“Ground rice, sugar, vinegar, seco salt, macaroni too
‘Cause I’m the cook of the house,
The rice is on the stove,
And where the rest is heaven only knows.”
With the exception of the salt, Linda McCartney could be describing life in my kitchen (and my house) since January 2.
As part of his thyroid cancer treatments, The Husband is currently on what is known as the Low-Iodine Diet. The timing with the beginning of the New Year is somewhat ironic; while most people go on diets at the start of the New Year, this one isn’t exactly voluntary.
After patients with thyroid cancer have surgery (as The Husband did in November to remove his thyroid, which had two cancerous tumors), they receive radioactive iodine to destroy any potentially remaining cancer cells. But, to prepare for this, they need to deplete their body of iodine … hence, the Low-Iodine Diet.
(I swear, in the last few weeks I have learned more about iodine and iodide and salt than I ever wanted to know. And here I thought chemistry would be totally useless after high school.)
Anyway, so basically the Low Iodine Diet consists of everything that Linda McCartney sings about – except the salt. Rice is allowed, as long as it’s limited and preferably basmati. Sugar is fine, as well as jelly, jam, and honey. All vegetable oils are good. Macaroni (pasta) is okay in moderation. Fresh or frozen vegetables, fresh fruit (except rhubarb and cherries), unsalted nuts and unsalted nut butters, black pepper, fresh/dried spices and herbs are all on the approved list.
The Husband can also have grain and cereal products up to 4 servings per day (so there’s your rice) provided they have no high-iodine ingredients and fresh meats up to 6 ounces a day (which is null and void for us, since we’re vegetarian).
Yep, that’s it.
That means one needs to AVOID:
• Iodized salt, sea salt, and any foods containing iodized salt and sea salt.
• Seafood and sea products (fish, shellfish, seaweed, seaweed tablets, carrageenan, agar-agar,
alginate, nori and other sea-based foods or ingredients).
• Dairy products of any kind (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream).
• Egg yolks or whole eggs or foods containing whole eggs.
• Bakery products containing iodine/iodate dough conditioners or high-iodine ingredients. Low iodine homemade and commercial baked goods are fine.
• Red Dye #3. (E127 in the United Kingdom)
• Most Chocolate (due to milk content). Cocoa powder and some dark chocolates are allowed.
• Some molasses (if sulfured, such as blackstrap molasses). Unsulfured molasses, which is more
common, is okay. Sulfur is a term used on labels and does not relate to iodine.
• Soybeans and soybean products such as tofu, TVP, soy milk, soy sauce. The NIH diet says to avoid
some other beans: red kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, and cowpeas.
Fun times, huh?
Thank God the Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association has a free online cookbook – otherwise this would have been overwhelming. As it is, it has had its challenges – namely that, in addition to being on the low-iodine diet, The Husband is currently sequestered in our master bedroom until Thursday because he is quite literally radioactive. (He’s been there since last Thursday, when he received his radioactive iodine. We make his meals and leave them outside the bedroom door.)
This hasn’t been easy, but as cancer treatments go, I’d take this over something like “regular” radiation or chemotherapy. If you have to go on this diet, the ThyCa cookbook is a godsend. I’m incredibly grateful for it.
Here are some of the recipes that I’ve made during the last two weeks for The Husband that he’s especially enjoyed. You can find the exact recipes in the ThyCa Cookbook. (I’m not allowed to reprint them directly here.)
And yes, the kids and I have eaten these meals for dinner too. “We’re going to eat this in order to support Daddy,” I said to Betty and Boo. Little did they know I really wanted to try and avoid making 2-3 different meals. But um, yeah …GO DADDY! Whoo!
This is a modified version of fried rice, sort of like a Confetti Rice. Saute some onions and garlic in olive oil, add cooked basmati rice, add cooked peas and corn. Cook through. The Husband liked this with a little pepper sprinkled on top. The other night, I added some egg whites to make this more of like an authentic fried rice. For meat eaters, you could add beef, chicken, or pork. You could also add carrot or celery.
The ThyCa Cookbook recipe said that this Minestrone Soup made a big pot, and it absolutely did. I was able to get several meals out of this. This is not much different than a regular minestrone, with chopped carrots, onions, and tomato sauce (I used Muir Glen’s unsalted tomato sauce). I left out the white beans in this recipe and substituted frozen peas for green beans. I had a bag of zucchini that I’d frozen from my farmers market haul over the summer, so I added that. I left out the spinach, and I added some cooked basmati rice. (Another night, I added shell pasta and kind of made this like a pasta fagioli.)
Finally, this is a simple wrap that I made for dinner. It’s wilted fresh baby spinach, sauteed in olive oil and garlic for a few minutes. I threw a handful of mushrooms into the skillet and let them brown. Then, I warmed two corn tortillas in the microwave and topped the corn tortillas with the spinach and mushrooms. The Husband opted to eat this like a warm wrap.
I was glad that I was able to make a few tasty meals on what seemed to be a challenging diet, and I was especially grateful to have the ThyCa cookbook as a resource. If you or someone you love are undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer and needs to be on the low-iodine diet, hopefully these recipes will help you, too.
Please note: I am nowhere near anything resembling a medical professional. Nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice. Like all of us, you’re on your own. For the love of God, consult a physician instead of me. Besides, I have no money if you would sue me, anyway.
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