Kidney Friendly Drinks


Kidney Friendly Drinks

Staying hydrated in hot weather is important, but can be especially difficult to navigate if you are on fluid restriction or had to give up your favorite soda to avoid excess potassium (reminder to always check your ingredients list for potassium additives!).

Added sugars in pre-made beverages can also be a red flag, especially if you are among the many people who have a combination of type 2 diabetes and kidney disease. Excess sugar can damage kidney blood vessels over time and can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

There are two main ways to avoid added sugars in drinks- by reading the nutrition label on a store-bought item, and simply asking at a tea house or restaurant! Many tea houses have options to make menu items at 0%, 25%, 50%, and 75% but it will not always be displayed or advertised. Ask your waiter if these are options for any of the menu items!

Whether it’s at home or out and about, learn how to make and/or order your favorite Asian beverages at home into kidney-friendly drinks to enjoy all summer long!

Aiyu Jelly

Aiyu ice jelly in a white bowl and background with green lemon and mint topping, close up.

What is it? Though not a drink in itself, aiyu jelly makes for a fun and delicious drink topping! It is made from aiyu jelly seeds or aiyu jelly powder and water. It is then strained and set until it becomes a jelly-like consistency. By itself, aiyu jelly has a sweet, citrusy flavor that lends itself well to many flavor combinations.

Original: Typically made with large amounts of sugar and/or served with simple syrup.

Healthy Swap: This version is easy to follow by blending the jelly seeds with cold water and skipping the last step for simple syrup on top. Try adding it to some stevia-sweetened iced tea, lemonade, or homemade boba tea! It can also be enjoyed on its own with a drizzle of honey and a squeeze of lemon.

Thai Iced Tea

Clear Plastic Cup With Brown Liquid and Ice. Small white boll with boba on the side.

What is it? Thai tea is made from strong black tea, spices, milk, and sugar. It may be served with or without boba (tapioca starch pearls). 

Original: A 16oz serving of milk tea has 263 calories and 38 grams of sugar (1). That’s 68% of the amount of sugar you’d find in a Coca-Cola!

Healthy Swap: Take your favorite Thai iced tea recipe and sub the sugar for monk fruit sweetener or stevia. Use unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk to avoid extra phosphate and potassium. Be sure to check your plant-based milk for potassium additives in the ingredients list. Make a large batch in a pitcher to enjoy kidney-friendly drinks throughout the week! 

Sour Plum Tea

Clear tea cup and kettle with sour plum tea.

What is it? A little sweet, a little tart, and a lot refreshing! This drink gets its flavor primarily from dried sour plums and hawthorn berries. Many recipes call for varying amounts of licorice root, orange peel, hibiscus, and sugar. It is believed to be helpful in cooling the body

Original: Be cautious of recipes that call for large amounts of added sugar.

Healthy Swap: Instead of adding sugar when making sour plum tea, combine it with flavored sparkling water to get a sense of sweetness. You could make 100s of flavor combinations of kidney-friendly drinks this way!

Tropical Fruit Tea

Tropical green tea with passion fruit placed on a blue table.

What is it? Green tea poured over an exotic blend of frozen fruit.

Original: In this case, the original is the healthy swap! Pour hot tea over an exotic blend of frozen fruit (dragon fruit, mango, pineapple, and coconut are my favorite). The frozen fruit cools down your drink while also releasing fruity flavors into the tea without the use of added sugars. 

Remember to only steep green tea for a maximum of 2-3 minutes to avoid a bitter taste!

Healthy Swap: If you are on a fluid restriction, use frozen fruit in regular water as well to cool it down. This helps to avoid the use of ice cubes, which count towards your fluid consumption!

Iced Teas

Lemon Iced Tea With Lemon Fruits.

What is it? Iced tea can be made from 1000s of different types of teas! Traditional Asian varieties include ceylon, ginseng, green, cencha, oolong, and more. 

Original: Certain varieties of teas may not be the best option when it comes to choosing kidney-friendly drinks. Those with strong laxatives or diuretic effects can cause issues, especially in those with kidney disease. Be cautious of pre-bottled teas as they may have potassium-based preservatives. Always read your ingredients list!

Healthy Swap: Safe types of teas to have with chronic kidney disease include chamomile, green, peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, and black tea. 

Bubble Tea

Lychee bubble ice tea with boba in a clear cup.

What is it? Similar to Thai milk tea, the base ingredients are strong black tea, milk, and sugar. The main difference is that bubble tea is not spiced and therefore can be found and made into many flavor options. It is also common to use green tea in place of black tea.

Original: Sugar content in bubble tea can vary greatly based on the flavor made, but can range from 30-50 grams of sugar, similar to a can of soda. 

Healthy Swap: Make bubble tea at home using unsweetened almond milk instead of heavy cream. Switch out simple syrup for a zero-calorie simple syrup. This syrup is sweetened with monk fruit! Honey may also be used, but it will not dissolve as well.

Other Ways to Stay Hydrated

Foods with high water content can also be a great way to stay hydrated. Foods especially high in water include:

  • Watermelon (91% water)
  • Grapes (81% water)
  • Carrots (88% water)
  • Romaine lettuce (95% water)

On especially hot days, remember what all counts as fluid in the diet:

  • Ice
  • Broth
  • Popsicles
  • Gelatin
  • Yogurt

Do not restrict fluids unless you have been instructed to by your doctor. Typically, fluid restriction is reserved for patients on dialysis. 


Even if your favorite drink feels expelled from the renal diet list, I believe there is a way to modify traditional recipes in a way to make them kidney-friendly drinks!

What’s your favorite Asian beverage you’d like to see a healthy swap for? Let me know in the comments! 





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Meet Edith

Registered Dietitian with over 10 years of experience sharing nutrition knowledge that you can use to enjoy food again

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