Slutty Vegan's Pinky Cole Offers Advice For Becoming Vegan - Exclusive

Some people who may otherwise embrace a vegan diet might resist making the change because, simply put, they love food too much. While many would likely agree they care about animal welfare, loathe the impact large-scale livestock operations can have on the environment, and would embrace the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet, the mere thought of missing out on burgers, nuggets, steaks, and more can be a roadblock on the path to the lifestyle change. But it shouldn't be, says Pinky Cole, founder of Atlanta's celebrated Slutty Vegan restaurant and a diehard vegan.

During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Cole sought to dispel the misconception that being vegan means missing out. "I love all the things that the average meat eater likes," Cole said. "I just eat it vegan. I'm a foodie, and I'll be the first to tell you I'm probably one of thickest vegans you're going to meet, but I love to eat food. So I can recreate the food that everybody in the world loves and make it vegan and make it taste exactly the same. And you don't feel like you're missing anything."

Cole started simple, saying, "I love kale and mushrooms — I eat that every day now. I love green juice. I love Impossible Burgers, Beyond Burgers. I love vegan macaroni and cheese. I love all the stuff that you love. ... All you got to do is just switch out some options. If you eat fried chicken for lunch, maybe have some vegan chicken."

How to get into a vegan mindset, according to Pinky Cole

If you're thinking about trying a vegan lifestyle, don't overthink it, says Pinky Cole. "It literally is all about mindset," she said during an interview with Mashed. "So many people are like, 'I got to plan, and I got to do this or that to be vegan.' No you don't. And nobody is telling you to go cold turkey."

Cole doesn't judge someone for making different dietary and lifestyle choices than those that work for her, but she just wants to make sure people are making those choices with all the facts at their disposal. "There are so many misconceptions when you think about veganism," Cole said. "Like that you'll lose a ton of weight if you're vegan, that you can't hang with a certain kind of people ... Whether you go vegan for the animals, whether you go vegan because you just want to live healthier, or you just simply want to make a lifestyle switch, the choice is yours. But if you make that choice, I promise you, it's not hard. It literally is all about your mindset and how do you choose to live that life."

Once that choice is made, Cole says a bit of planning can go a long way to helping you stick with it. "If you truly want to go vegan and you need a tangible game plan, the first piece of it is to get rid of pork. Then ... eliminate beef. Then, after beef ... go to chicken and turkey ... [and then] go to fish. And after you eliminate fish, then stop eating cheese." Not eating cheese, Cole admitted, is one of the hardest things about going vegan. "But once you realize [that when] you take those things out of your diet, your palate begins to change. You'll start craving a lot of different foods, healthier foods, foods that your palate is not really accustomed to. That is one of the first steps."

Follow Pinky Cole on Instagram and check out Slutty Vegan for even more advice.