Red Table Talk (RTT) is a popular Facebook Watch series featuring Jada Pinkett Smith, her mother and daughter, and additional guests around a shiny, round red table. Conversation driven, each episode of the series focuses on different topics, from motherhood to interracial marriage. On last Monday’s episode, Jada dramatically told viewers in a voiceover that her husband, actor Will Smith, called an “emergency Red Table” to have a mandatory meeting with his family—something he’d never done before. We see Will yell up the spiral staircase in his home: “Jaden!” “Trey!” “Wil-low!” What is it, Will? I mean, dad? Suddenly, I’m a nervous teenager myself.
It turns out, the emergency RTT was really just an excuse to get the family together to talk about their health. Sitting around the eponymous table, Will talked at length about his lifelong constipation and, um, intestinal gaseousness. Like really at length. I now know more about Will Smith’s digestive issues than I ever thought I would. His daughter, Willow, offered that she is no longer constipated but she shares the gassiness issues of her father (Did I really just write that sentence?). Jada said she’s always tired. An informal RTT survey revealed that they all gigglingly approve of recreational marijuana and sex, so there’s that. According to the headlines, though, the focus of this impromptu Smith family assembly was 21-year-old Jaden—who recently got much deserved positive attention for I Love You Restaurant, his pop-up food truck that offered free vegan meals to homeless people in Los Angeles this July. His parents weren’t there to talk about his philanthropic efforts, though, or even his set at Coachella. Instead, Will and Jada wanted to rehash for the RTT cameras “a bit of an intervention” they’d had with Jaden at some point in the recent past (we’re not sure when … it’s fuzzy) about their concerns with his health. Jaden’s a vegan now, Jada said, and not too long ago, they were concerned because he was “wasting away, drained, depleted, not getting enough nutrients,” and he had dark circles under his eyes. Also: gray skin.
Moments before this aspect of the conversation, though, Will identified himself as a food grazer. In contrast, Jada said she and Jaden would rather not eat because it’s “uncomfortable.” Uncomfortable? Jaden said he sometimes doesn’t eat because his stomach hurts. Why eating is uncomfortable is kind of vaguely attributed to a sensitive stomach, and the cause of Jaden’s intestinal pain that leaves him food-avoidant is not really addressed. After the completely anti-climactic non-intervention, Jaden clarifies that he has been vegetarian, not vegan, for the past year, presumably when this concern for his well-being was reaching critical mass. Further, when he was growing more gaunt, he was only eating two meals a day, and sometimes just one. Ding, ding, ding! There is a lot to unpack here and I am no nutrition expert, but I think we have found our answer as to Jaden’s failure to thrive as a non-vegan here.
Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD, and author of Plant-Based Sports Nutrition, shared his thoughts with VegNews: “Someone Jaden’s age and height who is moderately active needs an estimated 2,200 to 2,600 calories and 52 to 65 grams of protein a day, according to the Dietary Reference Intakes from the Institute of Medicine, which is easy to get on a vegan diet. Beans and vegan meats can provide high-quality protein,” Ruscigno said. Whether Jaden Smith was a vegan, a vegetarian, or an omnivore, a failure to eat sufficient calories over time is going to result in poor nutrition and weight loss. There was a need to see a dietitian and perhaps a gastro-intestinal specialist, not have a Red Table non-intervention. As is often the case when someone claims to have not thrived as a vegan, scratching just below the surface, we see that there was much more to the story.
Feed yourself right
What would Ruscigno advise Jaden Smith if he were a client? “I’d advise him to eat regularly scheduled meals and to snack on calorie-dense foods like trail mix, hummus, chocolate, dried fruit, and smoothies,” he said. “For younger vegans or those with a smaller stomach, care needs to be taken to not fill up on high volume, low-calorie plant foods like leafy greens and other vegetables and brown rice. These foods should be accompanied by nutrient-rich, calorie-dense foods like nuts, nut butters, seeds, and sauces made from them.” Dramatics aside, Jaden’s alleged veganism did not need to be exploited for a topic. He wasn’t vegan, and even if he were, the simple fact is by his own admission, he likely wasn’t consuming enough food, which would cause anyone to be depleted. This does not detract from his great work with I Love You Restaurant but is just a reminder to not accept clickbait at face value.
Marla Rose is co-founding partner of VeganStreet.com.
Photo credit: Red Table Talk/Facebook