Low Iodine Diet

Katrina Claghorn, RD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Question:

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
I am about to receive radioiodine treatments and I need to follow a low iodine diet. Can you give me any direction?
Thanks
KB

Answer:

Katrina Claghorn, RD, Oncology Dietitian for The University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

The point of a low iodine diet is to deplete the body of it's natural stores of iodine which makes the radioactive iodine treatment more effective. The premise is that when the radioactive iodine is administered the thyroid will "suck" up the iodine because it has been so depleted.

It is very important to note that every institution and physician has their own guidelines. Some require an extremely restricted iodine intake. Some doctors like their patients on this diet for as long as two weeks while others have them on it only a couple of days preceding your diagnostic scanning procedures and treatment. The purposeof thisdiet is to enhance your scanning and treatment. If you receive radioiodine therapy, the diet should be maintained until two days after your treatment.

Iodine is used in the care and feeding of animals, as a stabilizer and/or safety element in food processing, and as a component of red food dyes. Many salt preparations are also supplemented with iodine. Therefore, it may be found in varying amounts in all foods and beverages. The richest sources appear to be iodized salt, dairy products, fish, processed meats, pudding mixes, candies, frozen dinners, "fast" food, and foods containing artificial colorings.

This diet is deficient in calcium because all dairy products must be avoided due to their high iodine content. Calcium supplementation with 1000-1200 mg of calcium carbonate is, therefore, recommended.

Below is the diet recommended at The University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. Again, please check with your physician and/or registered dietitan to make sure the diet is right for you.

Foods Allowed

Foods to Avoid

Dairy

None allowed

Ice cream
Cheese
Pudding
Milk
Yogurt/cottage cheese
Evaporated milk
Eggnog
Sour cream

Protein (meat)

Small portions
FRESH chicken,
turkey, beef, pork,
veal

Luncheon meats
Bacon
Sausage
Frankfurters

Fish

None allowed

Fish
Shellfish
Seaweed
Kelp
Sardines
Canned tuna

Grains/Starches

Fresh potatoes (no skin)
Homemade rice (not enriched or a packaged mix)
Pasta (with no salt or eggs)
1-2 slices of bread/day (if total sodium content is less than 20mg per serving)

Egg noodles
Pastry/cookies
Packaged rice mixes

Fruits

Fresh fruit
Fresh fruit juices
(bottles or cartons of natural fruit juice allowed)

Canned or dried fruit
Tang, Hi-C
Canned fruit juices

Vegetables

All fresh except spinach

Canned or frozen
Vegetables with sauces
Pickles
Sauerkraut
No cans or jars of tomato/pasta sauce

Miscellaneous

Unsalted peanut butter
Unsalted nuts
Natural honey
Vegetable and olive oils
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Vinegar
Fresh herbs

Carnation instant breakfast
Meat tenderizers
Figurine diet bars
Bouillon cubes
Carnation slender bars
Canned soups
Salted peanut butter
Butter/margarine
Commercial salad dressing
Cocoa mix
Garlic salt
Onion salt
Ketchup
Mustard Olives
Candy

Snack Foods

Popcorn popped with vegetable or olive oil and non-iodized salt
Rice cakes (no salt added)

Pretzels
Salted chips
Corn chips
Crackers

Sample Meal Plan

Breakfast
(No eggs or egg
substitute allowed)

Any fresh fruit or fresh fruit juices (no canned)
1-2 slices toast (as long as total sodium content per serving is less than 20mg) with natural honey, natural jam (no food coloring) or olive oil
Black coffee or clear tea (may use nondairy creamer)
Cereal without milk (shredded wheat, puffed rice, raisin bran)

Lunch

Homemade vegetable or chicken soup
3-4 oz. fresh poultry, roast beef, lamb, veal, pork
Fresh vegetables (no canned, frozen allowed if no added salt)
Salad, with homemade oil and vinegar dressing (no store-bought dressing)
Fresh potato (without skin) or homemade rice(not enriched or a packaged mix)
Coffee, tea or 100% fruit juice (natural, not canned)

Dinner

3-4 oz. fresh poultry, roast beef, lamb, veal, pork
Pasta (with no salt or eggs added) with homemade tomato sauce (sauce made from fresh tomatoes, not canned)
Fresh vegetables (no canned, frozen allowed if no added salt)
Salad, with homemade oil and vinegar dressing (no store-bought dressing)
Fresh potato (without skin) or homemade rice (not enriched or a packaged mix)
Coffee, tea or 100% fruit juice (natural, not canned)

Snacks

Avoid soda (except Sprite, 7-Up)
Fresh fruits
Fresh vegetables (including salads with homemade dressing, carrot or celery sticks)
Popcorn (homemade with non-iodized salt andolive or vegetable oil)
Rice cakes (no salt added) with unsalted peanut butter
Natural sorbets (no food coloring or added salt)

AVOID IODIZED SALT AND MULTIVITAMINS CONTAINING IODINE.YOU MAY BUY NON-IODIZED SALT AND USE AS NEEDED.

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