Life StoryFeb/Mar 2014 Issue

Andie MacDowell Q&A: Gluten-Free Food, Chocolate and her "Greatest Chill Pill"

Andie MacDowell has graced the covers of countless fashion magazines, appeared in ad campaigns from Calvin Klein to Yves Saint Laurent and is currently the spokesperson for L’Oreal. She is also an accomplished actress, having received Golden Globe nominations for leading roles in Green Card, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.

Born Rosalie Anderson MacDowell in Gaffney, South Carolina, MacDowell still speaks with a soft Southern lilt. The mother of three grown children, she divides her time between Vancouver where she’s filming Hallmark Channel’s Cedar Cove and her beachside home in Los Angeles.

With movie star looks and long Botticelli hair, the 55-year-old actress still turns heads wherever she goes. Recently, she sat down with Living Without to talk about her healthy lifestyle and her gluten sensitivity.

Q: You divide your time between Canada and the United States and have long work days. How do you deal with all this?

A: Exercise is the best de-stresser for me. I’m fortunate because I actually enjoy it. I hike, walk in the park, ride my bike, work out, do yoga. I also enjoy meditation. Cooking helps me de-stress, too. With all the preparation and process, you have to be conscious when you’re cooking.

Q: Do you avoid any foods?

A: I have a gluten problem. I get bloating and indigestion from eating gluten. If we go to a really great restaurant and they plop down the best bread you’ve ever tasted and I eat it, my stomach will blow up like a balloon.

Q: Have you always had this problem?

A: I’ve had it forever but just ignored it. It’s gotten worse over the years. I never knew what the problem was.

Q: When did it dawn on you that gluten was the culprit?

A: I’ve known it for about a year. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t eat it anymore.

Q: Did you consult with a doctor?

A: I figured it out myself. And at first, I was just eating it anyway, regardless. I was working on this project and was just so uncomfortable. Literally, I was physically uncomfortable at work. So I finally said, that’s it. I just can’t feel like this anymore. I quit eating gluten breads and those problems have disappeared. I cannot eat anything that contains wheat—and also no oats. I just cannot eat those foods any more. It’s good that I found this out.

Q: So what’re the main foods in your diet now?

A: We eat a lot of nuts and seeds at home. We eat a lot of fruit, too. Plain Greek yogurt. Loads of vegetables. Right now, I’m on this crazy kick of eating lots of fresh veggies.

Q: What does a normal dinner look like for you?

A: What I do—and this takes all of ten minutes because I have no time in my life—is I cut up a variety of vegetables and potatoes and steam it all very quickly. Then I toss it with a salad dressing with jalapenos because I like spicy foods. And I add specialty salts, called ghost pepper salt–it’s spicy. That’s a pretty usual dinner for me and it’s very filling.

Q: What about beverages?

A: I just love drinking tea. I drink chamomile right before I fly. For me, it’s the greatest chill pill. It also helps me sleep at night. Sleepytime tea helps me decompress later in the day around dinnertime. In the morning, I love a great chai, green or black tea. But I try not to have any caffeine past 2 or 3 in the afternoon because it interferes with my sleep.

Q: Any guilty food pleasures?

A: Definitely chocolate—but I don’t eat loads of it. Honestly, I don’t feel that bad about chocolate because there are so many studies now that say it’s good for you. Then there’s this ice cream that my kids and I found that’s great. It’s made with coconut milk and sweetened with agave. So Delicious is the kind I have in my freezer right now.

Q: You have such a positive attitude about taking care of yourself.

A: Well, my mother died of heart disease at a younger age. That gives you perspective. In the end, however, age is just a number. I want to continue to hike, do yoga, perform handstands or whatever [laughs]….I want to be hiking when I’m 83. Let’s just put it that way.

Celebrity correspondent Bonnie Siegler lives in California.

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