Be Prepared for the Low Iodine DietHmm. Things have been a bit more confusing than usual lately. My mind is definitely fogging over at this point. I was hoping the brain-washing part of hypothyroidism was exaggerated. More on that later.
I did not officially start the low-iodine diet until this past Wednesday, because the Red Lobster leftovers in the fridge were far too tempting on Tuesday. I do recommend having one last big seafood/salt bash before the diet, because it makes it all feel a bit more celebratory, but it’s not such a good idea to bring anything home. Also, that meal will be thought of often and with great lust. You may even have strange dreams about shrimp and salmon.
My BIGGEST mistake by far was not preparing way in advance for this. Not that I wasn’t warned. All those handouts and cookbooks have it printed right on it: “Before you start becoming hypothyroid, prepare the basics and freeze.”
But it’s not in bold. Or 2000 point font. Like it should be. Consequently, I went from glorious seafood feast to nothing but raw fruits and veggies. Under normal circumstances, I like these foods. But a whole day of eating only blueberries, pears and carrots made me a bit cranky.
Worst crash diet ever. Not great on the digestive system either. But I had nothing else to eat. Most everything else is off limits unless you cook it yourself and I am not a cook. And depending on whether you are a heavily processed-food dependent, microwave-meal toting person (like me) or a super health nut (they do exist), this could be easy (the latter) or could cause you to shoot daggers of hate at your otherwise beloved husband as you munch on another damn carrot stick and he delves into the most coveted leftovers in the world (the former).
For the sake of my marriage and sanity, I had to learn to cook quickly. Fortunately, I have awesome friends, Lillian and Jenny, who actually like to cook. They definitely saved me from cheating by helping me prepare no-iodine foods other than raw fruits and veggies.
The THYCA Cookbook is Your New Best FriendInitially I was quite suspect of the thyca cookbook. I figured that “low-iodine” was comparable to “gluten-free” or “vegan” or any of those other code words that I (ignorantly) assumed meant having no taste. But everything I have made from this cookbook has been amazing. Truly delicious. The oatmeal cookies (made for me by my mother-in-law) are the best I’ve ever had.
Again, I can’t totally or sometimes even partially take credit for these successes, because as a novice cook with a half-functioning brain, I am a bit helpless in the kitchen. With Lillian I made three delicious dishes:
Pasta salad (p.19)
Rachel’s Greek-style chicken (p. 44) and
Chocolate zucchini bread (p. 90)
In my fervor to make consumable food, I made almost three times as much pasta salad as the recipe calls for. While the first six bowls or so were delicious, I now cannot bring myself to even look at the leftover pasta salad in my fridge. I certainly cannot bring myself to eat it. Moderation and variety are definitely key to this diet.
However, I will say that I replaced the peas and corn it called for with sweet peppers and avocado and it was, initially, a very tasty dish. We also improvised with the chicken a bit. Being short on lemons, we added one orange and some orange juice to the dish (yum).
The zucchini bread is a definite hit. I have had 3 requests for the recipe from people not on the diet. And, if you are a chocoholic like me, a treat like this is almost a necessity. I recommend sharing the desserts in this book as much as possible. It helps you gain back some of the normalcy and popularity you lose in not being able to share in normal meal practices.
With Jennifer, I made the Spanish potato salad (p.20) and orange and apple muffins (p. 99). Again, we varied the recipes a bit, out of necessity. For instance, the potato salad recipe is far too similar to the pasta salad recipe to make its consumption desirable. So we replaced the oil-and-vinegar dressing with the homemade mayo (p. 23).
Warning: prior to refrigeration, the look and smell of the blender mayo is almost unbearable, especially if you have an aversion to vinegar. It is a horrible puke-orange due to the paprika and not even close to the fluffy consistency you would hope for in a condiment. DO NOT SMELL IT. Just trust me. Despite this, when chilled and mixed with the potatoes it is actually a quite pleasant and mild tasting addition to the diet.
I never quite realized how much of my social life revolves around food until this diet. Eating out at a restaurant is no longer an option. After a fun day at the zoo with my friend Brooke and her daughter Kynlee, we went to Chili's. I considered ordering the one allowed restaurant food, a baked potato no skin, but on a 100 degree day and without access to non-iodized salt, the appeal was not great. So I munched on the snacks I had hidden in my purse (carrots, apple, zucchini bread) and sipped on a Sprite. I felt like a criminal. The waitress never said a word and, perhaps if I had gone through a lengthy “this is my cancer diet” speech, any complaints would have been nullified, but still. Criminal. A sneaky food trafficker.
I also had to miss out on a birthday dinner at P.F. Chang’s. My one year wedding anniversary is around the corner and I will not be going out to eat. I will not be able to eat the piece of wedding cake that stares me in the face every time I open the freezer. Not that I’m terribly superstitious or anything, but it would have been kind of cute to participate in a nonsensical good luck tradition with my husband. We don’t do nearly enough nonsensical things.
Fortunately, I have this beautiful loving family. Have I mentioned this before? One group of my in-laws (paternal) found ways to include me in their cookout, and I got to enjoy a pre-4th of July no-iodine burger. The best treat of all was having an entire no-iodine feast prepared for me by my maternal (?) in-laws. No-iodine pork chops, corn, bread, salad and those cookies I mentioned before, the ones that taste like angels made them. Angels who have the sole task of making cookies for god. I’m not joking.
As of now, I am scheduled to go in for RAI treatment on the 13th. I have, at different points been scheduled for July 4th, 5th, 27th, and the 1st of August. This doesn’t make for a great story, but it’s part of my experience. The sources of this scheduling confusion appear to be two-fold: 1) my TSH levels skyrocketed beyond what was expected; after only 2 weeks post-surgery they were well above 50 (they only need to be above 40 for RAI). 2) my doctors keep disappearing; I suspect they are all on vacation. In fact, I have to wait for one to return from vacation in order to get my latest appointment officialized. I am making up that last word because I can’t think of a real one.
Time for another nap. But before I go....
Some tips on how to make the low-iodine diet bearable:• Cook and freeze weeks in advance, before the surgery if possible
• Celebrate with your favorite meal before you start the diet
• Purchase non-iodized kosher salt
• Aim for variety, not quantity. The diet is usually for two weeks, but even after a
week on 5 different dishes (not including fruits and veggies) food feels repetitive.
• Sweet was once my favorite flavor, but it is almost the exclusive flavor of this diet. Make as many unsweet things as possible. This means if you are preparing meat, don’t make the fruity meats. Make a plain bread in addition to the dessert ones.
• Carry snack bags of food everywhere you go. Energy is a constant problem.
• Since you have to cook, cook for others beside yourself. Bring low-iodine dishes to parties. You might hook some low-iodine bandwagoners.
• Try not to spend too much time around restaurants or people eating foods not on the diet. You might resent them in spite of yourself. Try not to resent the non-dieters. It’s not their fault.