Protein Crackers & Rusks
  • Low-Protein Cookies
  • Low-Protein Pasta
  • Low-Protein Baking Mix
  • Low-Protein Wheat Starch
  • Low-Protein Gelatin
  • Low-Protein Cracker Toast
  • Low-Protein Cheese Sauce Mix
Sample Menu Low Protein
Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
  • Cheerios cereal
    3/4 cup
  • non-dairy creamer 1/2 cup
  • orange juice 1/2 cup
  • banana 1/2 med
  • white bread 2 slices
  • turkey breast 1 oz
    lettuce
  • tomato 1/2 cup
  • green beans 1/2 cup
  • mayonnaise 3 tsp
  • apple 1 med
  • fruit punch 4 oz
  • lean hamburger 2 oz
  • white rice 1/2 cup
  • broccoli 1/4 cup
  • cauliflower 1/4 cup
  • tossed salad
    ranch dressing 2 Tbsp
  • pineapple 1/2 cup
Snack
Snack
Snack
cherry fruit roll up 1 popsicle 1 gum drops 1 oz
This Sample Diet Provides the Following
Calories
1476
Fat
48 gm
Protein
39 gm
Sodium
1270 mg
Carbohydrates
237 gm
Potassium
2282 mg

© Frank W. Jackson, M.D.