Alicia Silverstone may have made her acting mark as a "clueless" valley girl, but these days she'd rather be known as someone so very clued up about diet and health.
More than 16 years ago Silverstone switched to a vegan diet, ditching animal products such as dairy and meat. Since then, she's become an outspoken advocate for what she considers a cleaner, leaner and healthier way to eat, and written a book – "The Kind Diet" – so others can follow.
The 38-year-old recently spoke with The Associated Press during Miami's vegan Seed Food and Wine Festival. She dished about her favourite indulgences, Thanksgiving menu plans, and how perceptions of vegan diets have changed.
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"When I used to say I was vegan on The Letterman Show, it was like a huge joke for them, and that's not the way it is anymore," she said. (The following interview was edited for length and clarity.)
Associated Press: What are some easy tips for someone "flirting" with cutting meat and dairy for a meal, a day, or longer?
Silverstone: The most important thing is to make the connection between wellness and food, and that's what I think is lacking the most in our culture. If you had to pick one thing, move away from the foods that are harmful, the meat, the dairy, the sugar, the processed foods. Just gently move away from those and be adding in grains. Even if you make a pot of brown rice every three days and a pot of beans or your favourite bean chili and just a little steamed kale here and there, with those things you're going to notice such a massive difference, and it's so easy to make those things. Really date vegetarian restaurants. Really start to try those places and enjoy those places so you can see the yumminess that's out there because none of this should be deprivation.
AP: What are some of your favourite indulges?
Silverstone: I was a hardcore foodie before I went plant-based and I've continued to be a hardcore foodie and maybe more of a food snob. If it isn't amazing, I'm not interested. I know that sounds really, really snobby but it's the truth because I know what good food is and how delicious it can be. Some of my favorite things that I make, there's a million, but if you're needing a meaty, salty fried taste, there's fat-fried udon noodles with sesame oil, garlic and ginger, or sweet potato hash with kale and smoked Field Roast "sausage".
AP: So what will you serve for your un-Turkey Day meal?
Silverstone: I haven't started thinking about Thanksgiving yet, but on my blog (TheKindLife.com) I post all my menus from past Thanksgivings . . . There's these leek crostini that I make that are like artichoke, pesto and leek and mushroom that are just insane.
AP: Here's the inevitable how-do-I-get-my-kids-to-eat-vegetables question.
Silverstone: Once you really start making really healthful delicious food and that's just the norm and there's no discussion about it . . . it doesn't have to be a battle if that's how you all eat. That's what's served. There isn't another option. If they're hungry for dinner and they go on strike, and believe me they will . . . they're going to get hungry and come around to the delicious food when their tummy is hungry and their tantrum is over.
AP: Are you seeing more people embracing this lifestyle? And where do you see the evolution going?
Silverstone: This choice improved my health and well-being 100 percent. There was this glow from the inside out and that's what becomes contagious and the more of us that are out there, everyday a new person is woken up to it. I've heard from so many people on my website who have lost weight . . . It's changed so many people's lives so I really do just believe in the simplicity of the story.
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Image: Alicia Silverstone from Shutterstock