April 02, 2013

Simple Cooking For The Low-Iodine Diet


Thyroid cancer diagnoses rates are increasing, especially among young women.  Many thyroid cancer patients undergo radioactive iodine treatment, a.k.a. RAI-131.  I have done so twice and learned along the way about how to cope with the seemingly bizarre low-iodine diet.

When I was going through preparation for radioactive iodine treatment, the list of permitted foods on the low-iodine diet seemed grim.  Low-iodine diet cookbooks only made me feel worse; I am simple, lazy cook, adverse to complicated recipes and substitutions.  Plus, I didn’t want my shopping lists, recipes, or meals to remind me that I was on a freaky diet and a young adult suffering from thyroid cancer.

What worked best was to prepare foods and recipes I already liked and normally consumed that also happened to fit into the diet.  I was surprised how many there were.  I’ll share a few in upcoming posts, but my favorite were roasted vegetables. These easy tips will give you a lot of different dishes from this one simple cooking method:


* Before roasting your veggies, check with your doctor to see what vegetables you are allowed and if you can have olive oil and NON-iodized salt.  Diets can vary from doctor to doctor so be sure to ask!

* I particularly liked roasted carrots, asparagus, sweet potato, and butternut squash for the bright color and flavor they added to this often bland diet.

* It’s boring eating mixed roast veggies meal after meal, so I cooked and ate each kind of veggie separately: Roast carrots at lunch, roast asparagus at dinner.

* Roasted carrots really satisfy a sweet tooth craving.  They’re no substitute for chocolate peanut butter pie, but they’ll help get you through.

* Parsnips, zucchini, mushrooms, beets also roast well.  And, asparagus tastes great with a squeeze of lemon!


1. Wash your vegetables and dry very well.  (Extra water on your veggies will prevent the oil from coating well and you won’t get as good of a roast.)

2. Cut your pieces in uniform sizes so they roast evenly.

3. In the biggest bowl you can find, toss vegetables with olive oil and NON-IODIZED salt. (Check with your doctor first to make sure you are allowed non-iodized salt.)   Tossing in the biggest bowl possible really helps give an even and thorough coating of olive oil.

4. Place roasted veggies on a rimmed baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish.  And bake in the oven at 400.

5. Cooking time depends on the vegetable and how thickly they are sliced.  Cook until very tender.  Taste a veggie.  If it melts in your mouth and makes you smile, it is done.

Read more tips on day to day life with thyroid cancer in my book Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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