RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Years ago, actress Alicia Silverstone's vegetarian diet included plenty of french fries, and even the occasional forkful of chicken swiped from a buddy's plate. She loved animals and knew she really didn't want to eat them, but vegan power foods like beans and seaweed were not on the menu just yet. But the immediate results she felt once ditching meat and dairy—more energy, dropped pounds, silkier hair, stronger nails—were undeniable. She wanted to learn more. And that years-long journey of cutting animal products from her diet and finding balance and nutrition in plant-based foods resulted in the The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet (Rodale, 2009), an easy guide that helps people get their feet wet—or jump wholeheartedly—into vegan living. "When first going on an animal-free diet, I didn't really consider health; it was an ethical choice," Silverstone told Rodale.com at Natural Products Expo East in Boston last week. "I had so much energy, a lightness. When walking, I felt like I could hold my body up with my heart open. I felt lighter in my shoes."
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Then she started paying attention to more balanced vegan eating, including eating almonds and collard greens for potent calcium, and adding whole grains like brown rice to the regimen. As she ate this way, she says, her waist melted away. "People always think of aging as this slow deterioration, and in some ways it can be. Our bodies are slowly changing," she says. "But I feel stronger and healthier and younger now than I did at 19 years old. Of course, I can see lines that I couldn't see when I was 19, but I am grateful for them."
Maybe it's Silverstone's amazing results, the cruelty-free aspect, or the fact that this way of eating is easier on the planet. Whatever the motive, Silverstone's comrades in Hollywood are biting into this way of life, too.
Leah Michele of Glee wrote Silverstone, thanking her for her inspirational book.
Earlier in the year, Silverstone joined Laura Linney on Broadway in "Time Stands Still." During the first rehearsal, Linney told Silverstone that The Kind Diet blew her mind. Silverstone fed Linney throughout the production run, watching her hair and skin soften. Linney gave the book to the chef cooking on set for The Big C, Linney's Showtime hit, asking him to cook from it. The whole crew enjoys it. Linney only knew about the book, though, because Big Love's Jeanne Tripplehorn turned her on to it. You get the picture. This book gets around.
THE DETAILS: Silverstone recognizes that your typical beef and beer lover isn't going to turn vegan overnight. So in The Kind Diet, she develops stages, encouraging flexibility.
"Flirts" are people who want to get their feet wet with moves toward an animal-free diet, cutting down (but not necessarily out) meat and dairy intake. When you go out to eat, try ordering vegetarian options to get a feel for a world without meat. Processed foods? They are still OK in this stage. Silverstone says she doesn't worry too much about people getting hooked on french fries and processed vegan food, but instead views them as transitional foods.
"Vegan" is the second stage of The Kind Diet, meaning all animal products are cut out, but people in this stage can still enjoy vegan convenience foods. (Silverstone likes Field Roast Grain Meats. The company uses traditional sausage-making techniques, but instead of stuffing with meat, it uses vegetables, fruits, and nuts.) When hosting a barbeque, Silverstone also cooks up Gardein veggie wings and veggie "chicken" fingers and "beef" tips. "There's room to play so you're not rigid," she says.
A "Superhero" means you're living by the principals of macrobiotics, in Silverstone's words "taking principles from the diets of traditional cultures throughout the world—essentially fresh whole foods, grown locally and in season." Processed vegan foods don't have much of a place in this category, although Silverstone still uses them on special occasions or to please meat-eating uncles.
In The Kind Diet, whole grains are emphasized even more, while processed foods, even vegan ones, are further reduced. (Soy milk is not an everyday thing, for example.) Silverstone calls for cutting down on veggies in the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, because they have a high alkaloid content that causes inflammation, and recommends eating more "magic" foods like miso soup (not the kind in restaurants or in powder form; they could contain harmful MSG) and sea vegetables.
WHAT IT MEANS: Since incorporating The Kind Diet principles into her way of everyday life, Silverstone has not only lost weight, but has also forfeited the need for allergy shots, something she attributes to kicking the dairy habit. Her body talks, and she listens. "Most of our bodies are so gunked up with junk, there are so many toxins and fat slamming us inside, so it's very hard to feel our truth," she says. "To really walk and know what the next right move is because your body is just in pure survival mode.
"When you start de-sludging, you feel your heart. Your body tells you everything. It's sending you messages all day, but if you're all junked up you can't hear it, feel it, and your intuitions are off," she adds.
But aside from "de-sludging" and feeling all-around better, she says her path to a balanced vegan life has actually helped bring out her inner woman. "As a woman, depending on your family and upbringing, there's a lot of just doing what you're told and not making a lot of waves, and sometimes not a lot of self-worth. It's hard to stand up for something and have a voice," she says. "Once you do, you can't stop us. Women are so powerful. My huge breakthrough to my women-ness was my journey."
Here's how to incorporate aspects of The Kind Diet into your life:
• Ease in. So you love your burgers and wings but maybe want to feel a little better? Here's how to get your toes wet. Try a few simple swaps, such as using vegenaise instead of mayonnaise or Light Life Smokey Tempeh Strips & Smart Bacon instead of the real pig option. Incorporate organic and Non-GMO Project–certified Earth Balance "buttery" spread and soy milk into your diet. Try this for a month and see how you feel without meat or dairy. If you're interested in getting started, even just as a Flirt, here are 4 Free Kind Diet Recipes to get you started.
• Choose beans over beef. Silverstone's beans versus steak rundown in her book shows that beans boast 5 percent more calories from protein compared to steak, while also possessing cholesterol-lowing properties. Aside from that, it's cheaper to eat this way! Four servings of beans cost about $3, while one serving of steak runs $5 to $10 a pound! Eating an animal-free diet is also easier on the planet because you're eating lower on the food chain, which means less water and energy are used.
• Cook well, live well. Many people hear the word vegan and assume there's not way to get enough calcium without eating/drinking dairy. But that simply isn't true. In fact, things like collard greens, almonds, and sesame seeds boast much higher levels of calcium than milk. Scour the Rodale Recipes Finder to find plenty of non-dairy, calcium-packed recipes.
• Try Silverstone's favorite skin-care products. Because she wanted to expand The Kind Diet to include other aspects of healthy, cruelty-free living, Silverstone developed the TheKindLife.com, where she is constantly testing out and recommending new products. (There are lots of great recipes on the site, too, as well as support for those starting an animal-free diet.) At Expo East, she praised the following skin-care companies:
Published on: October 20, 2010