Low Protein


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.


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 tbs
  • Reduced calorie margarine-1 tbs
  • Reduced calorie mayonnaise-1 tbs
  • Salad dressing (oil type)-2 tbs
  • Low calorie salad dressing (oil type)-2 tbs
  • Low calorie salad dressing (mayonnaise type)-2 tbs
  • Tartar sauce-1 1/2 tbs

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.


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 & Meat Substitutes

One serving contains 7 gm protein, 25 mg sodium.
One Serving Equals

lean beef- 1oz
chicken- 1oz
fish- 1oz
lamb- 1oz
fresh pork- 1oz
low-sodium tuna- 1.4 cup
turkey- 1oz
veal- 1oz
egg- 1
peanut butter*- 2 tbs
kidney beans- 1/4 cup dry
soybeans- 1/2 cup
garbanzo beans*- 1/2 cup
lentils- 1/2 cup
low-sodium cheese*- 1oz

Avoid the following if you are also reducing sodium intake:

cold cuts (bologna, salami, loaf-type luncheon meats, or processed meats)
corned beef
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 cup
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, Dessert- 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.


    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- 12 cup
    ice milk, ice cream- 1/2 cup
    yogurt, plain or fruit flavored- 1/2 cup
    sherbet- 1 cup
    sour cream- 4 tbs
    cream cheese- 3 tbs
    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


    One serving contains virtually no protein or sodium

    Sweets One serving contains virtually no protein or sodium
    gum drops- 15 small
    Gummi Bears- 1 small pouch
    jelly beans- 10
    lollipops- 2
    marshmallows- 5 large
    butter mints- 14
    popsicle- 3 oz=1 bar
    gelatin- 1/2 cup
    sugar (brown or white)- 2 tbs
    honey- 2 tbs
    jelly, jam, marmalade- 2 tbs

    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.


    One serving contains virtually no protein, 50 mg sodium

    soft drinks
    fruit juices or fruit drinks
    mineral water

    Avoid milk-based beverages unless counted as part of milk

      Low-Protein Shake Recipe:

    • marshmallows- 4 oz
    • fruit ice or Italian ice- 4 oz
    • corn syrup- 1/4 cup
    • vegetable oil- 1 tbs
    • vanilla ice cream- 1/2 cup

    Place all ingredients in a blender and mix thoroughly.
    600 calories – 2.5 gm protein – 170 mg sodium



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


    bacon bits
    barbecue sauce
    chili sauce
    cooking wine
    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.


    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
    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 Fat Protein
    1476 48 gm 39 gm
    Sodium Carbohydrates Potassium
    1270 mg 237 gm 0

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