***Disclaimer - I am not a registered dietitian or health care professional. This blog post is my opinion based on my personal experiences. Always consults a doctor or dietitian before making drastic changes to your lifestyle or diet.*** As some of you may know, on March 8th I decided to try going vegan. I want to first start off by saying I am not still vegan. I lasted about a week, and boy, was it hard work! The first day I was eating dinner with the judges at Miss Meridian, and I realized I couldn't have the bread because it had milk, butter, and eggs, and then when I went for the ranch dip for my vegetables I realized it contained some kind of milk product. There are animal products in so many food items and we never stop to think about it. The breaking point for me was heading to the Portland Roaster Show. If you think being vegan is hard at home, it is 10X harder when you're on the road. When someone says we are having hotdogs for lunch and they ask you what you want on yours, your answer should be, "Ketchup please!", especially when you are trying to please sponsors! I'm not saying it cannot be done. I'm just saying it's definitely not easy and I have a new respect for people who have any type of restrictive diet. Monitoring food is a 24/7 job. My trip to Portland was one I will never forget, and I do not regret eating meat on my trip. Here is some insight on why I wanted to try a vegan lifestyle in the first place. Like most people in Idaho, I grew up in a family that hunts and eats meat everyday. My diet up to this point in my life has always included animal products; even more so when I was preparing for pageants (1/2 of my diet was chicken!) I care about nutrition, and I couldn't help but see the pattern of recommendations to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and raw foods. Apparently consuming too many meat and dairy products can promote inflammation. Let me explain this in a little more detail...this might be valuable information! You know the Omega 6's and Omega 3's you always hear about? The approximate healthy ratio in our diet should be 4:1, but the average American's ratio is around 16:1. Omega 6's promote blood clotting and inflammation, and Omega 3's are anti-inflammatory. Both of these functions are necessary for your survival, but you can see how cardiovascular, autoimmune, and inflammatory diseases can arise from such a skewed ratio of the two. Some Omega 6 rich foods are corn-fed meat sources, corn oil, most vegetable oils. Omega 3 rich foods include seafood, almonds, edamame, wild rice, pasture-raised animal products, flax seeds, beans and walnuts. (Many foods, like nuts and oils, have both.) You can see why I was interested in the health benefits of a vegan diet! Not only did I want to live healthier, I wanted to understand what it meant to live a different lifestyle. I teach nutrition courses and talk to hundreds of people about the importance of what you eat; how can I preach to vegetarians or vegans if I have never experienced it for myself? For now, I will introduce animal products back into my diet with the goal of minimizing them to 1-2 per day total. I plan to encourage a "vegetarian" night for my family once a week. I think its fun to get creative with recipes, plus I LOVE beans and whole grains. I've tried couscous, quinoa, and lentils and they are amazing! Look for more "food talk" on the Miss Idaho Facebook page!