How to meal plan for low oxalate diet? Meal planning is necessary for diabetics and people with kidney stone problems. So many people ask me about meal planning on a low oxalate diet. I hate to tell you this but it was much harder than expected to figure this one out at first. So, now I have figured it out, I decided to share my plan with the rest of you.
Beginner’s Guide to the Low-Oxalate Diet
Oxalate is a naturally occurring substance found in plants and animals. It is found in certain foods that you eat and is also made in your body. Most people do not need to be concerned about the oxalate in their diet. However, if you have ever had a calcium oxalate kidney stone, your doctor may have recommended that you follow a low-oxalate diet to help lower your risk of developing another painful kidney stone. In this article, we will discuss the role of oxalates in kidney health, provide tips on how to reduce your intake, and give you some low-oxalate recipes.
How is Oxalate Related to Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones can cause severe pain, blood in the urine, and a constant need or inability to urinate as the stone passes through to be excreted. According to the National Kidney Foundation, calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stones. These can occur when you have too much oxalate or too little fluid intake, causing the oxalate to bind to calcium and form crystals, which can stick together and form stones. Risk factors include family history, obesity, and certain medical conditions. Eating a diet too high in protein, salt, and sugar, and not drinking enough fluid, can also increase the risk of forming kidney stones.
Should I Follow a Low-Oxalate Diet?
If you have had calcium oxalate kidney stones and your urinary oxalate level is high (as determined by a 24-hour urine test), you may benefit from a low-oxalate diet. Switching to a low oxalate diet may help reduce your risk of forming another stone.
The idea behind a low-oxalate diet is to lower your dietary intake of oxalate, making less oxalate available for absorption in your intestinal tract. This results in less oxalate in the urine and reduces the risk of a calcium oxalate kidney stone formation.
What Is a Low-Oxalate Diet?
There is no agreement on how much oxalate is acceptable on a low-oxalate diet. There is also disagreement as to the exact oxalate content of certain foods. However, according to the University of Chicago, a reasonable goal for oxalate intake is below 100 mg per day, and ideally below 50 mg per day.
So, what does that mean? To make this more understandable, the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences created an educational handout highlighting the foods with high, moderate, and low oxalate content, and a recent update by the University of Chicago provides the most accurate lists to date. A good rule of thumb is to avoid the highest offenders, some of which contain over 700 mg of oxalate per serving.
Some very high-oxalate foods include:
- chocolate or cocoa
- wheat germ
- black teas (not green or herbal)
- some tree nuts (almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts are highest in oxalate)
- legumes (beans, peanuts, soybeans)
These foods may increase urinary oxalate levels. Generally, when you avoid these foods, the oxalate content of other foods will fall within the amount recommended for calcium oxalate stone formers.
For further guidance, refer to Table 1 (below). Choose low-oxalate foods that provide 0–2 mg per serving for most meals and snacks. In general, moderate oxalate foods can be eaten twice daily. Choosing low-oxalate foods will keep your intake below the recommended level. Avoid high-oxalate foods on a regular basis. If some of your favorites fall into this category, try to save these foods for special occasions.
|Food Groups||Low-Oxalate Foods|
(Choose from These)
(Limit to Twice Daily)
|Beverages||Coffee, Sweetened Instant Iced Tea|
Water, Fruit Punch, Lemonade, Soda,
Apple Juice, Orange Juice, Mango Juice, Pineapple Juice, Red/White Wine
|Prune Juice||Black Tea, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Milk|
|Dairy & Substitutes||Butter and Margarine, Cream Cheese, Cheese, Coffee Creamer, Milk, Sour Cream, Whipped Topping, Yogurt||Soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt|
|Fruits & Berries||Apples, Apricots, Bananas, Cantaloupe, Cherries, Grapes, Honeydew Melon, Lemon, Lime, Mango, Nectarines, Papaya, Peaches, Pears, Pineapple, Plantain, Plums, Raisins, Watermelon||Figs|
Orange (no peel)
|Berries (Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Dewberries, Elderberries, Gooseberries)|
Tangerines, Dates, Kiwi, Grapefruit
Dried Figs, Dried/Canned Pineapple, Dried Prunes
|Vegetables||Bok Choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Cucumber, Green Pepper, Lettuce (Iceberg or Romaine), Mushrooms, Onions, Peas, Pickles, Sauerkraut, Yellow Zucchini, Squash||Asparagus, Artichokes, Cooked Carrots, Mixed Frozen Vegetables, Olives, String Beans, Tomatoes||Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Celery, Okra, Parsnips, Potatoes, Rutabaga, Spinach, Turnips, Yams|
|Beans & Nuts||Hummus|
|Beans (Fava, Kidney, Navy, Red, Soy, and Refried Beans|
Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Peanuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Mixed Nuts, Trail Mix, Walnuts
Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds
|Breads & Cereals||Corn Bread, Oatmeal Bread, Oat Bran Muffins|
Oat Cereal, Corn Flake Cereal, Crisped Rice Cereal, Whole Grain Cereal
|Biscuits (Plain and Buttermilk), Bran Muffins, Cracked Wheat Bread, English Muffin (Regular, Multi-grain & Wheat), Rye Bread, Tortillas (Corn & Flour), Whole Oat Bread, Whole Wheat Bread||Blueberry Muffins, English Muffins (Whole Wheat)|
Bran and Raisin Bran Cereal, Frosted Wheat Cereal , High Fiber Cereal
|Pasta, Rice, & Grains||Macaroni & Cheese|
|Brown Rice, Barley flour|
Bulgur, Corn Grits, Rice Bran, Wheat Bran
|Meat, Meat Replacements, Poultry, & Seafood||Bacon, Beef, Chicken, Corn Beef, Eggs, Ham, Pork, Turkey, Venison, Wild Game|
Fish (except sardines)
|Hot Dogs||Soy Burgers, Tofu|
|Desserts & Snacks||Custard, Popsicle, Oatmeal Cookies, Jello, Tapioca Pudding, Vanilla Pudding, Frozen Yogurt & Sherbert, Ice Cream|
Fig Bars, Rice Cakes, Saltines, Shredded Wheat Crackers, Graham Crackers, Whole Grain Crackers, Popcorn
Tortilla Corn Chips
|Chocolate, Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Brownies, Candy with Nuts, Chocolate Syrup, Fudge Sauce|
|Other Foods||Chicken Noodle Soup||Beef Vegetable Soup||Lentil Soup, Miso Soup|
Practical Tips to Lower to Risk of Kidney Stone Formation
In addition to following a low-oxalate diet, here are some additional tips to help reduce your risk of kidney stones and optimize your urinary health:
- Drink 10-12 (8-oz) cups of fluid daily, half of which should be water. Remember to drink extra fluids in hot weather or during exercise. This will prevent dehydration and dilute the urine.
- Eat 2-3 servings of a dairy food daily; if you take calcium supplements, do so with food. Calcium will bind with oxalate in the stomach and intestine and limit absorption.
- Eat at least 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Intake of potassium, fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, phytate and citrate, all naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables, may help keep kidney stones from forming.
- If you take vitamin C supplements, limit to no more than 500 mg daily. Vitamin C is converted to oxalate by the body.
- Limit your intake of meat, fish, and poultry. Your daily protein needs can usually be met with 2-3 servings a day of a protein source the size of a deck of cards. Choosing vegetable protein sources a few times per week can also help. High protein intake may increase the risk of kidney stone formation.
- Limit salt intake. Avoid using the salt shaker and go for fresh or frozen foods, rather than processed, convenience and fast foods. You can also follow the DASH diet if you choose.
If you have had a kidney stone, you are at a higher risk for forming another one. Follow the tips and incorporate the recipes below to decrease your risk of forming another calcium oxalate kidney stone.
- Salad Mix
- ½ head green cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
- 8-10 radishes, thinly sliced
- ½ cup sliced green onions
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onions (optional)
- ½ cup of high-quality mayonnaise
- 2 Tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and toss with the salad mix.
- Mix together well and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Low-Oxalate Chicken Jambalaya
- 1 1/2 lbs chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Montreal steak spice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups white or wild rice
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 red pepper 1/4″ dice
- 1/4 white onion 1/4″ dice
- 1/2 cup green peas
- 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the rice according to the instructions on the box. Use the chicken stock in place of water.
- Heat a large sauté pan on high heat with 2 tbsp of olive oil.
- Season the chicken breasts well with the spices and sear in the pan until golden brown.
- Add the peppers, onions, and jambalaya spices to the pan and put into a 375-degree Fahrenheit oven. Cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside. Keep warm.
- Make sure the spices are well cooked out and then add in the chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, and peas and let come to a simmer.
- 7. Add in cooked rice and mix together well. Serve on plates with slices of chicken on top.
Low-Oxalate Protein Balls with Cherries and Bananas
Servings: 12 balls
- 4 bananas, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 4 tbsp butter, room temperature, cut into small cubes
- 1 cup banana chips
- 4 rice cakes, white or whole wheat
- 1/2 cup raisins, sultana
- 3/4 cup canned cherries, chopped
- 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 egg white
- Heat up your oven to the broil setting. Sprinkle the cinnamon and cayenne on the banana halves and put on a baking tray. Broil for 5-7 minutes or until the bananas are well caramelized. Set aside to cool.
- Set the oven to 350 degrees. Blend the bananas with 2 tbsp. of the cubed butter in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.
- Blend the banana chips in the blender until the desired consistency has been achieved. Add in the rice cakes and pulse until chunky. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven until crispy, about 10 minutes.
- Mix together the banana mixture, and the rice cake mixture with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well to incorporate all ingredients.
- Make 1-2 oz balls and bake in the oven for 10 minutes until the protein balls have set. Let cool and enjoy.\
What Is the Low Oxalate Diet?
At VeryWell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.
The low oxalate diet works to reduce risk of developing kidney stones. Those who have a history of kidney stones may benefit from reducing their consumption of high oxalate foods.1
Oxalates are found naturally in plant-based foods and are also a byproduct of human waste. While oxalates aren’t necessarily bad for you—the foods they’re found in are highly nutritious—too many oxalates contribute to the formation of kidney stones.1 Individuals who are susceptible to kidney stones or kidney infections may want to consider incorporating this diet into their lifestyle.
You don’t have to eliminate all oxalates when following a low oxalate diet, just foods that are highest in oxalates (meaning they contain more than 10mg of oxalate per serving).1 Foods high in oxalates include many leafy greens, beans, legumes, wheat products, soy, coffee, dark chocolate, certain grains, nuts, and nut butter, to name a few.2
What Experts Say
“A low-oxalate diet is a therapeutic diet that can be prescribed if a person is experiencing kidney stones and their urinary oxalate levels are high. If the urinary levels are not high in oxalate, a low-oxalate diet may not be indicated. Most of the time avoidance of very high oxalate foods, such as spinach, nuts (almonds), beans (navy), rhubarb, and increasing intake of calcium-rich foods such as dairy, can be prescribed to reduce urinary levels of oxalate. Calcium binds oxalate in the intestine. This diet is usually temporary and people following it would benefit from working with a registered dietitian who specializes in this type of eating plan to avoid misinformation that is found online and ensure adequate nutrition.
What Can You Eat
The low oxalate diet suggests reducing high oxalate foods. Instead, fill your diet with low and moderate oxalate foods; the occasional high oxalate food should not increase the risk of kidney stones.
Generally, foods don’t come with labels outlining their oxalate content. The website Oxalate.org has a list of 750+ foods and their oxalate levels and is a great place to start. A low oxalate diet is considered less than 100mg per day, though many doctors will suggest 50mg or less.1
Foods that contain 0-9mg of oxalates per serving include fruits and vegetables such as asparagus, apricots, artichoke, banana, blackberries, blueberries, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, celery, cherries, yellow squash, zucchini, strawberries, romaine lettuce, raisins, plums, pineapple, peas, pears, peaches, papaya, onions, mango, grapefruit, and grapes.
Examples of low oxalate grains and starches include oat bran, oat flour, barley, bran muffins, white bread, wheat bread, white rice, corn, and flour tortillas. Low oxalate protein and dairy include eggs, meat, poultry, fish, yogurt, cheese, milk, and butter. In addition, coffee, water, and fruit juice are considered low oxalate.
Moderate oxalate foods contain 10-25mg of oxalates per serving. These foods include avocado, lentils, lychee, olives, parsnip, peanut butter, pecans, pistachios, pomegranate, red kidney beans, refried beans, squash, sunflower seeds, tahini, and tomato sauce.
While the low oxalate diet does not always suggest including calcium-rich foods, it is beneficial to do so especially if you’re going to include foods with higher oxalate levels. Calcium-rich foods include cheese, dairy, seeds, yogurt, sardines, beans, lentils, almonds, rhubarb, and bread and cereals that have been fortified with calcium.
What You Need to Know
The purpose of the low oxalate diet is to reduce dietary oxalate intake in an effort to reduce someone’s risk of developing kidney stones. Because many nutritious foods are rich in oxalates, cutting high oxalate foods out altogether is not advised.
Calcium binds to oxalates and can increase absorption (instead of contributing to kidney stones) if calcium-rich foods are eaten with high-oxalate foods. In addition, drinking plenty of fluids will help prevent stone formation.
What to Eat
- Fruits, including bananas, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, plums, pears, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, and grapes
- Vegetables, especially asparagus, cauliflower, celery, romaine lettuce, yellow squash, and zucchini
- Grains and starches, including oat bran, barley, white or wheat bread, white rice, corn tortillas, and flour tortillas
- Protein and dairy, eggs, fish, meat, poultry, yogurt, cheese, milk, and butter
- Beverages, including coffee, water, and fruit juice
What Not to Eat
- Fruits, including kiwi, raspberries, dates, oranges, tangerines, and rhubarb
- Vegetables, especially spinach, beets, potatoes, turnips, and carrotsBeans and legumes, including navy, kidney, lentils, fava beans, and chickpeas
- Nuts, like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, and cashews
- Grains, especially quinoa, brown rice, couscous, millet, bulgar, and wheat
- Beverages, including hot chocolate, tea, tomato juice, and chocolate milk
- Other, including soy products, cocoa, and chocolate
Pros and Cons
While a low oxalate diet is often specific in helping individuals who experience kidney stones, there are some downsides to this kind of eating pattern. Finding a balance that allows individuals to avoid kidney stones while still getting the nutrients they need for overall health can be difficult.
- May reduce risk of developing kidney stones
- Could lead to nutrient deficiencies
- Difficult to follow
- May interfere with social situations
Is the Low Oxalate Diet a Healthy Choice for You?
The low oxalate diet is neither healthy nor unhealthy. Anyone can be at risk of developing kidney stones regardless of their diet habits, especially if you don’t drink enough fluids. Additionally, the low oxalate diet does not teach healthy eating habits and in fact, may cause you to feel more restricted and frustrated.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include recommendations for a healthy, balanced diet. The following foods are meant to encourage and guide a nutrient-dense diet:3
- Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, green beans, peppers, onions, peas, mushrooms, cabbage, etc.)
- Potatoes, beans, and legumes (potatoes, beans, chickpeas, lentils, sweet potatoes)
- Fruits (berries, melon, apples, oranges)
- Grains (rice, quinoa, barley, bread, cereal, crackers, oats)
- Dairy and fortified soy alternatives (yogurt, milk, cheese, kefir, cottage cheese)
- Protein Foods (meats, poultry, eggs, seafood)
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, chia seeds)
- Oils (olive oil, avocado oil)
The USDA does not provide recommendations or tips for those who are prone to kidney stones. Following the USDA guidelines for a healthy, balanced diet does not mean you will reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. Discuss your options with a healthcare professional before beginning any new diet program, including the low oxalate diet.
The low oxalate diet is a medically necessary diet for those who are at risk of developing kidney stones. It is not a diet for weight loss or considered a healthy, balanced diet. You can lead a healthy lifestyle while following the low oxalate diet.
Successfully reducing high oxalate foods could reduce the formation of kidney stones for people who experience kidney stones.
May Reduce Risk of Developing Kidney Stones
The conclusion is that oxalates from your diet have an impact on kidney stone formation. Though researchers are not sure of the extent, the risk is there.1 Therefore, reducing your intake of high oxalate foods might help you avoid future kidney stones.
While there are no direct health risks to following the low oxalate diet, eliminating a variety of nutritious foods from your diet could cause you to miss out on important vitamins and minerals. In addition, elimination-style diets are difficult to follow, tough in social situations, and can lead to feelings of frustration and restriction.
Could Lead to Nutrient Deficiencies
Because the low oxalate diet requires you to eliminate so many nutritious foods, the variety of foods left for consumption reduces drastically. Making sure you’re getting enough vitamins, minerals, and fiber is difficult when you’re removing so many fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and grains from your diet.
Difficult to Follow
With a laundry list of foods to avoid, following the low oxalate diet precisely is going to be a challenge. Finding yourself frustrated over a lack of options could cause you to ditch the diet altogether.
May Interfere with Social Situations
Diets that restrict foods or food groups make living your life as usual particularly difficult. Finding restaurants or foods at family gatherings that adhere to the low oxalate diet guidelines may pose a challenge leaving you to avoid the social event altogether. This can make you feel down, frustrated, or like you’re being left out.
May Not Be Necessary
Research shows that eating calcium-rich foods with high-oxalate foods helps with the absorption of calcium before it reaches your kidneys.4 Therefore it may not be necessary to eliminate high-oxalate foods.
A Word From Verywell
If you’re at risk of developing kidney stones because of high oxalate levels, you could benefit from the low oxalate diet. However, increasing your consumption of calcium-rich foods and drinking more water may also help reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. Talk to a health care professional regarding your options before starting any new diet plan.
Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.
If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.