Aamir Khan has been working hard for Dangal, his next movie which releases in December. He gained and lost weight for the movie, but being vegan and following a strict diet, he says, has helped him adjust to the demands of acting, and generally helped him feel good. The superstar talks to the Indian Express about the importance of organic food, food memories and Souffle Egg-white omelette.
You recently turned vegan. Was it for a movie or have your decided to just be vegan?
I started following a vegan diet when Kiran (Rao, wife) showed me some movies that were about how being vegan is good for health. Also, for Dangal, I had to gain and lose weight within a few months, which isn’t always easy. I am going to be vegan for a while and see how it goes. It helped that the character I play in Dangal is a vegetarian.
You are said to follow a strict diet.
By and large yes, unless I am stressed. We are ultimately what we eat. There are three aspects to a healthy life: balanced diet, exercise and rest. My diet isn’t all protein. It has a mix of healthy fats and carbs. When you starve yourself, you actually store fat. I eat every two hours, or eight to ten meals a day if I am staying up late.
What are your daily meals like?
Before I turned vegan, I would start my day with eggs. My meals consisted of a lot of chicken and mutton dishes. In fact, I love seekh kebabs. Now, I have added muesli and fruits to my diet. In between meals, I snack on nuts, protein shakes and sometimes, a rusk. I drink three to four litres of water daily. I would suggest eating plenty of fresh vegetables, curd and fruits, and rotis made of three grains – bajra, jowar and wheat. Before my workouts, I eat a banana or sweet potatoes, which provide energy. I feel a strict diet has made a huge difference to how I feel. Because of my healthy diet, I sleep eight hours a day and am regular with my workouts.
What are your earliest memories of food?
As a child, I remember my mother and my aunt would take me vegetable shopping. I used to hate it, because all I wanted to do was play cricket with my friends. Now when I look back, I realise how much time the women in the family spend trying to choose the right vegetables and fruits, insisting on fresh produce. I also have beautiful memories of my mom and my grand-mom, my naani, making the most amazing seekh kebabs with soft, minced meat.
You are big proponent of organic food.
One of our Satyamev Jayate episodes focused on the use of pesticide to grow vegetables and fruits. We consume high levels of poison in the form of pesticides in our food. When we spray our crops with pesticides, we also kill predators that naturally prey on the pests. Pesticides also affect our farmers, who are exposed to them constantly and who take huge loans to buy these pesticides. Our research threw up the case of non-pesticide farming done in Andhra Pradesh, which is hugely successful and has spread to over 35 lakh acres. I believe we have to move to organic farming. There is no choice.
What are the best meals you have had on your travels?
While shooting and then promoting PK, we travelled across India and ate at several local eateries. I had litti-chokha near Patna, biryanis in a restaurant called Paradise Food Court, in Hyderabad, silver foil-laced paan in Banaras. I enjoyed every single meal.
Do you have any favourite dishes?
I enjoy the vegan food I eat now. I also like to eat organic food. Abhi to dieting chal rahi hai, but I am fond of biryanis and Shahi Rogan Josh.
What do you cook best?
Omelettes, fried eggs, scrambled eggs…the simple stuff.
Which are your favourite restaurants?
I like going to Frangipani at the Trident (Mumbai) for Souffle Egg-white Masala Omelette. I also like to eat at India Jones (Mumbai).