A popular Instagram account has managed to do what some would call the impossible: making healthy vegan food look gorgeous, mouth-watering, and delicious — even to non-vegans.
But that’s not even the most surprising part. The real shocker is that the account — which boasts over half a million followers — is run by a 16-year-old.
Jose, a teenager from Lima, Peru, is the talented cook and food stylist behind Naturally.Jo, the vegan Instagram page that proclaims: ‘Life is too short to eat boring food.’
So pretty: The Instagram account is packed with pictures of vegan food
Yum! His favorite recipe is for cheesecake (pictured), because it’s very customizable
Jose’s page is packed with incredible photos of his creations, which he cooks himself. He’s partial to fruit-and-veggie-topped toasts, breakfast smoothie bowls — a trendy favorite of health food fanatics — and, of course, dessert.
To satisfy his sweet tooth, he bakes cakes, brownies, and doughnuts and freezes up ice cream and popsicles — all made using entirely vegan ingredients.
That means he subs in things like ‘flax eggs’ (which are made with flax seeds and water) for real eggs, straight cacao powder for chocolate made with milk, oils for butter and almond milk and yogurt.
For cheesecakes, he whips up a mix of cashews, frozen banana, agave nectar, and coconut oil, while ice cream is also made with frozen bananas.
And he’s managed to teach himself how to do all this in just a year and a half, since he became a vegan at age 14.
Animal lover: He soon became attached to the animal cruelty-avoiding aspect of veganism
‘I ate animal products for 90 per cent of my life, and meat was my favorite thing in the world,’ he told Daily Mail Online. ‘[But] I was struggling with eating disorders and an unhealthy low-weight.
‘I searched for lots of diets online and then the vegan diet popped up. I saw how lots of vegans ate a lot and followed a high-carb diet but still had a perfect fit body, so I started eating less animal products and decided to inform myself about veganism.
‘That is when everything changed and I learned that veganism is a lot more than a diet, it is a lifestyle,’ he went on. ‘Soon after, I made the decision to become vegan. I was no longer looking to lose more weight, but to stop supporting all forms of animal cruelty.’
But making that decision came with some work. His family wasn’t vegan, so Jose needed to start preparing his own food to stick to his plan.
All in the family: His mother and sister are proud of him, and now they are transitioning to veganism, too
‘I started learning to cook as soon as I became vegan,’ he said. ‘I tried out all kinds of recipes online and was blown away to find out how easy it was to make and how delicious some vegan desserts and snacks can be.’
These days, he is very familiar with the basics of vegan cooking, so he doesn’t need to research recipes online. That frees up more time for him to decorate and style is food, making it perfect for Instagram.
‘The things I post on my Instagram are tasty but I really try to focus on presenting it in a way that it looks aesthetically pleasing, even if it’s totally unnecessary — like galaxy ice-cream, unicorn smoothies, or mermaid bowls.’
His favorite recipe ‘by far’ is that vegan cheesecake, which he says is easy to keep healthy and endlessly customizable. He also loves working with any type of berry, since they work so well in smoothies, cakes, and popsicles.
Jose’s creations are so inspiring that his mother and sister both decided to transition to veganism, and are in the process of doing so now.
‘My mom is very proud and supportive,’ he said. ‘She says that she loves how passionate I am about it, and my sister loves eating the desserts I make.’
But though it seems like choosing a career as a vegan chef or a professional food stylist would be a natural choice, Jose doesn’t actually know what he wants to do when he grows up.
‘I am very unsure about the career I am going to follow,’ he said. ‘Art is something I have always liked, for sure, but so are math and language. Whatever it is that I choose to do, [I want to] inspire people to be healthier and spread tolerance.’