What does a healthy diet look like for someone with hypothyroidism?

On a weekly basis, I have handfuls of patients tell me their hypothyroidism makes it difficult to lose weight. Like you, they aren’t sure about what beverages to drink, what foods to stay away from and what foods may help them shed unwanted pounds. First let’s discuss the basics of hypothyroidism, which is a condition when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to meet your body’s needs. According to the National Institute of Health, “thyroid hormones control the way the body uses energy, so they affect nearly every organ in your body, even the way your heart beats. Without enough thyroid hormones, many of your body’s functions slow down.” The lack of these hormones leads to a slower metabolism which results in weight gain. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include: fatigue, weight gain, a puffy face, joint and muscle pain, dry skin, thinning hair and difficulty concentrating.

Consuming a healthy diet and getting adequate physical activity are two big steps in managing hypothyroidism. I encourage you to meet with a registered dietitian and receive science-based education that will help you follow a healthy diet. Following a heart-healthy eating plan is fundamental. I encourage my patients to consume more fruits and vegetables, leaner meats, more beans, fiber, and fluids. Your question was a good one because the type of fluid that you consume can certainly play a role in helping improve your overall health. As I have said many times before, water is the number one beverage that I encourage my patients to consume. Add lemon or other natural flavors if you “don’t like the taste of water” (as many of my patients say). All kinds of 100% fruit juice (Old Orchard 100% fruit juice) can certainly fit into a healthy diet. They are filled with vitamins and minerals and certainly taste great! However, I recommend that you limit your juice intake to a glass or two per day. Consuming too many liquid calories may further unwanted weight gain. Another option would be to choose a low sugar juice. Old Orchard’s Healthy Balance juices contain approximately 80% fewer calories than regular juice. This can be a great option for staying hydrated without the added calories and sugar.

Making healthy beverage choices can certainly play a role in your overall health. In addition to your drinks, watch your portions!! So many of my patients tell me, “I feel like I eat pretty healthy. Why can’t I lose weight?” Given that hypothyroidism may make weight loss challenging, you will need to be super diligent about monitoring portion sizes. For example, I consider brown rice to be a bit healthier than white rice. But eating a heaping plate of brown rice (~700+ calories) would not be a healthy choice. If you are unaware of what a regular portion should look like, I encourage you to start checking the label of every food you choose to eat. Measure out one portion of that food and put it on a plate so you can see what it looks like. This will hopefully help you to limit calorie intake (i.e. only taking one or two portions of various foods). This step will also help you when you are eating away from home.

Those with hypothyroidism should try to limit foods with added sugar and heavily processed foods. Given that we live in a society of convenience, this step isn’t always easy. I am the first to admit that grabbing a pizza or take-out after a stressful day at work seems heavenly. However, most take out options are extremely calorie dense and I end up feeling more fatigued/bloated after I eat them. I recommend having “emergency” meals on hand for these situations. Try to make a grocery list and shop for the week to come. If you suspect that you will be getting home late and may be tempted to snag fast food, prepare one or two healthy meals on the weekend and then freeze them. For example, I buy salmon from the grocery store and prepare a few salmon patties to freeze. These heat up nicely in a skillet and can be paired with steamed broccoli and quinoa for a quick and easy meal. Overall, hypothyroidism can be managed with the help of your doctor and a registered dietitian. Be mindful of beverage choices and portion control…and don’t forget to get a little physical activity every single day!

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