It's likely you know her best as Cher, the fashion-forward, well-intentioned Beverly Hills high-schooler who created pop culture legend in 1995's Clueless. But Alicia Silverstone is much more than a pretty face and Aerosmith video vixen -- she's also a dedicated mom, author, and vegan activist.
Her cookbook The Kind Diet earned a spot on the New York Times Best Seller list, and she's the face behind the Kind Life online community. Her latest book, The Kind Mama, explores her foray into motherhood.
Silverstone is a champion of plant-based eating and compassionate living, and in support of those missions, she'll visit Miami to host Seed Food and Wine Festival's Vedge dinner with Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby Friday, October 17, at Tongue & Cheek in South Beach. (Tickets cost $100 for early birds and $125 in advance.) In anticipation of her appearance, New Times spoke with the star about what it means to live a kind life, her son Bear's love for daikon, and how to deal with differing opinions.
New Times: Can you explain the concept of living a kind life?
Alicia Silverstone: A kind life is about living your healthiest and happiest life while taking care of Mama Earth at the same time! Eating "kind" is about being really, really good to yourself via the foods you put into your body. A plant-based diet filled with delicious whole foods (Mother Nature's little miracles) will give you tons of energy, mental clarity, gorgeous skin, and a zest for life. The bonus? This kindness also extends to animals and the Earth itself; a plant-based diet is much lighter on the planet.
As a vegan mom, what's the biggest misconception you hear about children and plant-based eating?
I think it's usually about whether you and your child can get all the nutrients you need from this way of eating. The reality is, not only will you be getting all the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals you need from kind foods, but you'll most likely even get higher doses than your animal-eating friends. In my book The Kind Mama, I include a handy chart that details exactly how these kind foods provide you with all the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals you need.
How have you seen a plant-based diet affect Bear as he grows? Has he ever asked to eat dairy or meat?
My son loves to eat. When he was younger and only spoke a few words, he would say "mochi" or "daikon"! How many kids get excited about daikon?
He has never asked for meat or dairy. He is proud of being vegan. In fact, the other day I called him "my butterball" and he said, "Mommy, I don't eat butter; I eat Earth Balance. I don't want to eat cows." So many parents say, "How on Earth do you get your kids to eat greens?" And I say, "Well, it's because I eat them!" He is eating the same foods I was eating while he was in my belly, while I breastfed him, and that he ate as his first foods. He has only known the healthiest foods, which makes it normal to him. These foods keep him happier and healthier.
I think the diet's influence is pretty evident in that he is full of vibrant energy; he's so smart, creative, and insanely sweet -- like a magical little elf! It's so important to me that his body be as healthy as possible so he can enjoy every minute of his life and not be bogged down by ailments. I'm so proud to say this is how his life is now, and I've made it my job to keep it that way.
How has being a mom changed your approach to food?
Being a mom requires every morsel of your being, and you want to be well armed to enjoy it all. Now more than ever, I understand the connection between food and wellness: how what we eat has the power to make us less tired, sleep better, and balance our moods when life gets overwhelming. Having my kind-diet foundation nourishes my body and allows me to feel my best, so I can be present and available for every precious moment with my little boy. Also knowing that the food you eat during the various stages of motherhood has the power to help you create the healthiest child possible is the greatest motivator to eat kind.
How would you recommend transitioning to a plant-based diet for picky kids?
I would stop bringing the unhealthy things into the house and start making delicious plant-based recipes (there are some amazing ones in The Kind Diet and The Kind Mama). Don't talk about it; just do it! Good food is good food. If your kids reject it at first since they're jonesing for the nasty fix, they will come around when they get truly hungry. You need to break the addiction. Start moving away from dairy, sugar, and animal foods, and instead get cozy with whole grains and plant-based proteins and veggies. Let fruit be their candy! Set your child up with the best possible foundation of foods to help them be the healthiest they can be and thrive. You'd be surprised at how open kids are to trying new things if you also embrace them.
Some vegans tend to get angry at meat-eaters or those who don't share their views. What's your take on dealing with differing opinions?
I think the best way to approach this situation is with kindness. Stay open-minded and friendly. I think the research and science-based evidence points to the immense benefits of plant-based diets. The best thing you can do is lead by example: looking great and feeling great will prove to the doubters that adopting a plant-based diet can have an amazing effect on your health and well-being.
I love suggesting digging into a great book such as The China Study or The Kind Diet. And of course telling your story calmly and honestly if asked, as well as being available to help people when they are in need.
But overall for me, it's not about imposing ideas on others but instead seducing them with your well-being and glow so they want what you're having. Additionally, it's not about completely converting; if you can get the person to flirt with plant-based foods and reduce animal suffering one day or meal at a time, that's an awesome accomplishment.
What are your favorite foods? Bear's?
I love too many foods to mention. The recipes in my books are from my kitchen, and I love them all! Recipes such as sausage and sweet potato hash, fat fried noodles, and chocolate-dunked coconut delights are so fulfilling and tasty. I love making yummy soups. To balance my meals out (for optimal health), I love greens (kale, bok choy, collards), beans, sea vegetables, miso soup, and whole grains like brown rice/quinoa.
Bear loves cabbage, mochi, beans, broccoli, tofu, green beans, sushi with brown rice, and avocado (or almond butter in place of the avocado). He loves kinpira stew (a recipe in The Kind Mama; it's so good for mamas too) and of course fruit -- it's his candy.
What are you most looking forward to about Seed Wine & Food Festival?
Raising health consciousness in the city of Miami as well as attending the fabulous dinners and great events. I wish Bear were coming with me so we could enjoy gardening and doing yoga together at the festival's Sprouts Kids Day!
When you pass through South Florida, do you have any favorite places to eat?
I actually haven't had the opportunity to explore South Florida's restaurants. For this reason I am excited to participate in Seed Food & Wine Festival and dive into Miami's plant-based food culture!
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.