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How to Dine Out With Hypothyroidism

Preparation and planning can make eating out with hypothyroidism enjoyable.
How to Dine Out With Hypothyroidism

Juliana Sweeny

Wellness Blogger & Patient Advocate

Medically Reviewed by:
Medically Reviewed by:

In this article: 


Basics of a thyroid-healthy diet

 

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland regulates the body's metabolism. When your thyroid hormone production drops (hypothyroidism), your body processes slow down and change, affecting virtually every system in the body.

Optimizing your thyroid levels with thyroid hormone replacement medication is usually the first step in minimizing hypothyroidism symptoms. But beyond taking thyroid hormone replacement medication, you can support your thyroid with nutrition and lifestyle modifications.

Each of us is unique with individual sensitivities, so there is no one-size-fits-all diet to follow when you have a thyroid condition. However, there are some foods and principles that may support optimal thyroid health.

 

Essential nutrients drive thyroid hormone production. For instance, your thyroid needs iodine to make thyroid hormones. Good food sources of iodine include fish, dairy products, and iodized salt. You need minerals like zinc to convert the inactive thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) to the active thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3) and selenium to help reduce thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies. Good food sources of zinc include beans, nuts, and seafood, and you can find selenium in Brazil nuts, seafood, and organ meats.

 

It can also be helpful to know if you have dietary triggers and what they are. Dietary triggers can lead to increased gastrointestinal permeability, chronic inflammation, and a possible elevation in thyroid antibodies that would indicate the presence of Hashimoto's disease.

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for mastering dining out on a thyroid-healthy diet

 

Prepare ahead of time 

Access the menu online or call ahead and request to talk to the manager. Ask if they can accommodate your dietary restrictions. Letting them know your needs ahead of time can help them better prepare to serve you and provide an enjoyable experience for you. 

 

Avoid foods considered "creamy" or "spicy"

Creamy or spicy foods may trigger inflammation. 

 

Consider ordering two starters instead of one entree 

If you can't find a main course alternative, order two starters or sides or ask to put together a plate of vegetables and lean meat. This way you can give yourself some variety, if you're not sure you can commit to all of the ingredients found in one entree. 

 

Ask questions

Don't hesitate to ask how something is prepared! Pay particular attention sauces or dressings, or request to have it on the side.

 

Ask to modify your meal 

Modify your meal so that you can enjoy it. For instance, if there are certain vegetables that you cannot eat, ask to replace them with something that you can eat with ease.

 

Look for natural ingredients

Foods that have added ingredients are more likely to trigger unwanted symptoms. Eating whole vegetables and meat without added sauces, pasta, or bread is usually your best bet at home and in a restaurant.   

 

Most accommodating cuisines for a thyroid-healthy diet

 

Trying new foods can be exciting and a little daunting at the same time, especially if you have a thyroid condition. When searching for a new restaurant to try, consider cuisines that are heavy on fresh vegetables and lean meat such as steakhouses or some Asian-inspired cooking styles such as Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants.  

 

Also, consider searching for restaurants that serve gluten-free options. These restaurants and their staff are familiar with serving people with dietary needs, and you will likely have a more extensive meal selection that meets your diet. 

 

Eating international cuisines with hypothyroidism

 

Trying new foods can be an excellent way to experience a new culture or travel destination. Still, it can be hard to know what ingredients are in foods you are not familiar with, so planning is especially important. 

 

Indeed, international cuisines not only have different ingredients, but preparation may be different as well.

 

Consider these tips when eating international cuisines:

  • Err on the side of caution when it comes to raw meat, fish (including seafood), and eggs
  • Avoid foods that are sitting at room temperature (like a salad bar)
  • Drink water that you either know for sure is safe or request bottled water
  • Be wary of foods that are heavily spiced or in a sauce
  • Carry a food sensitivity card in the language of the country you are traveling so that you can effectively communicate your needs to the server and chef.

 

Eating out can be a source of anxiety and stress for people with thyroid conditions. However, most restaurants and chefs want their patrons to be happy with their meal and to feel well after eating the food they provide. By graciously talking with your server or the chef about your needs and preparing ahead of time, you can focus on socializing and enjoying the dining out experience.

 

Eating in a dining hall with hypothyroidism

 

Eating in a dining hall can be challenging for any person. There are numerous options, and the servings are usually unlimited. For people who follow a strict diet like the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP diet), eating in a dining hall can be especially overwhelming. Ahead, how to navigate the many menu options to best manage your hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's disease.

Timing is important

Find out when the dining hall is busiest and beat the crowd by eating an hour earlier. Beating the rush gives you time to ask the kitchen staff questions about the meals that day or make a special request. 

 

Choose natural meat or fish 

Lean meats and fish are a great source of protein for people with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's. However, dining halls tend to have breaded or fried meat available at self-serve counters. It is also common for meat entrees to have a pre-made sauce drizzled over them like marinara. If you ask, most places will offer a freshly-grilled protein like chicken breast, which would be great on top of a colorful salad from the salad bar.

 

Do-it-yourself salad bar

Assembling your own salad allows you to be selective with the ingredients and gives you control over your portions. Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat—they pack a ton of vitamins, minerals, and fiber into a small number of calories. A big salad loaded with raw or cooked vegetables can help you feel fuller, maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of disease, and feel better overall.

 

Some salad bar ideas:
  • Skip the iceberg lettuce and load up on leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula. Dark leafy greens are rich in vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, folate, beta carotene, and have antioxidant properties.
  • Tuna at the salad bar is great in a salad! It's also an excellent source of thyroid-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Top your salad with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds for a healthy dose of vitamin E and selenium.
  • Pre-made dressings and sauces may have ingredients that can aggravate your thyroid symptoms. Instead, dress your salad with vinegar and olive oil. Olive oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids with powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which may benefit symptoms of Hashimoto's.

 

Hydrate with water

Dining halls tend to have soda and tea dispensers. These drinks are usually high in sugar and caffeine and are artificially flavored. Skip past the flavored beverages and opt for water.  

 

Pay attention to the soups

Many soups contain flour and dairy products. If you know that these foods may trigger your thyroid symptoms, check with the kitchen staff to learn what ingredients are in the soup first.

 

Plan ahead

Spend time each week reviewing the dining hall menu and making a thyroid-healthy meal plan in advance. Planning ahead reduces mealtime stress and decreases impulse eating. 

 

Chefs, cooks, and dining staff are aware that many people need dietary accommodations. Do not hesitate to connect and become acquainted with the team in your dining hall. And, if you struggle to navigate the dining hall, connect with a thyroid nutritionist to create a personalized thyroid meal plan.

 

A note from Paloma Health

 

You deserve a full and vibrant life! Each of us is unique with individual sensitivities. If you need additional support to figure out how or what to eat to support your thyroid and overall health, talk with a nutritionist to create a personalized plan.

Juliana Sweeny

Wellness Blogger & Patient Advocate

Juliana Sweeny is a college student, food & wellness blogger, and Hashimoto's warrior. She is a firm believer that your diagnosis does not define you. She is passionate about sweet potatoes, life-on-the-go, and the color yellow.

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