Tracee Ellis Ross on Finding Her Strength: ‘I Actively Love Myself By Cooking’

03/17/2016 at 11:07 AM ET

Kate T. Parker on behalf of Special K

Tracee Ellis Ross loves to cook, but not only because she loves to eat (“anything salty and lemony”).

Despite her hectic schedule filming Black-ish, Ross makes sure to find the time to practice self-care, which, for her, is preparing food. “I love cooking for my family — my siblings, my mom,” she tells PEOPLE. “I love cooking for myself, too. One of the ways that I actively love myself is by cooking.”

RELATED: Tracee Ellis Ross’s Food Diary: What I Eat in a Day

Ross, who works out about three or four times a week, loves to bake chicken and broil just about anything.

“I love grilling salmon, steak, all those things. I’m a big salad maker. I love crushing Brazilian nuts and putting them over everything — quinoa dishes. Putting it over a salad instead of putting meat on it,” says Ross, who favors “whole foods” over else.

Kate T. Parker on behalf of Special K

“I have this philosophy on eating that it not only has to taste good in my mouth, but also feel good in my body,” she says. “So a lot of things that taste good in my mouth don’t feel good in my body.”

RELATED: Singer Leona Lewis’ Food Diary: What I Eat in a Day

The actress recently gave up sugar and dairy, which she says has changed her life. (Fortunately, it wasn’t a huge loss — she says she’s “not really a sweets girl.”)

Kate T. Parker on behalf of Special K

Ross partnered with Special K for their Nourish What’s Next campaign, for which photographer Kate Parker shot Ross doing yoga, laughing, dancing and being her goofy self.

RELATED: Mel B’s Food Diary: What I Eat in a Day

Kate T. Parker on behalf of Special K

“I feel strongest when I’m practicing self-acceptance. Allowing myself to be myself makes me feel really powerful,” she says. “I think it requires a sense of community. You have to unplug from what our culture and our world tells us is strong, is pretty, is better. It opens up the door for some fun, because otherwise it all becomes so serious. Strong can be serious, but there’s also some play in just allowing.”

RELATED: Why Khloé Kardashian Didn’t Want to Believe Cutting Out Dairy Would Help Her Lose Weight

Another important part of simply allowing? Allowing herself to eat french fries, potato chips and olives. “I’m all about savory,” she says.

—Maria Yagoda, @mariayagoda

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