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Low Iodine Diet and Fast Food: 11 Menus Reviewed

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Eating out at a sit down restaurant or fast food is tricky when on the low iodine diet. Fast food is incredibly convenient and popular. However, you have limited abilities to customize your order for the low iodine diet at fast food restaurants, making it even more tricky. Check out my previous post for general tips on eating out and low iodine diet (especially fast food).

I have reviewed the online menus available from 11 of the top fast food restaurants in the United States. Below is my list of what you could probably eat. Please note that menus and ingredients change all of the time. This was accurate at the time of writing. Please double check menus yourself and read labels when available.

Also, there might be more you could eat. However, most online ingredient lists often list “salt” with no further specification. In those instances, I erred on the side of not being able to eat it. You could dig deeper and find more information if it is very important to you.

McDonalds and Low Iodine

McDonald’s is the #1 fast food restaurant in the United States. But their low iodine diet friendly menu items are very minimal. However, their menu only lists “salt” as an ingredient. If you could find more specific information, that might open up options.

  1. Fresh fries with no salt. You can ask for fresh fries anytime you go to McDonald’s. Ask for some fresh fries that are dumped onto your tray rather than the regular bin where they are salted. Bring your own non-iodized salt from home, otherwise it is just plain potatoes.
  2. Beverages – all of the sodas, lemonade slushes, iced tea, juice, and black coffee are low iodine friendly. Stay away from smoothies, shakes, and coffee drinks that have added milk.

Starbucks and Low Iodine

As a non-coffee drinker, I was surprised to learn that Starbucks is #2 on many lists of top fast food restaurants. Their menu was also quite limited in options. The big catch to Starbucks menu was they specifically list “sea salt” on most items. You could monitor if that changes over time. They also sell a variety of pre-bottled drinks that you can check the labels based on availability.

  1. Starbucks Refresher Beverages – Many of these are allowed. Avoid ones that have coconut milk – their ingredient list includes sea salt. Kiwi Starfruit, Kiwi Starfruit Lemonade, Mango Dragonfruit, Mango Dragonfruit Lemonade, Strawberry Acai, Strawberry Acai Lemonade, Very Berry Hibiscus, Very Berry Hibiscus Lemonade.
  2. Lemonade.
  3. Brewed Coffees – including Americano
  4. Hot Teas – not lattes.
  5. Steamed Apple Juice
  6. Cold Brew Coffee – plain.
  7. Iced Tea – not lattes.
  8. Whole Fruit.
  9. That’s It Fruit Bars

Chick-Fil-A and Low Iodine

I love Chick-Fil-A. Waffle fries are a weakness for me. However, sadly, they are not allowed on the low iodine diet. Other restaurants, such as McDonald’s, use cut potatoes for their fries. Waffle fries are a mashed and pressed product, so salt is added in that process. Darn. For the salads, bring your own dressing from home.

  1. Sodas, lemonade, iced tea, and coffee.
  2. Egg white from the egg white grill sandwich.
  3. Side Salad – without the cheese or crispy bell peppers
  4. Fruit Cup
  5. Market Salad – without the mean, cheese, and nuts.
  6. Spicy Southwest Salad – without the chicken, cheese, pepitas, and tortilla strips.

Taco Bell and Low Iodine

Taco Bell is a very divisive place. I feel like people either love it or hate it. I have nacho loving kids, so I love it for a quick, cheap lunch on the go. Low iodine options are limited.

  1. Sodas, lemonade, iced tea, Breeze drinks, coffee.
  2. Tostada Shell.
  3. Crispy Taco Shell.
  4. Vegetables – lettuce, tomato, onion

You could try to build a tostada with just vegetables and bring your own dressings from home.

Burger King and Low Iodine

I grew up in a divided house. My mom loved McDonald’s. My dad loved Burger King. This menu is tricky because at the time of writing, they did not list ingredients on their website. They also use whole potatoes for fries, but spray them with a mixture that includes salt to make them more crispy.

  1. Sodas, lemonade, iced tea, coffee.
  2. Garden Salad – no dressing, no nuts, no meat,
  3. Market Salad – no dressing, no nuts, no meat

Subway and Low Iodine

With the Eat Fresh logo, you would think Subway would have lots of options. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

  1. Sodas, lemonade, iced tea.
  2. Salad using all of the fresh vegetables, bring your own dressing.

Wendy’s and Low Iodine

I can’t go to Wendy’s without getting a Frosty, so it is pointless for me on low iodine. But there are a couple options if you can avoid the Frosty.

  1. Sodas, lemonade, iced tea, coffee.
  2. Plain Baked Potato.
  3. Apple Pecan Salad – no chicken, no cheese, no nuts
  4. Oatmeal? – they list cream as an ingredient, but I’m not sure if this is something they add in store. You could ask.
  5. Fries – ask for fresh fries poured onto your tray with no salt.

Dunkin Donuts and Low Iodine

Again, I don’t drink coffee so this was not on my radar. Dunkin’s menu was very limited. Basically you could have plain coffee or tea. None of the food options seemed viable.

Domino’s and Low Iodine

Pizza is not a low iodine friendly fast food. Domino’s salads would be fine if you remove the cheese and croutons.

Panera and Low Iodine

With so many salads on the menu, I had high hopes for Panera. For most of the salads and bowls, it seemed to me that you were taking so much off the item that it wasn’t worth it. It likely would be easier to see if they would build you a fresh vegetable salad.

  1. Frozen Strawberry Lemonade
  2. Coffee, Tea, Iced Teas, Flavored Lemonades, Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca.
  3. Fuji Apple Salad – no chicken or cheese
  4. Strawberry Poppyseed Salad – no chicken
  5. Green Goddess Salad – no bacon, onions, chicken, or egg yolks
  6. Fruit Cup
  7. Whole Fruit

Chipotle and Low Iodine

Chipotle happened to be listed 11th on the top fast food restaurants on the list I looked at. But if you were hoping for a best for last list, you got it. Chipotle lists right on their website that they only use KOSHER salt. Hooray for low iodine eaters! This means you can basically eat ANYTHING on the Chipotle menu minus the cheese and sour cream. Truly the best for last. And thank you, Chipotle for being clear on what ingredients you use, especially the salt.

I hope this list helps you in your low iodine journey. It can be very discouraging to look at these lists. Eating fast food on the low iodine diet is a challenge you may decide is not worth it. I know when I was on low iodine, I made a mental list of the fast foods I wanted to eat first when I was done. It was basically anything with cheese!

7 thoughts on “Low Iodine Diet and Fast Food: 11 Menus Reviewed”

  1. You need to look at all the ingredients.

    McDonald’s fries also contain soy, and their frying oil uses soybean oil.

    Soy is a big no-no ingredient for the LID.

    It’s tough to do properly but it’s so much better for your scan/uptake if you just steer clear of processed foods for the 2-4 weeks you’re on the diet.

    If there’s a Whole Foods or “health food” store near you, they’ll have a ton of dairy-free, soy-free, non-iodized alternatives to the food we normally enjoy.

    LID life hack… Whole Food’s 365 branded products don’t contain iodized salt. But again, watch out for those other no-no ingredients!

    Cava’s hummus uses non iodized salt, that’s been a game changer for me this 2nd round of LID!! Combine with 3-ingredient traditional corn tortilla shells… You heat the shells up for about 30sec on each side…. Delicious snack or eat the whole bag of shells with hummus for less calories than a large McD’s fries!!!

  2. You need to look at all the ingredients.

    McDonald’s fries also contain soy, and their frying oil uses soybean oil.

    Big no-no for the LID.

    It’s tough to do properly but just steer clear of processed foods for the 2-4 weeks you’re on the diet.

    If there’s a Whole Foods or “health food” store near you, there’s a ton of dairy-free, soy-free, non-iodized alternatives to the good we normally enjoy.

    LID life hack… Whole Food’s 365 branded products don’t contain iodized salt. But again, watch out for those other no-no ingredients!

    Cava hummus uses non iodized salt, have changer for me this 2nd round of LID!!

    1. Thanks for commenting! I’m glad you have found good things that have made this time on your LID more pleasant.

      Yes, in general, it is safest to only eat food you make at home or with minimal ingredients. But, unfortunately, not everyone is able to do that for a variety of reasons.

      McDonald’s fries contain soybean oil and their frying oil does contain soybean oil. However, soybean oil and soy lecithin are OK ingredients on the low iodine diet. Soy is avoided because the proteins effect the uptake of radioactive iodine by thyroid cells. Soybean oil and soy lecithin do not contain protein, so they are ok.

  3. I asks McDonald’s on Harper road in Beckley, wv if they used non iodized salt on their fries. She showed me the box they use and sure enough was non iodized salt!!! Good to know but always ask first 🙂

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