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Personal Best: Q&A With Katharine McPhee

The "Smash" star discusses health, stress, and her work on eradicating malaria.
By Stephanie Stephens
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

The second season of NBC's musical drama Smash has fresh stars and characters, new music, and surprising plot lines. Look for singer, songwriter, and actress Katharine McPhee, 28, to stay the musical and dramatic course of her Midwestern character, Karen Cartwright. McPhee herself hails originally from Los Angeles. Since finishing American Idol's 2006 season as runner-up, she's recorded three albums, acted in Shark Night 3D and The House Bunny, and appeared on TV's CSI: NY, Community, and Family Guy. In between, she founded a charitable foundation, McPhee Outreach, which supports the fight against malaria in Africa as well as childhood hunger and pediatric cancer in the U.S.

When you're overworked and stressed out, how do you reset and unwind? 

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By Jessie Knadler You didn't see it coming. You didn't even feel it land — until a split second later when you suddenly realize you've had the wind knocked out of you. What just hit you? Someone's nasty comment, and it's cut you to the core. Sometimes a faultfinder disguises her disapproval as a quasi-compliment: "I would have never had the courage to talk to my boss the way you did." Other times, a jab takes the form of a cautionary tale: "You're going on a cruise? I still get nightmares...

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"I have a new apartment downtown in New York City with a big bathtub. It's nice to really relax after a long week -- to chill out and just soak."

What's your go-to healthy snack and dinner?

"I love an apple and peanut butter with granola, or a banana and almond butter -- maybe a handful of almonds to pop in my mouth. Cookie Dough Balance Bars are quick when I'm on the go.

"For dinner, it's a fresh piece of fish, steamed, grilled, or sautéed. I used to be the pickiest eater, but now I can't get enough of veggies like broccoli. I eat kale salads and any kind of leafy green -- I fill up on that."

What three ingredients are always in your refrigerator and/or pantry?

"Lemons: My mother-in-law is a cancer survivor and a fan of the antioxidant properties of lemons. She taught me to freeze lemons and grate the zest over all kinds of foods like salads and pasta.  Eggs: In a bind you can always make scrambled eggs and toast -- even for dinner. Olive oil."

What does a perfect day look like for you, when you have no place to be and no calls to return? How do you define "me-time"?

"An ideal day is toast and coffee first, hanging out for a while, then walking in Manhattan's West Village -- shopping and just blending in with people -- then hopping in a cab to go uptown to the Plaza Hotel's Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa. The treatments are amazing, and I have fruit, cheese, and wine. Another ideal day: See a movie and eat a bucket of popcorn!"

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