What & Where the Doctors Eat — Dr. Terry Wahls

Chris Armstrong Posted By Chris Armstrong on April 27, 2017 / Comments


We all talk a good game about how to eat, what to eat, and the importance of preparing our own food from quality ingredients. The truth is that everyone faces the same dilemmas from time to time. Whether it's travel, working late, business lunches, social outings, or simply not being interested in cooking, there are many reasons that eating that home cooked meal may not always be possible.

I've decided to pose a series of questions to our members on a weekly basis on what gets them through these situations. You might be surprised at some of the answers and others might be exactly what you expected — either way, I'm hopeful that this will help you navigate your way through the myriad of awkward, inconvenient, or simply lazy situations you find yourself in.


This week's interview:

Terry Wahls from Iowa City, Iowa

Terry Wahls

Terry Wahls, MD

Iowa City, IA



CA: Do you put much thought into where you eat out? Or do you simply go anywhere and try to make do with what's on the menu?

TW: Ideally I find a place that is a Farm to Table restaurant and one that utilizes organic foods. That is not always an option however. Often people want to make a special meal for me at their home. In that case I need to review the critical steps to be sure my host does not accidentally feed me gluten, dairy or eggs which would cause my MS related pain to turn on.

CA: Most memorable restaurant meal in (or near) Iowa City?

TW: A dear friend of the family has had a son get into culinary school and he wanted to make a special meal for us. It was a fabulous meal, using fresh vegetables and organ meat (liver). He made a delicious dessert from coconut cream and aronia berries. I recently went with my son to Salt Fork Kitchen which is a farm to table restaurant in Solon, a small town near where we live. They had delicious food which we both loved. I had them sauté greens and lamb. It was very good.

CA: Most memorable restaurant meal outside of Iowa City?

TW: We love cooking with friends. Showing friends how to make liver and onions or duck breasts and greens is one of our favorite things to do. We love coming to the home of our friends and cooking with them. Sometimes I am showing people how to make one of our favorite meals. Sometimes they are showing me. Cooking food together is far more enjoyable than going to a restaurant. The reality for me is that having the opportunity to cook with my friends is always the most fun. I went to Florence, Italy last fall and then to London. We went to local markets and bought the in season vegetables and meat from the local butcher. It was so much fun.

Image Credit: Florence Master Butcher by Frank Kovalchek & London's Borough Market by Herry Lawford

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CA: For people with special diets, how do you suggest they talk with restaurant staff in order to get what they need?

TW: Here is my approach with the waitstaff. I tell them I have a severe reaction to gluten, dairy and eggs that would put me in the hospital within hours. Then I ask what it safe to given those restrictions. Usually the waiter goes to the kitchen. The chef comes out, and we discuss the options. It is nearly always grilled vegetables and some type of meat. I typically decline having any sauce on the vegetables or meat. I will have salad and olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice on the side. I top the meal with chamomile tea or other herbal tea. I am very reluctant to eat meals prepared by someone else unless I have communicated ahead of time with the person who will be doing the preparation. I really need people to understand how severely ill I become if I consume gluten, dairy or eggs. I have learned the hard way — that people do not read the labels of their pre-packaged sauces, condiments and other prepackaged ingredients. They don't realize that those foods can make those of us who are very sensitive very ill.

Since I am either on a ketogenic diet or low glycemic index diet, missing a meal or two is not a problem. If the food is questionable, I just have a cup of herbal tea or green tea. It is not worth risking turning my MS related pain on.

CA: Do you prepare an emergency meal when you travel? If so, what do you include?

TW: I carry a head of cabbage in the checked bag. I also bring a package of powdered coconut milk, green tea, detox tea and chamomile tea. I also pack a tin of smoked oysters (or several) and sprouted almonds. If I have time I will make some liver jerky as well.

CA: Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?

TW: A skillet meal is my usual meal after work. I will use a large skillet or stock pot, and gently cook the meat with fresh garden herbs to the desired level of doneness (knowing that I’ll add vegetables and cook two more minutes — it is usually 5 to 10 minutes). I will add chopped vegetables and more garden herbs and cook two minutes and then serve. We always have a big salad unless we added cooked greens in the skillet with olive oil, cider vinegar or citrus, and fresh garden herbs. From start to finish, this meal will take less than 20 minutes, 30 minutes if I include walking to my garden and gathering the fresh herbs.

CA: In terms of food, what is your guilty pleasure?

TW: Our favorite dishes that we routinely make are bacon and greens, bacon wrapped pieces of liver or the ultimate treat, bacon wrapped dates.

There are also seasonal treats that we love. During the summer, our guilty pleasure is fresh berries. We have strawberries, raspberries, cherries, elderberries, aronia berries, peaches and plums growing in our yard. The best treat is going out and picking food and immediately eating it. My children have observed correctly that food immediately consumed from one's own garden — tastes immensely better than even the foods prepared in the top of the line restaurant.

More About Terry Wahls

Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical trials. She is also a patient with 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.

Read More Q&A's from the "What & Where They Eat" Series