What I Eat In A Day: Functional Medicine Doctor Terry Wahls Tells All

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Terry Wahls, M.D., is a functional medicine doctor, clinical professor, and a survivor of progressive multiple sclerosis who used her own protocol to heal. This week, we're sharing her expertise in a new series on adrenal fatigue and natural techniques to restore energy. To learn more, check out her new mindbodygreen class, How to Heal Adrenal Fatigue: The Food & Habits You Need for Optimal Health & Energy.

As a functional medicine doctor who used diet and lifestyle changes to restore my health after I was wheelchair-bound with MS, I'm often asked what I eat in a typical day. It depends on the time of year. During the winter, I eat the Wahls Paleo Plus version of my diet. During the summer, I'm eating low glycemic index, following the Wahls Paleo version of my diet plans. I eat from my garden and will have more berries and vegetables.

I eat one or two meals a day for the benefits that a 12- to 16-hour fast will do for boost mitochondrial efficiency. For the same reason, I will do a water fast for one to three days twice a year.

Here's what I eat in a typical day for energy and vibrant health:

Morning Meal

Photo: Dr. Terry Wahls

My day starts with a vegetable-based smoothie. I use greens, coconut milk, water, and ice to make a smoothie. I might have this before going to work, or I may have this at noon, depending upon whether I am shooting for 12 or 16 hours between my evening meal and my morning meal. I'll typically make another vegetable smoothie to have later with my evening meal.

One of these smoothies will be based upon greens. The other one may be based upon vegetables such as heirloom carrots or beets. I'm also very intentional about having a wide variety of greens for my smoothies, like wild edibles such as dandelions, plantain, or lamb's quarters, and greens from my garden such as kale, bok choi, lettuce, spinach, radish greens, and beet greens. I also use the herbs from my garden—borage, oregano, basil, savory, thyme, sage, lavender, lavage, parsley, lemon balm, mint, dill, and tarragon.

During the winter, I'll also have a kettle of water with a chicken carcass and chicken feet to make bone broth. I'll blend the bone broth with coconut milk and vegetables to make a morning and evening beverage.

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Evening Meal

Photo: Dr. Terry Wahls

My evening meals will include a smoothie in the summer or bone broth in the winter.

During the winter, we often have soup. I'll start with a bone broth base, then I'll add chopped vegetables, chopped greens, and a can of coconut milk and let it simmer for five minutes. Most often these vegetables are frozen from our garden. I'll add chopped precooked meat and serve. This meal takes just 15 minutes to prepare.

In addition to the soup, I'll often have another vegetable smoothie.

I'll also enjoy a large salad with fresh garden herbs. Or we may have nitrate-free bacon and cooked greens from my garden. My son and daughter say that bacon will fix any vegetable! We will fry up some bacon to the desired level of crispness, turn off the heat, and add the chopped greens; cover and wait two minutes. I'll saute some meat and add vegetables (often onions, garlic, mushrooms, and peppers) for the last two to five minutes. I like to blend olive oil and fresh basil from the garden to make a pesto sauce to add to the vegetables or serve over grilled burgers. It's quite lovely.

Sometimes, I'll put sautéed onions, peppers, and fish with hot sauce over a large salad to make a fajita-style salad. That is currently a favorite meal in our household and it takes only a few minutes to prepare.

Dessert

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I don't do Paleo desserts. I don't think eating gluten-free pastries, cakes, and other desserts are health-promoting. Nor do I think substituting fructose-based sweeteners (for example, honey, maple syrup, or agave) or artificial sweeteners are health promoting. I avoid sweeteners of all types.

Instead, I'll eat berries and chia pudding as a treat. Or I may have berries with a bit of coconut milk and chopped nuts. As summer progresses, I'll eat the fresh local fruits that are in season, probably one serving a day. Fruit is a treat enough for me.

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Drinks

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Along with the smoothies, I may have other beverages separate from my meals. My favorites are water with lime juice or lemon juice (without any sweetener), herbal teas, chamomile tea, green tea, and reverse osmosis water. I never developed a taste for coffee.

I will occasionally have a glass of wine. Or I may have chamomile tea with coconut milk and a shot of rum for an evening nightcap.

So, there's a glance at a typical day of eating for me. I believe that taking back your health means taking back your relationship to food and becoming comfortable cooking. I'm publishing a cookbook April 4 to inspire you to prepare your own home-cooked meals.

Terry Wahls, M.D.

Professor Of Medicine & Best-Selling Author
Dr. Terry Wahls is a professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical research on the use of diet and lifestyle to treat brain-related problems. She has also worked at the VA for many years in the traumatic brain injury clinic and was the director of the therapeutic lifestyle clinic. In both clinics, she focused on using diet and lifestyle to treat traumatic brain injury and neurological and neurodegenerative disorders. Time and time again she saw people experience marked reduction in pain, improved mood, and better thinking. She also saw that in her own life. She has progressive MS and for seven years, she declined steadily, and though she took the newest drugs, including very potent biologic drugs, she ended up in a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. When she started studying the latest brain science and designed a diet and lifestyle program specifically to support my brain cells, her decline slowed, then stopped, then she recovered. She now bike five miles to work. She uses these principles to help others with a wide variety of brain-related symptoms end their decline and suffering and restore their lives. If you want to learn more about the protocols she used in her recovery, clinics, and research, visit her site. Pick up her book, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles, and the companion cookbook, The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life. If you want to dive even more deeply into what she does to help people reverse their decline and get their lives back, come to the Wahls Protocol® Seminar that I conduct each August.
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Terry Wahls, M.D.

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