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How Can I Stay Motivated on the Low Iodine Diet?

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Updated May 23, 2012

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Question: How Can I Stay Motivated on the Low Iodine Diet?
I recently had my thyroid removed after being diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. It's been about a month and my doctor now has me on a low iodine diet to prepare for radioactive iodine ablation. I have to stay on the diet for about two and a half weeks. Today is the second day of the diet and I am struggling. I feel like I am constantly being tempted by foods that I am not allowed to eat. No matter where I go, I see a fast food place or even when I go to the grocery store, I am being offered a sample of something like cheese or cold cuts. Can you please give me some tips for keeping my willpower up?
Answer: The low iodine diet is tough for most people preparing for a thyroid scan or radioactive iodine (RAI) ablation. Many of us consume a diet that consists of a lot of convenience foods -- processed foods from restaurants or from the frozen section of the grocer's freezer. Unfortunately, during the low iodine diet, these foods are prohibited. Restaurants and food manufacturers are not required to disclose whether they use iodized salt or non-iodized salt. To be on the safe side, its better to avoid these foods during the diet. We have become so used to having these convenience foods that when taken away, it can take an emotional toll.

Willpower and dedication are necessary to be successful on the low iodine diet. A successful low iodine diet is essential for optimum RAI ablation results. I am sure you are aware of this and do know that sometimes food temptation can powerful.

Keep your eyes on the prize! Remember that it's only two weeks that you have to stay on the diet. After your RAI and scan, you can go back to your regular diet. If you haven't eaten as healthy as you would like in the past, this may be a great opportunity to make healthier food choices that you can incorporate into your diet after treatment. Just keep reminding yourself that it's not permanent!

Know that low iodine food can taste good! Just because food is low iodine doesn't mean it has to be tasteless. When my husband was going through the low iodine diet for the first time, his diet was bland and boring. He didn't know about all the low iodine recipes that were available! The second and third time around were much easier after downloading a free low iodine diet cookbook from ThyCa and with these About.com recipes.

Enlist the help of cooking savvy friends if you need to. If you aren't much of a cook, ask friends and family who are to help you with a few dishes. Make a few days worth of meals and store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to eat. The ThyCa cookbook mentioned above is a wonderful recipe resource for the low iodine diet. Some low iodine dieters also hire a chef to prepare their meals. It's less expensive than you think and your endocrinologist may be able to recommend one as the idea has become increasingly popular.

Plan meals thoroughly. It's easy to become tempted when you don't have a meal planned or snacks handy. Decide what low iodine recipes you are going to cook and create a grocery list of all the ingredients you'll need. Don't forget to include a list of snack foods that you can take on-the-go.

Print out a list of foods you can eat and keep it with you. A lot of low iodine dieters print out a list of prohibited foods, but I have found its much better to carry a list of foods you can eat on the diet. Seeing what you can't have often makes temptation greater. Scanning a list of what you can have gives you boundaries and options. Plus, its easy to forget what's allowed, especially for the first few days.

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