Actress Andie MacDowell believes in Southern values, healthy living, and giving her kids Justin, 23, Rainey, 21, and Sarah Margaret, 15, plenty of room to grow.

You were born in South Carolina and now live—and have raised your kids—in Asheville, North Carolina. After years of modeling, and acting in movies like Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral, why didn't you decide to call Hollywood home?

I have deep family ties to the Carolinas and wanted my kids to have an appreciation for them too. There's something very grounded about Asheville. I'm not treated like a star, and I think that's much better for my kids.

What Southern principles have you tried to instill in them?

Manners, manners, manners! I've taught them to say, "Yes, ma'am" and "No, sir." The old-fashioned formality around here is beautiful. They also respect their elders and know how to set a table properly. It's the little things.

You're 52 and still look great! I assume you don't often splurge on traditional Southern food?

I allow myself most things in moderation, but I mostly follow a raw food diet. I also eat a ton of vegetables, either from my garden or organic markets. Both my girls are vegetarians too, so I make a lot of salads. But every once in a while I indulge in cheese grits, tomato pie and, of course, chocolate!

Your daughter Rainey is in New York studying acting, and Justin is getting his business degree in Montana. How do you stay in touch?

We talk two to three times a week and text each other in between. If I'm having a moment where I miss them so much it hurts, I leave a message begging them to call me back. Luckily, they always do!

How do you relax when you all get together?

In the summer we head to one of the beaches in the Carolinas, and over Christmas break we go cross-country skiing in Montana. There's no TV at our house there, so we can truly connect. We spend a lot of time laughing and playing Monopoly and Gestures. All the kids look forward to that time—particularly Sarah Margaret, because she likes that her two older siblings are stuck with her there, rather than being away at school.

She'll be leaving the house herself in a few years! How do you feel about having an empty nest?

It's exciting and scary at the same time. For the past 23 years my life has revolved around my kids—taking them to dance recitals and basketball practice, helping them with homework. To think I'll have all that time to myself is a bit mind-blowing.

What will you do with it?

I've always wanted to go to India, so maybe a yoga trip. I believe in mind, body, and spirit.

Is yoga one of your secrets to looking and feeling so young?

Absolutely—that and drinking a lot of water, getting enough sleep, and just staying active. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I ate well and exercised because I wanted to look hot. At 52, that just sounds silly. Now I do it to be strong.

Fast Facts

How you know her: In addition to her movies, she's been a spokesperson for L'Oreal for more than 20 years.

Best advice I ever gave my kids: "Stay true to yourself. There's no need to try to be like everyone else."

My goal as a parent: "To raise happy, independent children. I think I've done well!"

What's on TV at my house: "Sarah Margaret still likes Hannah Montana, but one of her all-time favorites is The Golden Girls."

A cause that's important to me: "I am proud to support Enough, the project to end genocide and crimes against humanity."

My idea of "me time": "I recently hiked four peaks over 6,000 feet, and I loved every minute of it."

Originally published in the May 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.