What I Eat In A Day: Functional Medicine Doctor Terry Wahls Tells All
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. The answer? It depends on the time of year.
I generally follow my Wahls Protocol—a nutrient-rich paleo diet that includes greens, sulfur-rich and deeply colored vegetables, berries, grass-fed meat, wild fish, organ meat, and seaweed. However, as the seasons change, I make some tweaks that work well for my body: During the winter, I'll eat the Wahls Paleo Plus version of my diet (the ketogenic version of Wahls Protocol), and in the summer, I'll follow a low-glycemic-index version of my diet plan.
No matter the season, I eat one or two meals a day in order to reap the mitochondrial benefits of a 12- to 16-hour fast.
Seasonal changes aside, here's what I eat in a typical day for vibrant energy and overall health.
My morning meal
My day always starts with a vegetable-based smoothie with greens, coconut milk, water, and ice. I drink it before work, or at lunchtime, depending on when I want to break my fast. I'll typically have another vegetable smoothie with dinner.
One of these smoothies will be primarily greens-based, while the other one will be centered around heirloom carrots or beets. I'm also very intentional about having a wide variety of greens for my smoothies: I love wild edibles such as dandelions, plantain, or lamb's quarters, and greens from my garden such as kale, bok choy, 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 are my favorites.
My evening meal
During the winter, I often have soup. I'll start with a chicken 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 pre-cooked meat, and serve. This meal is super easy—it takes just 15 minutes to prepare.
I love nitrate-free bacon and cooked greens from my garden—my son and daughter say that bacon will fix any vegetable! We fry up some bacon, turn off the heat, and add the chopped greens, then cover the pan and wait two minutes. I'll 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 I serve that over grilled burgers—it's quite lovely.
I also enjoy a large salad with fresh garden herbs. To spice it up, I'll put sautéed onions, peppers, and fish with hot sauce over a large salad to make fajita-style.
I avoid sweeteners of all types, including honey, maple syrup, or agave, as well as gluten-free or paleo pastries, cakes, and other desserts.
Instead, when I want dessert I'll eat berries and chia pudding. Or I may have berries with a bit of coconut milk and chopped nuts. As summer progresses, I'll eat one serving a day of the fresh local fruits that are in season. Generally, fruit is enough of a treat for me.
My favorite drinks
Along with the smoothies I make, I like 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, but I will occasionally have a glass of wine, or chamomile tea with coconut milk and a shot of rum for an evening nightcap.
I wholeheartedly believe that taking back your health means optimizing your relationship with food—and becoming comfortable in the kitchen!
Dr. Terry Wahls is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical trials. In 2018 she was awarded the Institute for Functional Medicine’s Linus Pauling Award for her contributions in research, clinical care and patient advocacy. In addition, Dr. Wahls has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. Dr. Wahls restored her health using a diet and lifestyle program she designed specifically for her brain and now pedals her bike to work each day.
She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles (paperback), and the cookbook The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions. Learn more about the current study Efficacy of Diet on Quality of Life in Multiple Sclerosis. Pick up a one-page handout for the Wahls™ Diet. Follow her on Instagram @drterrywahls, and on Facebook/Twitter at @TerryWahls. Sign up to receive her weekly research updates.