Life StoryApr/May 2009 Issue

Queen of Country - Healthy Eating

Reba McEntire sings the benefits of healthy eating

Country music star Reba McEntire could have been a cowboy. Born in Oklahoma and raised on a large ranch, she traveled with her family on the rodeo circuit where her father was a fierce competitor. A smidge more skill in the saddle, she says, and she might have been a rodeo queen rather than the queen of country. Fortunately for her fans, the dust in the arena made her lose her voice and so she gave up rodeo for the recording studio.

McEntire credits her childhood, particularly her father, for her core values—a work ethic and fortitude that have brought her unprecedented success. In addition to acting, touring, cutting new albums and 33 number one hit songs to her name, McEntire is a business empire unto herself with bedding and luggage collections, as well as clothing and shoe lines.  

Today, McEntire splits her time between homes in Nashville and Los Angeles where she lives with husband/manager Narvel Blackstock and 18-year-old son Shelby. Living Without recently caught up with the country songbird to talk about her diet—and her dietary restrictions.

LW You’ve admitted that you love to eat. Do you diet to maintain your weight?  
McEntire No, I’m really not on any diet now. I’m 5 foot 7 inches tall and my weight hovers around 125. I basically eat smaller portions and don’t just eat whatever is on my full plate. Whenever I want something that’s not healthy for me, I’ll just take a few bites instead of consuming the whole thing.

LW Do you have any special dietary needs?
McEntire After Shelby was born, my doctor advised me to see an allergist. He was concerned that certain foods I was eating were affecting my voice. I had some tests done and found I was sensitive to dairy products. Eating dairy would give me trouble with my sinuses. They would swell and not drain properly and this would affect my singing. So I avoid dairy—especially before I perform. I have to. I might have a little bite of ice cream every once in awhile but never if I’m going to be singing. I also avoid colas when I’m singing because it coats my throat and clogs up my sinuses. Same thing with orange juice. Any kind of citrus really affects my sinuses so I don’t have the resonance that I need. So no more dairy, malteds, colas, OJ. I stick to drinking a lot of water.  

LW How strict are you about avoiding these foods?
McEntire On show days, I just don’t eat them. And when I’m touring and doing constant shows, I avoid them all during that time. On days off, I may take a sip of orange juice or cola or have a little bite of ice cream.

LW You’re 53 and avoiding dairy. Are you concerned about getting enough calcium?

McEntire I take a calcium supplement every day and I eat a lot of broccoli, which is very high in calcium. Luckily, I love broccoli so I feel I get enough through that calcium-rich food and the supplements.  

LW Have your eating habits changed in other ways over the years?
McEntire Oh absolutely. When I was growing up, Daddy would cook breakfast. He would fry bacon, fry the eggs in the bacon grease and use the leftover grease to make gravy. We also used to eat meat almost every day growing up because Daddy was a rancher and steer-roper. Our biggest treat was my mother’s Southern fried cooking. It was delicious but so bad for you, full of fat and cholesterol. Now, I very seldom eat fried foods. I’ve all but given up consuming red meat, opting more for chicken, fish and salads. I love having steamed dark green vegetables and brown rice, a healthy low-fat meal. And like I said, I try to use broccoli in a lot of my cooking because of its calcium and overall goodness. I’ve also cut back drastically on eating white stuff like white sugar and white flour. I haven’t completely eliminated it but I do feel so much better when I avoid the white things.  

LW Have you ever tried a gluten-free diet?
McEntire No, but my older sister Alice eats gluten free because she’s sensitive to gluten.

LW Now that you’re living a leaner, cleaner lifestyle, have you found anything that you can rave to us about?
McEntire Juicing. Instead of the usual tried-and-true waffles with peanut butter, syrup or jelly, I now enjoy fresh juice for breakfast. It’s very filling and really cleans out my system. And it’s easy.

LW Any recipe you can share?
McEntire Sure. My favorite is two carrots, a bell pepper, a cucumber, one celery stalk and a few slices of apple. The apple gives it just the right touch of sweetness. I make it in my juicer in the morning. LW

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