14 Things You MUST buy for a Low Iodine Diet

Before I dive into what I think are “must haves” for a low iodine diet (LID), let’s first discuss why thyroid cancer patients must be on this diet as part of their treatments and check-up scans. This is my “no medical background” explanation, so if you are a nurse or have M.D. after your name, feel free to stop reading here. Hah!

Thyroid cells are the only type of cells in our body that absorb iodine. Actually, salivary cells also absorb it, but they spit (pun intended) the iodine out quickly, because they can’t process it. So, in order to kill all thyroid cells, healthy and cancerous, patients starve their bodies of iodine for three weeks and then take a radioactive iodine pill called I-131. The starving thyroid cells suck up the radioactive iodine and they die… hopefully! Every time a patient has a check-up scan, they must also go through this process. The dosage, called a tracer dose, is very minimal since it’s not intended to kill any cells. If there are any thyroid cancer cells, they will soak up the radioactive iodine and “glow” on the scan. There are lots of other parts to this process: thyrogen injections, blood draws, withholding medications, etc., but that is the bare bones basics of how the process works.

Now that all of the science is out of the way, let’s talk about the low iodine diet. It’s terrible. I hate it, but there’s no other option but to do it. And let’s face it, its infinitely better and easier that chemo, so I try not to complain too much.  (Jacob may say otherwise!)

Doctors disagree on what is and is not allowed on the low iodine diet, but here are the guidelines my thyroid oncologist gave me:

Foods to Avoid

1. Iodized salt and sea salt
2. All diary products (milk, cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, ice cream, etc.)
3. Egg yolks
4. Sea food
5. Foods that contain the additives: carragen, agar-agar, aglin, alginates
6. Cured, corned & salt-seasoned foods (ham, bacon, sausage, etc.)
7. Bread products that contain iodate dough conditioners
8. Food and Medications that contain red food dyes
9. Chocolate (whomp, whomp)
10. Molasses
11. Soy products

When on the LID, a patient is advised to never eat anything from a restaurant because it could become contaminated. So, every bite of food for three weeks must be prepared by hand. This isn’t a huge change for me because I love to cook and we only eat out once, maybe twice a week. However, it became a huge challenge when we traveled to San Fransisco for the Super Bowl. I had to bring my food with me for the entire weekend… yikes! The only thing I could eat from a restaurant was fresh fruit. It was tough, but with a little bit of careful shopping and planning, I survived.

low iodine diet pictureMost salt has iodine in it, so any item that contains salt on a store shelf is a big no-no. Be on the lookout for “no salt” or “salt free” items and then you can add your own iodine free salt to them afterwards.

Here are 14 things you MUST buy while on the LID:

  1. Salt free tortilla chips. I use these for a snack with this salsa recipe and as a side for LID friendly fajitas.
  2. Puffed wheat cereal. I eat this as a snack without milk, but you can also make your own almond milk to go with it.
  3. Unsalted Kettle chips. These are my favorite! They are so yummy, I don’t even add salt to them.
  4. Egg whites. This is a no brainer! They provide protein and you can use them to cook with in place of whole eggs.
  5. Popcorn. I ate this nearly every day. We quit using microwave popcorn after I was diagnosed in 2013 and have never looked back. I cook it on the stove top with olive oil and iodine free salt and it doesn’t even resemble microwave popcorn… so yummy!
  6. Fresh fruits and veggies. Fruit is your friend because it’s all LID safe. I also munch on carrot and celery sticks for snacks.
  7. Haagen Daz Lemon Sorbet. Seriously, go buy this. It’s amazing even if you aren’t on the LID.
  8. Lara bars. A great portable snack, but be sure to read the ingredients. Some contain chocolate and/or salt. My favorites are apple pie and cashew cookie.
  9. Steak. I only cooked myself one big hot meal a day, so I treated myself to steak frequently.
  10. Chicken. See above… chicken was a dinner staple. I’ll share my dinner recipes in a later post.
  11. Salt-free peanut butter. I used this in recipes, as a dip for veggie sticks or apples, and sometimes just ate it on a spoon.
  12. Unsalted nuts. Mix any type of unsalted nuts with raisins and you have a quick LID safe snack mix.
  13. Coconut oil. I used this in place of butter in recipes as well as an oil for cooking egg whites.
  14. Simply Lemonade. This was a treat for me each day and a great LID safe drink.

Over the next two days, I will be posting my favorite LID meals, snacks and dessert recipes, so stayed tuned!

My scan is tomorrow morning and I could NOT be more excited to be off the LID! I will be spending the day drinking Starbucks lattes and eating pizza. I plan on pigging out for three days and then I will resume my normal eating habits. We have a vacay planned in three weeks, so I’m going to try not to indulge too much.



  1. Thank you for this. I had surgery about six weeks ago and have my radioiodine treatment in two weeks and I tried shopping for my LID foods yesterday but was soooo overwhelmed. This will make it easier when I go back!

    • I’m so glad you found it helpful! I will be posting more ideas over the next few days, so stay tuned! It’s not fun, but it’s doable! Good Luck!

  2. Id love to have some recipes for dinner if you have any! I was diagnosed with follicular thyroid cancer in Jan had 1/2 my thyroid removed then and the rest 3 weeks ago… I have RAI in 3 weeks.. My awesome husband is going to do the diet with me in hopes it makes things easier for me! Do you have any you can share?

    • Allie Rae says:

      Hi Jeni! I have fallen off the blog train, but your comment has inspired me to get back on! I’m writing a post about my LID dinners right now and will be posting ASAP. Good luck with your RAI! If you look under my cancer posts, you can find out more details about my RAI. Blessings to you!

  3. I hadn’t been able to find salt free tortillas what brand do you use?

    • Allie Rae says:

      Hi Nancy! I purchased mine at Trader Joe’s and their store brand had no salt tortilla chips. However, I have seen them at whole foods as well! Trader Joe’s also has a cereal that is LID friendly that is really quite yummy. The only ingredients are puffed wheat and agave syrup. I hope you can find them soon!

  4. Erin McCarthy says:

    This is good info and helpful hints. The one-pager that my doctor gave me almost through me into a complete panic attack. Im currently on it AGAIN for 2 weeks, No thyroid cancer but they are “killing my gland”, which i never wanted in the first place, but oh well. There is a cook book which was very very helpful. Thanks for the additional options.

    • Hey Erin! Glad it helped! I found myself snacking through the day because large meals were overwhelming to Plan, prep and make. I used the cookbook quite a bit my first round and ventured away from it for round 2! Good luck!

  5. Tamra Dugan says:

    Hi! I am starting my LID today.. I have done this several times but just do fresh meats and veggies along with fruits. I also do the popcorn. I feel like this is my first time doing this all over again I get so aggravated and overwhelmed! I finally got smart and pintrest stuff. Lol. Your pin was the first to pop up. So I just left Kroger. With a few things on your list of things to get.. The Häagen-Dazs sorbet they only had it in raspberry. Not my cup of tea. But there was another brand that had strawberry and lemon. It didn’t mention anything about salt or milk stuff. I hope ans pray they are OK to use cause I just tasted the strawberry and I am in heaven! Lol I ate a cherry pie lara bar too. It’s really good. And I tried the unsalted kettle chips! I’m so excited about the new ideas! Ty so much! Maybe I won’t starve too bad. What stinks is that I work at pizza Hut. Yeah…. Not a good place to be when on this diet. Ugh. Lol

    • Tamra Dugan says:

      Oops did not do on those first few lines. Sorry it’s late and I’m sleepy lol

    • Allie Rae says:

      I’m so glad this was of help to you! I really do feel like snacking is the way to go on the LID because entire meals can be overwhelming. Good luck! And pizza is always one of the first foods I eat when the diet is over! Stay strong!

  6. Joanie sharp says:

    Just stumbled on your site. I was just diagnosed with thyroid cancer this week so I’m delving into unfamiliar waters. Was very concerned about the diet I’ll need to be on. Your info is really helpful! Thanks very much!

    • Hey Joanie! I’m so sorry about your diagnosis, but I’m glad to be a source of info if needed! I’m an open book and love to help others, so feel free to ask! I have a few other posts about my cancer journey as well! Best of luck and go kick cancer where it belongs!!

  7. Thank you so much, Allie! I really appreciate you answering me! I’m a bit overwhelmed right now, but trying not to panic. One thing I’ve read that definitely concerns me is that several people said they gained a lot of weight as a result of the after effects. I’m hoping that’s not a “given” that I’ll have to accept. I’m short (5′ 0″) and currently weigh 124 lbs (which is more than I’d like to weigh as it is) also have high cholesterol & pre-Diabetes, thanks to my genetics. So the whole diet thing is a big deal for me to figure out. I’d like to have a plan and a clear understanding of what I need to do before the surgery & low iodine diet takes effect.
    I’ll keep reading through your posts and hopefully can find my way. Thanks again 🙂

    • Joanie, I was told I would gain weight too because most people did. However, I did not, if you eat decently, workout and get your meds regulated I think you will be fine!

  8. Daniella Perez says:

    Hi I just started the LID diet and was wondering where you bought the unsalted kettle chips?

    • Hey! I bought them at Kroger! Depending on where you live, their store is called different names. When we lived in Colorado, Kroger was called King Soopers! I hope you can find them!