Eat Your Greens: A Vegetarian Journey

Eat Your Greens: A Vegetarian Journey

By Maryam Muhammad, intern with the Division of Sustainability, Summer 2018

Before I was even born, it was decided that I would be vegetarian. Fast forward 20 years later and here I am, stirring turmeric and chia seed muffin mix with one hand (recipe below) and searching for the latest nutrition breakthroughs with the other.

My version of a prank is posting a picture of myself eating a "burger" (veggie sandwich) from Five Guys on Facebook and watching my friends freak out!

My parents primarily had health in mind as the basis for our family being vegetarian. Having switched to the lifestyle in their twenties, they hopped aboard the health train early and haven’t looked back since. We lived in southern California for the first 9 years of my life, but when we moved to Middle Tennessee when I was 10, I often felt like a vegetarian in a steakhouse.

Through elementary up until high school, I was the kiddo with the crazy vegetarian lunches. I found myself constantly fielding questions about the things I ate (“No, Alicia, I don’t eat grass”) and explaining the concoctions inside my Tootsie Roll tin lunch box (“Yes, chili can be made without beef”). As frequent as these interrogations were, I felt pride in my lunch creations (I have been cooking since I can remember) and confident in the choices I continued to make.

It wasn’t until the end of high school that I learned the impact that eating more fruits and vegetables – and fewer animal products – has on the environment. While I had always focused on the human health benefits of a plant-based diet, I’m now learning the many benefits it has for the health of our planet. My internship with the Department of General Services Division of Sustainability this summer has given me the opportunity to dive into this research. Here are some highlights.

  • If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs).[i]

  • Livestock production contributes nearly one-fifth of all global GHG emissions.[ii]

  • Sector emissions could be reduced by 70% through adopting a vegan diet and 63% for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs.[iii]

  • Adoption of a vegetarian diet worldwide would save 7.3 million lives by 2050.[iv]

So it seems that I have a host of reasons to continue to make the choices that I do and to encourage others to do the same. Just as taking shorter showers, composting, and taking the bus are proven methods to reduce your impact on the environment, adopting plant-based diet – or simply cutting back on your meat consumption – can be a profound step in your individual effort toward protecting the environment.

Oh, and did I mention… it’s delicious! Below, find two of my favorite recipes for healthy, tasty 100% vegetarian treats. Bon apetit!


Vegetable Stir Fry:

1 large pan

3-4 T olive oil

1 onion diced

3 garlic cloves chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 bell pepper diced

1 large broccoli crown chopped

salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in pan at medium-hi heat until hot. Add garlic, onion, and bell pepper and reduce temp to medium. Once onions are translucent, add broccoli and carrot. Cook until broccoli and carrots are tender (about 10 mins) and add salt and pepper to taste.


Try adding these flavors:

Sweet Chili: 2 extra garlic cloves, 2 T honey, 1 T red chili paste, juice from ½ Lemon, 1 T white wine vinegar

Sesame: Substitute 1-2 T olive oil with sesame oil, 2 T honey, 1.5 T Soy Sauce, 2 t ginger, 1 T white wine vinegar



Chia Seed Muffins:

4 cups oats

4 t cinnamon

2 t nutmeg

2 t cardamom

1 T turmeric

¼ cup chia seed

1 t baking powder

½ t salt

2/3 cup of milk (of your choice)

2 t vanilla extract

¼ cup blackstrap molasses


Add anything you want: dark chocolate chips, a mashed banana, dried cranberries, dates, shredded coconut. Mix everything in a bowl, drop them in a 12 yield muffin tin, and pop them in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 mins. They aren’t sweet, so I substitute them for toast in the morning and top with almond butter and honey!