How to survive a low-iodine diet (difficulty level: vegetarian)
May 21, 2014 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Mrs. Morsa is about to start a low-iodine diet -- no dairy, no soy, no eggs, limited beans & cereals, no processed/commercial food, no store-bought bread or baked goods, very limited chocolate, and only iodine-free salt. How can I keep her from starving, and/or keep her from going crazy?

Mrs. Morsa's doing radioactive iodine therapy in a couple of weeks to blast away the remnants of her truculent thyroid, and until then we have to eliminate pretty much all iodine from her diet. This'd be hard enough in any case, but she's very firmly vegetarian, and also a pretty picky eater, which limits her options still further.

Does anyone have suggestions for delicious, satisfying food that I can make to keep her from starving? I like to cook, but I'm having trouble figuring out menus. At the moment I'm thinking that she'll be eating a lot of fresh veggies, homemade hummus, lentil soup, and quinoa, with home-roasted nuts for snacks. What am I missing?

We're particularly worried about breakfast time -- Mrs. Morsa normally eats soy-protein cereal + milk, neither of which she'll be able to have. We could cobble together a sort of home-made granola, but she doesn't like non-dairy milk substitutes, so it'd have to be dry, which I think could get old pretty quickly.

Also: any suggestions for morale-boosting snacks and treats? Chocolate cake, sadly, appears to be off the menu.
posted by Yo Soy La Morsa to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You need the ThyCa cookbook and will she try coconut water? It is NOT a fake milk substitute, is brilliant in cereal and can be used to make smoothies. My sister bought it by the case.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:27 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a soy-free vegan diet (plus more restrictions) - but I'd start by googling soy free vegan - there are a few blogs full of recipes that work for this, though not all recipes may be appropriate for the iodine restrictions.

Possible treats: sorbet (or homemade sorbet), fresh berries, caramelized bananas with nut butter, just a couple chocolate-coated nuts (homemade?), any other combinations of fruit + approved ingredients.
posted by insectosaurus at 2:29 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recommend nuts for breakfast; they are filling, high protein, and will get the day off to a good start. Fruit is a good breakfast starter also.

A fresh-cut fruit salad is surprisingly lovely. Most people only get fruit salad that is _not_ fresh, but a simply cut apple and banana is really quite nice. You can put nuts in that, too. And a sprig of fresh parsley (nice time to buy a parsley plant if you can).

Potato hashbrowns or thinly-sliced roasted sweet potatoes (add oil and salt) are also really good, any time.
posted by amtho at 2:29 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can find a number of recipes and suggested products and advice at this blog here. They are not vegetarians but the recipes include a number of vegetarian ones and some desserts and treats as well. Click on each day in the calendar for menu ideas, and links to recipes.
posted by gudrun at 2:32 PM on May 21, 2014

It is possible to make iodine-free bread; a friend of mine was going through the same thing and one of her friends made it for her. She treasured every slice! If you can do that (or outsource it in some way) that would be a lovely treat (and the perfect breakfast with jam and some of her limited nut butter allowance).
posted by kate blank at 2:41 PM on May 21, 2014

Seconding the ThyCa Cookbook. We used it when my wife was going through her thyroid treatments.

One thing that she enjoyed was my making homemade bread, I used the no-knead method with non-iodized salt, and putting unsalted margarine on it. Something little like that can really help you get through the day.

I also made candied ginger which helped with her nausea, and used the syrup to make ginger-ale.

(And beaten by 1 min on the bread recommendation!)
posted by beowulf573 at 2:42 PM on May 21, 2014

Also, you say no dairy or soy, but could she have pea or hemp protein powder? They are both pretty popular in the vegan world. You could try making a protein/fruit smoothie with one of those if that's allowed.
posted by kate blank at 2:43 PM on May 21, 2014

My son is on Gluten free,soy free,dairy free vegan diet.So I can help you with recipes if you are looking for something specific.Breakfast is mostly GF oats/quinoa/buckwheat cereals with nuts and berries with Coconut milk/Hemp milk/Rice milk/Almond milk/Cashew milk.Lunch/dinner is mostly dishes made with cooked Quinoa/brown rice with veggies.GF soy free bread/pastas are available too.
posted by SunPower at 3:09 PM on May 21, 2014

I forgot snacks.We eat hummus/guacomole/salsa with all soyfree chips,french fries and tater tots.spiced pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds and all nuts.

Coconut milk and almond milk are creamy and delicious.There are icecreams available too.Daiya cheese company makes soyfree/dairyfree cheese and recenly introduced GF pizza with SFDF cheese too.There are tortillas wraps available.
posted by SunPower at 3:16 PM on May 21, 2014

When a vegetarian friend did this diet in prep for thyroid treatment, she ended up making a lot of Indian food. Curries were made satisfying with coconut milk and there were lots of interesting ways to prepare a lot of the same old veggies. If hummus is ok, then maybe she can also make make Indian savory pancakes using besan (chickpea flour).
posted by quince at 3:19 PM on May 21, 2014

When was the last time she tried non-dairy milk replacements? I think what's available does change. I'm lactose intolerant and had given up on finding a substitute I could deal with until I recently went on a non-dairy milk hunt; I found a few that are surprisingly good. My favourite is Natura chocolate almond milk, either in coffee or by itself. For cereal, I would probably still give it a shot. Or if chocolate milk in the cereal is not a go, then Almond Breeze makes a really nice almond/coconut milk blend.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:33 PM on May 21, 2014

Try roasting chickpeas for a crunchy snack. Texture-wise, they're about 80% corn-nuts-crunchy. They require a little labor up front, skinning the chickpeas, but it's a brainless manual activity you can do in front of the TV or something.

They can be spiced any which way. Here's a spicy recipe, but plain salted (non-iodized, natch-- get kosher and give it a quick grind for finer salt crystals if desired), BBQ, ranch, etc.

For regular meals, I'll second indian food, particular dal/lentils seem to be good for this. You'll have to get the fresh or dried, rather than in a can or whatnot, but dried dal is easy to deal with, and there are a number of varieties if you can get to an Indian/Asian grocery.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:39 PM on May 21, 2014

I did this diet for the same reason. My staples were steel cut oats for breakfast with various fruits & homemade marinara sauce and pasta. I also made a beef stew, but maybe you could do some other hearty sort of soup?
posted by kimdog at 4:42 PM on May 21, 2014

Homemade granola bars, with coconut oil and honey as binders, might be another breakfast option. I personally enjoy fruit and nuts.

Would a bread machine make it easier for you to make homemade baked goods?

Avocados, almond butter, and fresh-squeezed orange juice are huge treats for me, but I might be weird that way.
posted by metasarah at 5:15 PM on May 21, 2014

Wow, there are some great ideas here. We'll definitely try hash browns, and fruit salad for breakfast is a great idea. We'll give coconut water a spin, too. And Mrs. Morsa loves Indian food, so that's a good call.

Thanks everyone -- you are all awesome!
posted by Yo Soy La Morsa at 6:34 PM on May 21, 2014

I think granola is good over warmed-up applesauce, which is not hard to make from scratch.

Treats: You could make that pureed frozen banana "ice cream." I have liked chia pudding, although her dislike of milk substitutes might rule that out (I used unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze). Grilled peaches sound good. Some of these cracker recipes seem like they might work.
posted by lakeroon at 7:05 PM on May 21, 2014

Definitely get the ThyCa cookbook. I eat a lot of oatmeal with dried fruit and home-made granola snacks for breakfast when I'm on low-iodine. When I need quick food out of the house, I have (unsalted plain) rice cakes with unsalted nut butter or tahini. (Toast would be nicer but I don't bake much and I don't have a bread machine.)

Just a comment for future searchers: iodine content of foods depends in part on where you live. In Australia, where the soils don't have much iodine, potato skins are okay, and the restriction on dairy is mostly about iodinated disinfectants that aren't widely used in industrial dairy production any more, so milk is generally okay (unless your endocrinologist or nuc med says otherwise).
posted by gingerest at 7:19 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might want to look into vegetarian Whole30/Paleo recipes. The diet is similarly restrictive, aside from the eggs thing. The Clothes Make The Girl and Nom Nom Paleo are some of the bigger blogs for recipes but there are many more. I'm not sure if she is pescatarian, but the Waldorf salad from Clothes Make The Girl is what I'm having for dinner tonight and it's fantastic. I also enjoyed curry made with cauliflower rice, fruit with coconut cream and coconut flakes, and sweet potato fries as some of my favorite things while I was recently trying out this diet. For snacks I tried beef jerky and Larabars. I'm also eating some kimchi tonight.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:42 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can do veggie hashes with potatoes in the morning for something filling and yummy. Mix both white and sweet potatoes.

Curries are good, and if you want them rich, use coconut cream (which is great in coffee too!)

Veggie salads with Quinoa are good, how abour Farro? That can be fun too.

How about Vietnamese Summer Rolls? You can probably cheat the sauce with ingredients she would enjoy. Just leave out the shrimp.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on May 22, 2014

I will add, on contemplation, that the low-iodine diet consistently demoralizes me. The way I get through it - apart from the absence of restrictions on wine - is to remember that it ends in a matter of a couple of weeks, and then my husband can send as much cheese as I want into my isolation chamber. I suspect I'm not the only one who finds this a particularly difficult aspect of treatment for thyroid disease (in my case, cancer), which is why I'm going out on a limb to say it, because I always feel ridiculous. After all, it's just food! But it's also, for me, every anxiety-provoking thing that goes along with treatment, including the culmination in spending a few days as a toxic, literal untouchable. So if Mrs. Morsa seems a little more upset than seems warranted, give her an extra hug to store up.
posted by gingerest at 5:59 PM on May 22, 2014

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