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Food For Thought Friday: Potassium

Some of the most frequent questions I receive involve food/nutrition for Hudson. This encouraged me to start Food for Thought Fridays. Each Friday, I will cover various topics as they relate to food, nutrition and health.


Just like magnesium, potassium is a mineral essential to the body's muscles and nerves.

You know how it's said that when you have a muscle cramp, you should eat a banana? That's potassium. When potassium is too low, the body's muscles will feel cramped, weak or spasm. When potassium is too high, the most common issue is damage to the kidneys. Because potassium is an electrolyte, cardiac issues are also possible.

Transplant patients typically need to keep a low-potassium diet. This is mainly due to anti-rejection medication. The medication tends to make the body hold on to potassium (unlike magnesium which we learned about previously). Maintaining a low potassium diet is one of the most effective measures a post-transplant individual can take to prevent potential issues.

My philosophy:

A child should eat between 2,000 - 3,000 mg of potassium a day. That recommended amount is based specifically on the individual so make sure you consult your team if you have questions. For example, Hudson's potassium has always been in the normal range so if there is a day that he gets a higher potassium meal or eats a lot of a high potassium food (he would eat 2 cartons of strawberries and apples if I let him!), I am not as concerned but try to balance it out by watching his potassium the following days.

If you have any questions about items on this list (cooking, substitutions, nutrition, etc...) just shoot me a message! For example, swapping out regular peanut butter for powdered peanut butter lowers the overall fat & sugar content but keeps the protein, fiber and potassium. Another example would be sweetening foods with maple syrup as opposed to the 'high-potassium' dates & figs. The possibilities are endless!


Hidden Potassium:

Be wary of potassium hidden all over the place. The most common place you will find hidden potassium is in condiments (as a form of preservative). Other hidden potassium sources are salt substitutes, "lite" salt products or "low-sodium" foods (check those low sodium soups and stocks you have in your pantry!) Look for the words, "potassium chloride."

Here is an example of what Hudson eats in a day so you can see how easily potassium adds up:


Berries (6-8) ~ 250mg

3 slices bacon ~150mg

1/2 cup multi-grain cheerios ~100mg


1/2 large cucumber - 0mg

Hummus (less than 1/2 cup) ~300mg

1 cup gluten-free pasta ~180mg

1 large carrot ~ 300mg

1 medium apple ~ 200mg

After nap snack

2 cups Trader Joe's veggie sticks ~280mg


1/2 large cucumber - 0mg

1 large carrot - 300mg

Berries (6-8) ~ 250mg

1/4 cup lentils ~100mg

1/4 cup ground turkey ~100mg

Med Time

1/2 cup cereal (he takes his meds with dry cereal) ~ 100mg

*This is excluding any condiments or additives. Potassium is very common in most condiments.

Total potassium for the day: 2,610mg


Below is an extensive list of potassium-rich foods. They are categorized into low, medium and high. Although there are plenty of other potassium-rich foods out there, I tried to list the most accessible foods and foods that children would eat.

Just because a food is on the 'high' list does not mean that it is a bad food. For example, an avocado might be rich in potassium but is full of healthy fats, fiber, Vitamin C &B and magnesium.


(5-150mg per serving):

1/2 cup applesauce

1/2 cup berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)

1/2 cup canned pears

1/2 cup pineapple

1 tangerine

4 spears Asparagus

1/2 cup cabbage

1/2 cup corn

1/2 cup cauliflower

1 cup lettuce

1/2 cup onions

1/2 cup peas

1/2 cup zucchini

1/2 cup tofu

1/2 cup apple juice

1 cup cranberry juice

1 cup Crystal Light, Hi-C, Kool Aid, Tang

1 cup Iced tea

1 cup lemonade/Limeade

1 cup peach/pear nectar

1 Snapple

1 sprite, root beer, orange soda and other non-dark colas

2 Tbsp Ketchup



(150-250mg per serving):

1 medium apple

1 medium pear

1 medium mandarin orange

1/2 cup shredded coconut

8-10 cherries

10-15 Grapes

1/2 cup canned peaches

1 cup watermelon

1/2 cup bok choy

1/2 cup broccoli

1/2 cup brussel sprouts

1/2 cup beets

1/2 cup carrots

1/2 cup celery

1/2 cup mixed vegetables

1/2 cup mushrooms

1/2 cup soaked potatoes

1/2 cup red bean paste

2 Tbsp peanut butter

3 ounces Chicken, ground beef or turkey

1/2 cup apricot nectar

1/2 cup grape juice

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1/2 cup soy milk

1 ounce chocolate



(250-500 mg per serving):

3 apricots

1/4 avocado

1 medium banana

5 dates

3 figs

1 medium guava

1 kiwi

1 medium nectarine

1 medium orange

1/2 cup papaya

1 medium peach

1/2 cup plantains

1/2 cup raisins or dried fruit

1 artichoke

1/2 cassava

1/2 cup Greens (beet, collard, mustard, spinach, turnip, swiss chard)

1/2 cup long beans

1/2 cup parsnips

1/2 cup or 1 small potato

1/2 cup pumpkin

1 medium tomato

1/8 cup tomato paste

1/4 cup tomato sauce or salsa

1/2 cup winter squash

1/2 cup yams, sweet potatoes

1/2 cup beans (lima, kidney, pinto, red, black)

1/2 cup lentils, split peas, chickpeas

1/2 cup nuts

3 ounces fish (salmon, tuna, white fish)

1/2 cup coconut milk or water

1 cup mocha latte

1 cup milk

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup tomato juice

1/2 cup V-8 juice

French Fries

10 potato chips



Soaking fruit & vegetables in water can lower their potassium content. The foods most impacted when soaked are those on the 'high potassium' food list. Slice produce and submerge in warm water for at least an hour.

Source: Information taken from Seattle Children's nutrition and NW Kidney Centers

I hope this was helpful and like all other FFTF's, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need suggestions!

Stay healthy and have a wonderful weekend!


The Hills

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