Kristen Bell: Living the Healthy Life

The actor talks about how she keeps motherhood, health, and life in check.

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 10, 2014
8 min read

Kristen Bell just killed her vegetable garden.

It's not what you think.

Showtime's House of Lies star and her husband, actor Dax Shepard, haven't suddenly decided to convert from their healthy vegetarian lifestyle to well-done steaks and French fries.

In fact, the demise of Bell's beloved veggie patch is just one more sign that she and Shepard walk the walk when it comes to both healthy living and the environment.

''It's been 95 in L.A. for two weeks, and we're currently getting AstroTurf in our front yard, trying to make a responsible decision and be more water-conscious," she explains. ''But over the course of putting in the turf, we accidentally turned off the sprinklers to the garden, too, and it just got torched."

After the turf is in, though, Bell is excited to replant her garden with ''anything that'll grow." Her go-to vegetables include green beans, kale, and a bumper crop of tomatoes.

Bell and Shepard went vegan for about a year and a half, but they switched back to regular vegetarianism when Bell got pregnant with daughter Lincoln, who'll be 2 in March and who's inherited her parents' love for the fresh and homemade.

''She has a very adventurous palate," Bell says. ''She loves olive tapenade! I don't really limit her diet. Well, I limit it to healthy things -- no sugar and not a lot of processed foods -- but she doesn't eat just vegetarian. She'll have chicken and fish."

Lincoln will soon have to share her olive tapenade with a little sibling -- Bell and Shepard welcomed their second child in December.

''That pregnancy felt exactly the same," she says as Lincoln plays on her lap. (''We're transitioning down to one nap, and she's doing so good staying up until noon!" Bell coos to her daughter.) ''I know a lot of women say that their pregnancies are very, very different, but I've experienced identical symptoms -- or the lack of them." She's lucked out twice: With the exception of some morning sickness during her first trimester, Bell's only pregnancy ''symptom" was ''my ever-changing waistline!"

The adventurous, active Bell, who shot to fame with her role as a teen detective in the cult favorite TV series Veronica Mars -- a show so popular that Bell and producer Rob Thomas were able to crowdfund a 2014 movie sequel on Kickstarter -- says she didn't change her exercise routine much during this pregnancy.

''I rode my bike a lot, which keeps a lot of pressure off having to worry about a workout," she says. ''I started really getting into bike riding about two years ago, and I challenge anyone to ride their bike somewhere and not enjoy it. When I did Hair at the Hollywood Bowl this summer, I rode my bike to rehearsal every day."

As health-conscious about their daughter's screen time as they are about her diet, Bell and Shepard haven't yet allowed Lincoln to see her mom's star turn as Princess Anna in Frozen. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no video time for kids under 2.) She'll see it eventually, of course -- and maybe she'll also be able to watch her mom on Broadway. Rumors of a Frozen stage version have been confirmed by producers, and Bell says she'd be thrilled to do it. ''I think we all would, the whole cast," she says.

Just what is it about Frozen that made it the Disney princess movie that smashed all Disney princess movie records? ''I have no idea!" Bell admits. ''There's no way to explain why something is a box office success. But I think it was emotionally resonant for people because there were so many themes that were born out of reality. It wasn't a girl finding a prince -- that's a fantasy story -- or a girl inheriting a kingdom, which is also a fantasy story. The plot lines to Frozen are sibling rivalry, being afraid of what makes you different, meeting someone and deciding to marry them way too soon before getting to know them -- they're all themes in real human life. And the ultimate lesson is that you will always reap good rewards from selflessness."

Bell, a Neutrogena Naturals brand ambassador, expects to keep her second child out of the Hollywood limelight just as she's done with Lincoln, who's been no Suri Cruise or Zahara Jolie-Pitt. Google ''Kristen Bell daughter" and you'll be able to count on one hand the number of photographs of the little girl you find (mostly showing her nestled securely in a wrap against Bell's chest).

And if you've flipped through People, Us Weekly, or most other celebrity magazines lately, you may have noticed you're not seeing all those ''paparazzi stalker" shots of celebrity kids leaving doctor's appointments or going to school. Bell and Shepard (along with other vocal celebrity parents like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner) can take at least partial credit for that. Their ''No Kids Policy" got a bunch of stars -- like Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lawrence -- to agree to turn down interviews with magazines and TV shows that use paparazzi shots of kids.

It sounds like a rarefied problem to have, but for Bell, it was all about her daughter's safety. ''I know of hundreds of great causes in the world off the top of my head, but if something was going to affect my daughter, I needed to take action," she says. ''I made the choice to have this career, but nobody asked her. Part of my skill set is rallying people, so I thought, why don't I just talk about this? And at the same time there was this wonderful blossoming of mommy bloggers out there, women who had writing talent and covered passionate parenting issues, and their attention really helped make this happen."

As far as the ''hundreds of great causes" out there, Bell's got skin in the game for more than a few, including animal charities and the American Red Cross. She even auctioned off a date last year to raise money for Invisible Children, which works to bring abducted ''child soldiers" in Central Africa home to their families.

But she's really put her star power behind This Bar Saves Lives, a line of gluten-free, non-GMO (genetically modified organism) snack bars found at Whole Foods and other natural food stores, as well as online. For every bar purchased, the company donates a peanut-and-milk-powder supplement package called Plumpy'Nut to the global food charity Save the Children. The ''buy one, give one" approach follows the TOMS model -- only with food instead of shoes.

''It was the brainchild of a couple of friends of mine [including Ryan Devlin, her former co-star on Veronica Mars] who, rightfully so, saw a hole in the market," says Bell, who serves on the company's board and is its brand ambassador. ''Plumpy'Nut treats acute malnutrition and can take a baby from skeletal to plump and beautiful in a couple of months." She's not exaggerating. Go to, click on ''our cause," and watch the ABC ''before and after" video. Bring Kleenex.

In just over a year, This Bar Saves Lives has donated more than 315,000 packets of Plumpy'Nut and its companion product, NutriButter, designed to prevent stunting in undernourished kids under age 2. ''The conscious consumer is the way of the future," Bell says. ''People are looking at where their food and other products come from, the ethics of the company. If you give people the choice to have a bar that's delicious, or one that's delicious and also feeds a child, they'll feed a child every time. It really makes you feel good."

According to Save the Children, which This Bar Saves Lives works with to distribute Plumpy'Nut, about one in four children younger than age 5 worldwide suffers from chronic malnutrition. The country with the worst food crisis right now is South Sudan, says Save the Children's president and CEO, Carolyn Miles. Other hunger hot zones include the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya), the Central African Republic, coastal West Africa (particularly with the Ebola crisis), and Central America, where the coffee rust disease and the El Niño weather pattern deplete crops.

''Healthy foods fuel the growth of a child's brain and body in their early years. Without them, children suffer lifelong consequences: Their growth is stunted, they are more susceptible to illness, they struggle to keep up and pay attention in school," Miles says. ''When we reach children early on with the right nutritious foods, we can change their future."

Between film and TV roles, social activism and parenting, Bell still finds time to be a fan as well as a star. She and Shepard binge-watch new TV shows -- the latest is Fargo -- and she's addicted to HBO's Game of Thrones. ''I am so, so, so into it and I get so excited. The next season doesn't start until 2015, so I'm here just changing diapers and trying not to think about what's going on in Castle Black," she says. ''I think it's the best cinematography ever captured, and the visual scope is just brilliant."

Although the former high school ski-team competitor has given up downhill skiing after having a child, she has no plans to abandon the other adrenaline-fueled adventures she loves, like trekking with gorillas in Rwanda.

''We hiked to the Virunga forest where all the silverbacks live," she remembers breathlessly. ''One of the mothers had 6-month-old twin babies, and it was mesmerizing to watch them and how much like us they are. They look at us, confused and interested, and we look back at them with the same emotions."

Bell practically radiates good health. How does she do it? Here are some of the health choices she credits with giving her that magic glow.

Avoid sugar. ''I love dessert. I tried no sugar -- I still ate fruit -- for 30 days as a test, and I have never felt better," she says. ''It's very hard with pregnancy cravings, so I occasionally gave in and had something sweet and I always felt awful. I'm jittery, my skin itches, and I cannot get a good night's sleep."

Tote healthy snacks. ''I almost always have an apple in my purse. It's good for you, and the baby can gnaw on it! I also really love This Bar Saves Lives in all three flavors."

Make it fresh. Bell and her husband make good use of the tomatoes from their garden. ''Dax makes a really good pasta carbonara -- only without the ham. He cracks an egg and whips it up with olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and a bunch of cherry tomatoes. And we make a lot of our own bruschetta."

Everything in moderation. ''I had pizza last night! My husband had a party with his buddies and it was delicious. I think you should strive to do good for your body, but I don't think that you should feel deprived or like you're sacrificing or living in pain."

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