The E! star's formula for keeping calm is simple: clean food, laughing with friends, and a stress-crushing daily workout.
"Come here—you have got to smell this!" says Maria Menounos, practically bouncing over to a tall wall of jasmine that lines the tennis court next to her Encino, Calif. home. "Isn't it amazing? I always make people smell this."
It is amazing—as is the rest of the property, which includes a festive red front door, orange and lemon trees ("Pick an orange on your way out!"), and an outdoor bar featuring light beer on tap.
It's the perfect home for entertaining, which makes sense, since Maria has a knack for making people feel comfortable, both in real life—hosting dinner parties for such high-profile friends as Julianne Hough and Bobby Flay—and on television, where she holds it down as the co-anchor and managing editor of E! News.
Maria (often joined in the kitchen by her mother, Litsa) loves to cook, and her prowess shows in her latest book, The EveryGirl's Guide to Cooking ($22, amazon.com). The book is packed with 150 easy-to-prepare recipes. And the 38-year-old walks the walk: Opening her impressively organized fridge, she shows me stacks of to-go containers of prepared foods, from breakfast eggs to salmon. It looks like a refrigerated section at Whole Foods. "It's premade stuff I can grab and go," she says. "I can eat it in the car!"
Maria's wearing: Natalie Martin April maxi dress ($300, barneys.com).
Your first two EveryGirl books—the Guide to Life and the Guide to Diet and Fitness—were New York Times best sellers. Why do a third one now?
People are always asking me, 'What do you eat?' So I decided to put it in one book. It's actually helped me more than anybody else, probably because now I have it all in one place.
So you use your own book?
Oh, totally. It's not like I remember this stuff off the top of my head. I don't even remember what I did last night!
What's the number one thing your mom has taught you?
Always cook more. Never be left with not enough. We overdo it. When you cook really good food, most people are going to eat more, so it's good to have a little extra. Also, keep it simple.
Clearly this is a great party house. What was your last memorable bash?
We had a fun party with Julianne Hough and everyone we went to Tony Robbins with, and we were dancing up a storm all over this place. It was a madhouse. We have an outdoor BBQ and bar, so at my book party, people would get their drinks over there, and it was a nice flow.
What's a typical day of meals for you?
This morning, I had yogurt with quinoa for breakfast, or I'll do something in the egg world, like an omelet or hard-boiled eggs with a little vinegar, olive oil, oregano, and feta. I keep yogurt parfait, spinach, salmon, salads, and almond butter to grab and go.
Maria's wearing: LoveShackFancy top ($265, loveshackfancy.com).
You have talked candidly in the past about losing 40 pounds years ago. Did you ever try fad diets?
Yeah, the coffee diet, the grapefruit diet, all of them. Nothing lasted more than a day.
If you have a cheat day, what's your big indulgence?
I don't look at them as cheat days. The other night, the hormones had gotten to me, and I was like, 'I want to go get an cream.' I don't feel guilty about it.
Speaking of hormones, you've opened up about going through IVF to hopefully have a baby someday.
I wish I was able to finish it when I talked about it back then, because my life would be so much easier now. But when I did it the first time, my body was so suppressed from the birth control pill they give you that nothing was happening halfway through the injections. There were no follicles. So we decided to stop seven days in, and my doctor ran a test and said to me, 'I have really bad news: You're not able to have kids.' I was like, 'What?!' I didn't really pay attention to it at first. But the next day, I started thinking about it, and I got really sad. But I thought, 'This isn't my body. What is happening here?' So I went and did acupuncture for a few months, and I started feeling stuff [points to her pelvic area], and it was weird. So I called up the doctor and said, 'Can I come in?' I went in, and of course, there were tons of follicles, and everything was fine. Previously my body had been too suppressed; at that time, I was going through a lot, and I could not deal with going through IVF, and it just wasn't going to work.
Where are you in the process now?
Last November, I had three embryos made, and we put them in the freezer. Then we did inseminations—IUI—because I was like, 'Listen, I think we could probably have done this naturally, but what was happening before is that the ovulation kits weren't working for me.' Last month, I did another egg retrieval, and I got two eggs—so we tested all five embryos. Afterward, I had the craziest conversation with my doctor I ever thought I'd have in my life. She said, 'OK, so here's the news: We tested the five embryos. Two were bad quality, one was fair quality, and two were good quality.' She told me the sex of these children, so now I'm realizing I have kids in a freezer. It makes it real when you know the sex. I was like, 'What is happening?!' So I called my mom and said, 'Mom, you're a grandma! Here's what we've got in the freezer—don't tell anybody. Isn't this weird?' It was the strangest call ever. Then I realized I have to do another IVF round because if I want two kids, the two good-quality ones could only end up yielding one baby, and I keep hearing stories about all these women who keep implanting embryos and they don't take. I was so upset about the idea of another round, because it's exhausting, physically and mentally.
Maria's wearing: Maria Lucia Hohan dress
Are you working out regularly these days?
I go through ebbs and flows. I began working out regularly before this cover, but before that I hadn't worked out since October, when I was on a SoulCycle kick. I love SoulCycle.
What else have you done to relieve stress?
I started working out three weeks ago, and it's helped having that 45 minutes to myself every day, because I've been such a machine. So, thank you, Health magazine, for putting me on the cover, because then I had to actually get my butt in gear. And I will have babies because of you guys, I swear to God! [Laughs]
Do you ever find yourself getting jealous or angry when you're around pregnant women or moms with babies?
No, because I was never really focused on kids. I used to just see dogs. I never saw humans, but now I see kids everywhere, and I get so excited. I'm like, 'Oh my God, I looove Kelly Clarkson's daughter, River Rose. I just wanna squeeze her!' I'm so giddy about them.
Sounds like your doctor is amazing.
She's awesome, and so are my bosses at E!. They've taken such good care of me. After my last egg retrieval, I had [my fiancé] Keven film me because I wanted to see what I was like on anesthesia, and it was hilarious. I was like, 'So we're gonna do what now? Did everyone look at my vagina? We're inseminating?' [Laughs] It was really funny.
You and Keven got engaged on the Howard Stern Show. Were you as surprised as you seemed?
Yes! It was such a special moment. It's not easy to pull anything on me. I had no clue. And I had snooped on his phone, like, a week before; luckily I didn't see anything or I would have hung myself after that.
Your reaction to the proposal was priceless.
It was funny to watch that back. I thought it was a joke. The show is so special for us because when Keven and I got together, we were on a mattress in a basement, listening to the show, and then when I made it on Stern the first time, I remember calling from the dressing room being like, 'Oh my God! You said this was gonna happen, and it did! This is insane!'
You've said that when you and Keven first met, you knew right away that he was the One. How could you tell he was your soul mate?
I was obviously attracted to him and all that, but I remember talking to him and him telling me his dad had passed of cancer, and that he had taken massage classes so he could learn to massage his dad, and I was like, 'Oh my God, he's a caretaker—done.' This person would be with me through everything. I was like, 'You don't know yet, but you're the One. I'm gonna make you fall in love with me, and that's it. I might look like a chubby 19-year-old who doesn't know any better right now, but this is gonna happen.'
Do you have any idea yet what type of wedding you two will have?
It'll be outside, for sure. I love being outdoors, going on hikes or just walking through the neighborhood. But we're trying to figure out the kid thing first because that's the most time-pressing—and the most important.
Hey Maria! We asked, she answered:
Weirdest things I've ever eaten are... scorpion, pig's feet, red-ant eggs, ostrich eggs.
In the movie of my life, I would be played by... Julia Roberts. Oh my God, she'd be so fun!
I've met everybody, but I actually get starstruck by... pro wrestlers. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin? I love him.
My go-to jeans are... JBrand, Frame, DL1961.
Favorite place on earth... Greece. But when I think about an escape, I dream of being back in Bora-Bora. It was the most amazing trip of my life—I want to go back so bad!
In the top photo, Maria is wearing a Maria Lucia Hohan bodysuit and skirt. Photography by James White. Styling by Karen Shapiro. Hair by Dimitris Giannetos at Opus Beauty using Oribe hair care. Makeup by Dimitris Giannetos at Opus Beauty using Diorshow. Manicure by Christina Aviles at Opus Beauty using Dior Vernis.