February 12, 2023

Surviving the Low Iodine Diet


I have had two separate rounds of radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer.  I won’t kid you.  The low iodine diet is no picnic.  It contains an odd list of limiting foods.  And, it is a royal pain in the ass to think about fixing special foods when you are dealing with the anxiety of cancer and the fatigue of RAI preparation.  But, there is hope.

I want to share with you ways I found to make this diet simpler, less taxing, and even delicious.  I’m starting a low-iodine diet cooking series on my blog.  Today is the first installment and covers basics tips on how to organize your food, fridge, and energy.

Low-Iodine Diet Basics

1. Ask for help from people who get it.

Food prep is a tangible task for friends and family who want to help you through your treatment.  Only give this task to reliable people who you trust to follow this diet to the letter of the law and who understand you cannot crack open a can of soup if they forget to show up with their promised food.  Give them links to information that explains the diet and review with them the guidelines so there is no confusion.

2. Clear a shelf in the fridge and tape to it a pretty “Off-limits” note.

It takes time and effort to have enough of the right foods to make it through the diet.  You don’t want your roommate, partner, or kids accidentally chowing down on your low iodine diet food.

3. Have lots of food storage containers on hand.

Whether you or someone else is doing the cooking, you should cook enough for multiple meals so you always have a few days worth of food in the fridge.  Your containers don’t have to be fancy, just clean.  If you are on a budget, thrift stores are a great place to find tupperware.

4. Don’t under estimate snacks.

It is easy to focus on what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but on the low iodine diet I found it best to eat regularly throughout the day.  For many people this diet feels very depriving.  Fight that feeling by not letting yourself get too hungry.  Eat snacks throughout the day.

5. Make your food look beautiful.

The psychology of a pretty plate can do a lot to boost your appetite when you are feeling the vice grip of restrictions and rules.  Gather unusual plates, glasses, napkins from around your house to eat off of during your diet.  Put water in a wine glass.  Make your green salad pop on a turquoise plate.

Stay tuned for more low-iodine diet strategies and recipes.

For more practical tips on navigating life with thyroid cancer, read Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide To Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.


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