From country queen to sitcom star, author, fashion designer, and now a coach on The Voice, Reba McEntire is not one to say no to a good opportunity. The prolific singer, who has racked up 24 No. 1 Hits, has created an impressive empire and at 68, she's not stopping anytime soon. McEntire keeps a busy schedule, but also a healthy lifestyle. In a 2020 interview with PEOPLE, the star shared the one diet that worked for her. "In the early '90s, I was on Fit for Life. That's the slimmest I ever was." Although McEntire admits she no longer follows a strict regime, she does "watch" what she eats, "exercise and cut back." Read on to learn how she stays fit and what nutrition experts say about how it can work for you.
She Doesn't Mix Carbs and Protein
What the Expert Says: "This approach might only work due to its restrictive nature," Matthew Landry, Ph.D., RDN and assistant professor of population health and disease prevention at the University of California tells us. "However, there's no scientific basis for not mixing carbs and protein. Eating meals that contain a variety of macronutrient sources (carbs, protein, and yes even fat) is the best option." Sports performance dietitian Destini Moody, RD, CSSD, LD, adds, "Mixing carbs and protein actually aids in weight loss and I recommend this type of snack to all of my athletes. It's the perfect combination between energy and satiety which is more helpful for controlling appetite than a carb-rich snack alone." However, registered dietitian Jesse Feder with My Crohns and Colitis Team offers a different perspective. "By mixing carbohydrates and protein together, you will be consuming many more calories than if you were just to consume protein alone. That is why by not mixing carbs and protein, you will be able to limit the amount of overall calories you consume which can help lead to weight loss."
She Doesn't Eat A Lot of Sugar
Another key aspect of Fit for Life is avoiding sugar. "Stay off sugar," she said.
What the Expert Says: Feder explains, "Avoiding sugar can be very helpful when trying to stay healthy or lose weight. Sugar is essentially empty calories that add up quite quickly." He adds, "Most food and beverages with sugar added to them have a high amount. This adds a lot of calories and can have negative effects on your digestive hormones. Therefore, avoiding or limiting sugar intake can be very useful for losing weight." Landry adds, "The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of daily calorie needs. When you eat food with sugar in it, your body uses the sugar within the food for energy. Sometimes, our bodies use that energy right away while other times it stores it to use later." He continues: "Foods that are high in added sugars can contribute extra calories (or energy) to our diets. This extra energy gets stored as fat. Following a diet that is low in added sugar can help with weight management."
She Avoids Eating Anything White
In addition to not mixing carbs with protein and cutting back on sugar, McEntire avoided eating white foods like rice, pasta, and bread. "Anything white, just stay off," she stated.
What the Expert Says: According to Landry, "Many processed grains like white rice, pasta, and bread have removed important natural fibers during their processing. These foods are quick to be digested by the body and make you feel hungry again sooner." Moody says, "These grains are called simple carbohydrates or refined grains, and they are not inherently bad for you. However, they have been processed in a way that removes most of the nutrients, including fiber. These nutrients (mainly B vitamins) are critical to keeping our metabolism running. Furthermore, the lack of fiber causes these foods to make our blood sugar skyrocket and then crash, making us more hungry than before, causing us to overeat and making it harder to lose weight."
She Eats Veggies with Carbs
When McEntire does have carbs, she pairs them with veggies. "Instead of having potatoes and steak, just have steak and vegetables," she explained. "If you're going to have carbs, then have our carbs with vegetables."
What the Expert Says: "Vegetables are typically light and do not cause you to stay full for too long," says Feder. "That is why eating carbohydrates along with your vegetables can help increase satiety with your meals and prevent you from getting hungry again too quickly. This is a great way to reduce the amount of calories you consume in a day and aid in weight loss." Landry explains, "The right mix of carbohydrates can stabilize blood glucose (blood sugar) levels and provide sustained energy. Your blood sugar rises, and hunger cravings can become louder." He adds, "Some carbohydrates are more complex, meaning they contain fiber and other nutrients that take longer time to digest. This allows a slower release of sugar into the body. Eating high-fiber foods is also a way to feel fuller and more satiated and can help with weight management because these foods take up more volume in our digestive tracts."
These days, the country singer takes a different approach to staying healthy. "Portion control works best for me now," she said adding, "I do like to go on vacations and that's when I really splurge. I love Mexican food — chips, salsa, and guacamole. And then chicken enchiladas and a really neat dessert. That's my cheat day."
What the Expert Says: "Portion control is one of the most important things when it comes to staying healthy as well as losing weight," Feder says. "If you are able to keep your portions consistent you will be able to maintain your body weight and stay healthy. If you are able to reduce your portion sizes you will lose weight. This is because the larger the portion the more calories and vice versa." According to Moody, "Portion control is a very overlooked property of a weight loss diet plan. Even if you are eating very healthy foods, your typical quinoa, salmon, broccoli, and avocado schtick, if you do not control your portions you'll not see weight loss. That's because, at the end of the day, it's about calories in, calories out. To lose weight, portion control is vital, no matter what your diet is made of."