Erin Oprea is THE celebrity trainer to all of the hottest country stars (think Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles, and more). But that’s not all — she’s also a former marine who completed two tours of duty in Iraq. Here’s how this personal trainer and badass athlete stays fit.
For years, I've focused on eating as cleanly as possible and relaying that information to my clients whenever they asked for guidance. My answer, always, was to eat a clean diet consisting of five daily meals: breakfast, midmorning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner.
There are also four clean-eating habits that I follow every day to help me stay as healthy as possible. I've started sharing these with others and found that they work for everyone, so I'm here to share them with you! Here they are:
1. Cut out starches at night.
The bad news: no more starchy foods, like pasta and potatoes for dinner. The good news: you still get to enjoy them earlier in the day.
Carbs are fantastic, but there is a right time to eat them. In simple terms, here's how carbs work: once they enter your body, starches are broken down into molecules called glucose. The glucose enters your bloodstream and is distributed throughout your body, and your cells use it as energy. All of this happens quickly, which is why starches are considered a short-term energy source, and the excess is stored as fat.
So when you eat carbs later in the day, you usually aren't exerting much of that energy afterward. Because you're not burning as many calories, your body is more likely to convert those carbs into fat.
The solution: Fuel up with high-quality starches in the morning and afternoon, when you're the most active.
2. Cut back on sugar.
Like starch, sugar is a carbohydrate that your body uses as energy. But when you consume too much of it, it can lead to wacky blood-sugar levels, weight gain, and heart disease, among other serious health issues.
Here's how to do it: avoid added sugar by looking out for words like brown sugar, cane juice, cane syrup, malt sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and more. Be wary of common foods that are high in sugar like baked goods, condiments, candy, cereal, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sauces, soda, and sweets.
The solution: Try to eat foods with natural sugar like apples, bananas, cherries, grapes, and try to eat them earlier in the day. Limit processed foods that have added sugars. Cutting back on sugar will produce quick results.
3. Cut back on sodium.
There's more to it than just not adding table salt to your meals. I tell most of my clients to set their limit slightly lower than the USDA's normal recommendation for sodium intake: 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day.
When it comes to processed foods, manufacturers add salt and other sodium-containing additives to make the food taste better and to give it a longer shelf life.
A big part of smartening up on sodium involves reading nutrition labels. Foods that are listed as having 5 percent or less sodium content per serving are considered low in sodium. Common foods that are high in sodium include bacon, bagels, baked goods, condiments, cheese, breads, canned soup, canned veggies, cereal, salad dressings, sauces, and more.
The solution: Experiment with herbs, seasonings, and spices. You can also experiment with liquids like lemon juice and low-sodium broths. Most sodium comes from processed foods like packaged snacks and breads, so try to avoid those when you can. Start reading nutrition labels more and chip away at your sodium intake meal by meal.
4. Cut back on alcohol.
If you indulge in a drink from time to time, limiting your alcohol intake is the final piece of the clean-eating puzzle. When it's abused, alcohol does a lot of damage to your body while providing it with zero nutrients.
Though there are tons of health reasons for why you should avoid alcohol, my reasoning is pretty simple, it's full of empty calories and can lead to weight gain. The more you drink, the more calories and sugar you consume.
The solution: Have two to three drinks per week, maximum. It may be a drastic reduction if you're used to drinking in social situations, so I have a few extra tips for you:
Resolve not to drink on a whim and designate if there are events that you will indulge at. Also, recruit a non-drinking buddy; you'll be less tempted when you're with them. You can also meet friends at places that don't serve alcohol like a park, coffee shop, or fitness studio. Finally, don't keep booze in your house!
I hope you'll find these four strategies helpful, they'll get easier to follow over time!