The Scoop on Food

Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi Wants You to #VegAllegiance

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How many meatless meals a week does your family eat?

Padma Lakshmi, the host of Bravo's Top Chef, a mom, and cookbook author, wants that number to go up. She's working with MorningStar Farms to help inspire families to eat less meat.

Recently, MorningStar Farms began asking people to take the Veg of Allegiance. This initiative sets out to encourage anyone who wants to lead a more meatless lifestyle, no matter what the reason may be. By pledging, I #VegAllegiance to go meatless for (any number of) meals per week, participants can join the discussion about the perks of consuming more veggies and less meat.

Parents recently spoke with Lakshmi about her own choice to go meatless and how you can do the same.

P.com: What are some of the benefits to going meatless?PL: I feel lighter, healthier, more energetic, and it's good for your body... but it's also good for the planet. The amount of carbon footprints you leave by eating a steak or lamb-chop is so much more than if you were to eat tofu.

P.com: What tips do you have for families who want to go meatless?PL: Start with five meals a week, and make three of those meals during the weekends... and preplan! Rather than reading a gossip magazine during a pedicure or while you're lying in bed, think about what you will make. And get your children involved in cooking—they'll feel a sense of pride and they will be more likely to eat better for the rest of their lives.

P.com: What about families who feel they're too busy to eat at home?PL: Make meals ahead of time—I find myself taking a cutting board to the coffee table to prepare whatever I can while watching TV.

P.com: As we all know children can be picky, and might resist making the change to being meatless. Do you have suggestions for parents who are struggling to get their children on board?PL: It's important to be strict with yourself and set a good example—make one meal for the whole house rather than catering to everyone's preferences. My daughter is a vegetarian, so I will substitute certain things for her, but if she refuses to eat altogether then she's out of luck. Children will eventually get hungry and come around.

Related: 5 Myths About "Going Vegetarian"

Padma also stresses the importance of talking to your children about food. Rather than exposing them only to bright-packaged candy in the grocery store, bring them to the butcher, farm, or fish market, where they will have the opportunity to talk to the people that produce their food. "We used to be educated about the food we eat, but we've become so removed from that. We need to get back to the basics," she said.

By eating "clean", and focusing less on meat-based meals, we can improve the planet. According to MorningStar, having more plant-based meals can reduce the emissions of carbon and greenhouse gases as well as save water—and you might just feel better too.

I don't know about you, but I say bring on the veggies! I #VegAllegiance to go meatless for three meals a week... what do you say!?

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Healthy Snacks: Veggie Pancakes

Image: John Minchillo/AP Images for MorningStar Farms