If you have heard about the Wahls protocol? It’s not really a “diet”, but many call it the Wahls protocol diet. In this post, you will learn everything you need to know to get started with the Wahls protocol and heal your body naturally.
What Is the Wahls Protocol Diet Exactly?
What I love about the Wahls protocol is the emphasis on a nutrient-dense diet.
A Brief History
Dr. Terry Wahls was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. She started declining rapidly until she decided to experiment with diet and supplements. Her condition improved to a point that she regained all her mobility. She started working with others who had multiple sclerosis or similar issues to test her protocol. The result is her Wahls Protocol Diet.
Wahls Protocol Food List
When you start a new healing protocol, one of the first things you want to know what you can and cannot eat. That’s what I am going to share with you now.
What you can eat:
- Leafy greens
- Colorful veggies
- Sulfur-rich veggies
- Grass-fed or wild-caught protein
- Organ meat
- Nuts and seeds
- Fermented foods
- Seaweed or sea vegetables
What you need to avoid:
- Processed foods
Why No Eggs On the Wahls Protocol?
You may notice that eggs are off-limit on the Wahls protocol diet, contrary to the Paleo diet (read Paleo 101 to see what the Paleo Diet includes). The main reason you will avoid eggs on the Wahls protocol is that eggs are a common allergen. Dr. Terry Wahls was able to recover from MS following a strict diet that didn’t include eggs. If you are trying to recreate what she did, then you need to avoid eggs, at least temporarily. It’s a good idea to do so, and test reintroducing them later.
Wahls Protocol Phases
The Wahls protocol diet can be adapted according to your health goals. There are three levels:
- Level 1: The first level is the Wahls Diet. It is the most accessible of the levels and will be enough for most people. On level one, eat 9 cups of vegetables a day (3 cups tightly packed leafy greens, 3 cups deeply colored vegetables and fruits such as berries, tomatoes, peppers, beets, carrots and winter squash, 3 cups sulfur-rich vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes, onions, and garlic). Eliminate gluten, dairy, eggs, and artificial sweeteners. Limit non-gluten grains to one serving a day and limiting all types of sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, and sugar to one teaspoon a day.
- Level 2: The second level is called Wahls Paleo. Follow all the guidelines from level 1, plus include organ meat twice a week and sea vegetables once or twice a week. Eliminate grains, fruits, and other high-carb foods. Level 2 also includes the addition of nondairy, non-grain fermented foods (like pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut).
- Level 3: The third level is called Wahls Paleo Plus. This level is a ketogenic diet. You need to eat high fat and very low carb, so you are avoiding all grains, legumes, and potatoes. You are eliminating all legumes and added sweeteners. You are reducing your vegetable consumption to 6 cups per day divided evenly among leafy greens, deeply colored vegetables, and sulfur-rich vegetables. Moreover, one serving of berries a day is all you are allowed to eat as far as fruits go. Lastly, you eat only twice a day and fast 12 to 16 hours each night.
Picking the Right Level for You
Dr. Terry Wahls recommends that most people start with level one unless you are dealing with a serious chronic condition like obesity or autoimmune issues. In this case, you can start with the Wahls Paleo. If you still struggle at the Wahls Paleo level, consider moving on level 3. If you have neurological problems like dementia, epilepsy or a brain injury, she recommends you work towards attaining level 3.
Your Wahls Protocol Meal Plan
In her first book, The Wahls Protocol, Dr. Terry Wahls provides a meal plan you can follow to try out the diet. I ended up buying the meal plan from her Website. I purchased level 1 for a whole year. I have been loving the recipes but finding it hard to follow exactly. I went shopping for a week, didn’t even buy the whole amounts I had on my list and still had some of the food one week and a half later. It’s going to be a process, that’s for sure!
Here’s an example of what I might eat in a day (keep in mind that I struggle with food sensitivities only, so my motivation to stick to the plan is not always high):
For breakfast, I almost always drink a smoothie. Read my 101 Smoothie Recipes to learn about my favorite recipe and to get a template that will help you create your own Wahls protocol friendly smoothies. If you get her meal plan, you will see that Dr. Wahls usually accompanies smoothie breakfast with a protein. I don’t typically do this. Otherwise, she does a lot of skillet breakfasts, like bacon and vegetables.
We usually eat leftovers from the night before for lunch. In her meal plan, Dr. Wahls includes all different meals, no leftovers. It’s up to you. The meals are all pretty fast and easy to make. A typical lunch would be a big salad with a protein like fish or chicken.
Dinner is where I get to cook. I usually go through all the recipes in any given week of the meal plan and pick what I feel like eating. I sometimes pick breakfast recipes for dinner, there is nothing wrong with that as most breakfast recipes included in the meal plan are dinnerlike. I like making one-pan dishes, soups, and stews. For example, you can fry ground beef, garlic, and onion. Add cabbage, sweet potatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, zucchini, ginger, a bit of bone broth and cumin. Cook until the sweet potatoes are soft and add some spinach.
Grocery Shopping for the Wahls Protocol
Grocery shopping for the Wahls protocol can seem overwhelming. You will see things like 39 cups of baby greens on your list. The amount of veggies is A LOT more than what most people are used to buying. One advantage: you might find that you don’t need to buy as much meat as usual. In the past, I would thaw 4 lbs of meat for any given meal for my family of 9. On the Wahls protocol diet, 2 lbs are enough since we pile on the veggies.
What if you have a family?
As I mentioned already, I feed a family of 9. If I can do the Wahls protocol, you can too. I was surprised to find that following the protocol is cost-effective since we eat less meat and more veggies. My children don’t follow the protocol, but they eat what I eat for meals. For breakfast, they often have gluten-free toast while I make my smoothie. They may eat gluten-free pasta or rice with the meat and veggies I serve. This allows me to stretch the meals further.
How To Save Money
I have lots of great tips to help you save money on the Paleo Diet in my Post How to Go Paleo on a Budget. Most of them apply to the Wahls protocol diet as well:
- Make simple meals and don’t try to follow all the recipes. Repeat the same recipes once you know they are a hit in your family and try new recipes only once or twice a week. Make a protein 1 or 2 lbs will be enough depending on the size of your family.
- Use frozen fruits and veggies as well as fresh ones.
- Shop around and learn your prices. You will become pretty good at knowing which stores offer the best deals on specific items. In my Paleo for Beginners course, I provide a free template to help you learn where I buy the basics for the best deals.
How to Save Time and Money Grocery Shopping for the Wahls Protocol Video
Watch this video to understand how you can make the Wahls protocol work for your family.
How to Get Started on the Wahls Protocol
If you are tired of feeling sick and tired and would like to get started with the Wahls protocol, here’s what I recommend:
- Get rid of all the unapproved foods. Do not keep any temptations in your pantry.
- Take it one step at a time: For example, use a menu plan to guide you, but decide to focus on one change at a time. It could be to change a specific meal (like trading breakfast cereal for a smoothie or making sure dinner includes 3 cups of veggies.
- After you master one step, pick a different one and so on.
- If your health condition is serious or if you are already eating pretty healthy, pick level 1 or level 2, and go shopping for all you need but buy about half of what your menu calls for. It is pretty natural to end up eating less than what the menu says at first. Chances are you will end up using more gluten-free grains and fewer veggies at first. If you follow the menu plan exactly and use up everything, congratulations! Go grocery shopping again and buy the other half. It will seem less overwhelming at first. When I went shopping for the Wahls protocol following Dr. Terry Wahls’s menu the first time, I bought a bit more than half of what I needed for a family of 8 (my family is actually a family of 9). It ended up lasting for two weeks because the rest of my family ate some foods that stretched the meals further like rice and gluten-free pasta.
The Wahls Protocol is a healing protocol that focuses on nourishing your mitochondria, the energy factory of your cells. It’s an excellent protocol to use if you suffer from any type of autoimmune issue or chronic condition that affects your daily life. If your symptoms are bearable enough, you can choose to take one step at a time to start implementing the Wahls protocol diet in your life. Change takes time and practice. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself the best chance at success by having a plan of action and a timeline to determine how you are going to accomplish the transition.