Jake Gyllenhaal talks about a plant-based diet and his favorite cooking foods

Jake Gyllenhaal is ready to transform for an acting role, even if it means breaking the diet. The actor lost 30 pounds for Nightcrawler and gained 28 pounds of muscle for Lefty, eating six to seven times a day.

And for a recent commercial for JUST Egg, a plant-based egg product, Gyllenhaal ate vegan omelettes—there were plenty of them.

“I don’t know how many egg pans I made, but I actually ate every one of them,” Gyllenhaal, an investor in JUST Egg, told TODAY.

The ad pokes fun at the lengths celebrities like Gyllenhaal go to to stay in “superstar shape.” Comedian J.B. Smoove talks about Gyllenhaal’s efforts, including trying out something called “galactic robot knight training”. Serena Williams was in a different version of the ad.

Gyllenhaal says the ads, while clearly satirical, too much away from the actual preparatory work that goes into the roles. “I interested in making things interesting when you’re trying to train and work on a specific project, Gyllenhaal said. “I would try ‘galactic robot knight training’ if it existed.”

Although healthy eating is a means to an end for Gyllenhaal, it is also a source of joy, and always has been.

Looking back at his childhood, Gyllenhaal said he’s not the type of kid to scoff at Brussels sprouts and broccoli – he’s the type to take second helpings. “I really liked vegetables, I grew up learning about them and being very interested in them,” Gyllenhaal said.

Gyllenhaal thanks his parents for his approach to caring for his body. “I was taught that eating as close as possible to where you live, if you can, is best for you,” he said, recalling the regular trips they made to a nearby farmers’ market in California.

Now, he says, he’s at an age where he can admit that his parents were right about a lot of things – “especially about a plant-based diet.”

“My father was already healthy, walking and trying different things. He was the first to introduce me to soy milk. He was cooking something with tofu. When you have such models, it affects you,” he said. “I think it’s passed on to me.”

Gyllenhaal said today that he eats mostly, but not exclusively, plant-based foods. The transition to a plant-based diet was gradual as he combined watching documentaries and simply tracking how he felt based on what he ate.

“There was no one specific thing,” he said. “I have found that when I eat right, and especially when I eat more plant foods, I always have more energy,” he said.

Food – and preparation for it – remains what his world “centers” around, the actor said. “Cooking is what I enjoy the most in terms of preparation and also spending time with the people I love,” Gyllenhaal said.

Below, we spoke a bit with the actor about his eating habits, including his favorite treats.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

How do you fit cooking into your daily routine?

I don’t always have time. Sometimes I end up ordering and leaving.

But it’s important to find the time. Cooking is an important part of the day for me. Even if it’s just for five minutes to boil an egg or make toast. Sometimes I like to daydream about the recipes I dream of making and plan them in my mind.

Cooking is a place where my whole family got together and still gets together. Wonderful stories are told here and learn about what is going on and what happened during the day. I don’t always have time, but I love to cook for people so I find time.

What was the first food you learned to cook?

When I was very young, they always gave me bread for Thanksgiving. My mother always baked such bread from potato dough. She also baked banana bread, which is my family’s staple and my favorite meal.

So our secret banana bread recipe was the first thing I learned to make. There is one ingredient my mom wouldn’t be happy if I shared because it’s really good for you, but I can’t reveal the secret.

I will tell you about another special banana bread ingredient: bananas. There are bananas for sure.

What kind of food do you prefer if you want to impress someone?

I believe there is complexity in simplicity – so probably Pomodoro pasta. It’s comforting, but it’s hard to cure. When you only use a few ingredients, it actually gets more difficult.

I have a dear friend who has a restaurant in London and (I use) her recipe. Another somewhat secret recipe, but quite simple. Mostly garlic, basil, olive oil and very, very good tomatoes. Bring a Pomodoro paste and everyone will be very happy.

What is your favorite pleasure?

There are so many. But if I have to leave, vanilla cake with vanilla frosting.

What is your definition of comfort food?

I made fresh sourdough pizza from my sourdough starter I started a few years ago during the pandemic and it still exists. We’re trying to copy Wolfgang Puck and make a sourdough pizza with cream cheese and Russ and Daughters’ Nova salmon on top of it.

What should everyone be able to do?

This is a difficult question. This may be the most difficult question anyone has ever asked me. Least salad. Or toast bread. If you can’t toast bread, I don’t know what to say.

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