If You’ve Ever Wondered What Vegans Actually Eat, This Is For You

YouTube is like a rabbit hole: You log on to watch the latest episode of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” and end up hypnotized by a video of a woman and her boyfriend racing to be the first to finish a plate of colorful spring rolls. I’ve watched days' worth of videos of beauty gurus showing me their “Everyday Makeup Routine” and I still don’t know how to contour properly. But the beauty guru phase was only the beginning of my YouTube obsession. Now, I’ve moved on from lusting for luxury highlighter palettes to salivating over videos showing how to make tempeh “fish” tacos for dinner. Like many viewers, I've discovered "the vegans" on YouTube.
Daily food diaries first spread across the blogosphere, but have since taken over YouTube subscription boxes. An overlay of peppy music and clever cuts can elevate a meal to new levels of (perceived) deliciousness. Since there’s an addictive quality about watching what people eat, “What I Ate Today” videos are a mainstay for vegan YouTubers. Sure, go ahead and call it vegan food porn, because while a bland bowl of Cheerios may not satisfy your appetite, watching the preparation of a colorfully vibrant smoothie bowl might really do something for you.
More influencers, like Jenna Mourey, Ricky Dillon, Jack Harries, and “Storytime” maven
Tana Mongeau, are swapping eggs and bacon for tofu scrambles and Trader Joe’s soy
chorizo. Along with other vegan-centric FoodTubers like Lexie Lombard and
HotForFood’s Lauren Toyota, they help debunk the stereotype that veganism is a
hippie, grass-eating thing. It can be glamorous, too.
“Being a new vegan, sometimes you feel very lost, and seeing what others eat is really
helpful,” Mongeau (who recently got into a YouTube debate with banana-wielding
antihero Freelee about how content creators should influence others to be vegan) says.
She learned about veganism largely through vegan YouTube content and relies on
“What I Ate Today” videos and illustrious grocery store hauls for meal ideas.
“I think meal planning is really tough for most people, so seeing what their favorite
vegan FoodTubers, or social celebrities are eating inspires them to create more exciting
meals in their own lives. Plus, isn’t there something satisfying about watching someone
eat?” says Candice Hutchings, whose channel TheEdgyVeg has over 136k subscribers.
Hutchings dabbles in “What I Ate Today” videos, and is known for her recipe videos on
vegan takes on popular meals, like a seitan version of a Chik-Fil- A chicken sandwich.
There’s a definite sense of satisfaction when watching someone eat — how else could
the phenomenon of watching mukbang videos be explained?
Filming food has become an art of its own, and as it takes over YouTube, the vegan
lifestyle is becoming more accessible to viewers — even to meat-eaters like me.
That’s right: I’m not vegan. I’m obsessed with these videos, but when I watch them,
there’s a good chance I have string cheese in hand. “What I Ate Today” videos provide
a type of escapism. We eat with our eyes, and I am experiencing veganism through my
computer screen — albeit a very limited version. I don’t have the will power (yet) to kick
the animal goods. I can’t even give up dairy for the selfish reasons of clearer skin, so
YouTube has become my outlet. But if it weren’t for the platform, I wouldn’t even know
that veganism is a feasible lifestyle I could actually adapt to — or one that could look
so yummy.
Stephanie de Bourmont of StephsPlate also learned about veganism through social
media, and says she sees how “YouTube has had an impact on making veganism more
mainstream.” For the YouTube-obsessed de Bourmont, it was an obvious decision to
use the platform to show off her healthy lifestyle and to bash the stigma that vegan grub
is, well, boring.
Her channel features plant-based recipe videos and a popular “What I Ate Wednesday”
series. Her videos are cleanly edited and set to jazzy tunes for a stylized, modern
Instagram aesthetic in motion that puts meals at the forefront and includes close-up
shots of her smiling face feasting on juicy oranges. Her videos are the glossy photos in
a cookbook, showing that vegan cuisine exists, too.
“Everyone is looking for inspiration, and it makes me happy to see people getting
inspired, whether that is through one of my recipe videos or my lifestyle choices,” de
Bourmont says.
As good as recipes for buffalo cauliflower wings and rice paper bacon sound, there’s the
behind-the-scenes footage that’s just as alluring. Many YouTubers, like Stella Rae and
High Carb Hannah, make “What I Ate Today” to show subscribers not just the food, but
the moments in between. Veganism isn’t their only shtick — we watch them walk their
dogs, talk us through meal prep, or pack for a weekend trip in between eating a plate of
mangoes and bananas. These vlogs are on demand Food Network shows with all the
glamour shots of foodstuff, void of the commercials, and with a side of reality TV.
A “What I Ate Today” feels like you’re over at a friend’s house while she makes lunch.
Beauty queen Giada De Laurentiis isn’t cooking up a complicated dish, and PETA isn’t
bombarding you with facts meant to shock, which can be alienating. Instead, someone
you can relate to, someone who you can bond with over disastrous Uber rides and
shared shades of bronzers, is showing how easy veganism can be.
“This platform has helped me in so many ways,” says Mongeau, “Knowing now that I’m
able to influence others to be vegan helps me really commit every day.”

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