Is FOMO keeping you stuck in your “excuse-itarian” ways?


We are approaching the finish line of a year full of articles that have brought to light many opportunities for changing habits and helped turn “excuse-itarians” into “do-ers.”  It’s now time to address the ‘want’ factor, because no one is going to do something (or sustain the new behavior), if they don’t want to. My former nutrition student, Laura Duarte, is going to address FOMO, head on! While Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) can stop a lot of people before they even get going, Laura’s message may help you change your perception of what you are actually missing out on when you upgrade your food and exercise habits. She also shares practical strategies and a delicious recipe! In Laura’s words…

I am a graphic design student at Sac State and an olympic weightlifter on a competitive team in Sacramento. While taking Professor Hagenburger’s nutrition class at Cosumnes River College, I changed my eating habits and it shook up my world. Now, I understood the science and the many “whys” for eating this way, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with missing the food that I had grown up eating. How hard would it be at family gatherings? What about work parties? Could I still go out with friends? Yes, when you are making food choices that are consistent with good health, it’s true that you “can’t” eat the pizza in the break room at work, or the cake and ice cream at your family member’s birthday. You are totally right, it doesn’t feel great to go to a social event where food is served and the only plant-based whole food options are raw carrots and cauliflower.

It is much easier to stray away from your newer way of eating and fall back into old habits because you find yourself surrounded by that food and think about how good it used to taste.  The easy move would be to eat the greasy burger or super sweet cupcake, letting the temptation take over and reign victorious. There is no way around that other than stepping up to the craving, calling it out and choosing not to surrender control. By practicing over and over that you can be tempted by burgers or cake and you shut it down, you build inner strength and integrity, using the power of 4 seconds (space between an event and your intentional action). The temptation will be there, rearing its deceptively enticing head, until you work against it over and over, or realize that it’s just a lot of smoke and mirrors. Eventually, the desire to eat those foods will only be a memory, because your body won’t want it anymore since you don’t feel well afterwards. I was so surprised that within my first month eating plant based whole foods, I had no desire to chomp on a piece of steak, as I had before. My body felt so good, and it felt to me that it “knew” I didn’t need the meat anymore, which was crazy to me, because I thought I was a bonafide meat lover. In what seemed like a fraction of time, meat had become just a food that I didn’t enjoy eating anymore, it didn’t agree with my system.  I guess that I never realized how good I could feel.

Although it can be discouraging to go places and not see lots of obvious options, don’t let that sidetrack your goals. Plan ahead so you don’t go to the social event hungry or bring a small snack for yourself. Order pizza without cheese and loaded with extra vegetable toppings, or Mexican food with fajita veggies, beans, guacamole and pico de gallo, leaving off the meat and sour cream. It is all about finding what you like. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions.

Expect that some people might look at you funny or ask you insensitive questions. Just let it be a simple reminder that you are staying true to yourself and what is important. Don’t be afraid to swim against the tide. Not only will you get home and be proud of yourself, your body will be much happier, too. You won’t feel sluggish or regret overeating heavy food. By eating well, you will definitely be missing out… on all the negative effects of consuming food that deceives your taste buds and harms your body.

Our weightlifting team will often get together for potlucks or go out to eat. It took a while to feel comfortable in those settings because my teammates would ask me questions. I would feel bad making specific orders when going out, sometimes taking extra long to order. I felt sort of disconnected from everyone. My family had a million and one questions about my plant based diet, too. I did my best to answer everyone’s questions, and soon, the people closest to me became accustomed to it. Having the support of my family and good friends made me feel more confident and preserved the dynamic of our relationships. We can all still connect over the food we eat together, because we always make sure that a plant based dish that everyone can enjoy is served at family gatherings. I also realized that it’s really not that big of a deal that I eat a little differently than some of the people I am around. Remembering this helps me feel free to make decisions that are best for me, and not uncomfortable or embarrassed about it when I am out with friends or meet new people.

You can also take matters into your own hands and make food yourself! This is a fun and engaging learning experience that can quickly become something you look forward to. Since plant based diets have been recognized as optimal for a long time, the hardest part has already been done! People have already figured out great plant-based whole food substitutes for things you grew up eating, enabling you to make something to satisfy your cravings!

One food I’ve loved my whole life is mac n cheese. It took me some time to experiment with different recipes and find one with the creamy goodness I was looking for. The basis for my version came from a friend and fellow veg-fueled strength athlete.  Diana referred me to her favorite recipe that included an assortment of different vegetables and spices.  While I was skeptical that it would taste cheesy and creamy, since it didn’t include any of the store-bought cheese alternatives, it quickly became a keeper recipe! Something that I had to learn is although I wanted the pasta to be just like the mac n cheese I used to eat, it can never be an exact replica, since the ingredients are different. With that being said, I love this yummy creamy pasta.  Sometimes when I make this recipe, I sprinkle bread crumbs and garlic on top and put it in the oven to add a crispy layer to the top or I mix pesto into the sauce to give a fresh flavor.

Diana’s Creamy Mac


1 1/2 cups chopped carrots (~2 large carrots)
1 cup chopped red onion (~1 medium onion)
2 cups chopped Yukon gold potato (~2 medium potatoes)
1/4 cup raw cashew pieces* (soaked)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon garlic powder or granulated garlic (not garlic salt)
1 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons miso paste
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt (optional, adjust amount to taste)

16 oz package whole grain or gluten-free pasta

Smoked paprika, for garnish
Toasted whole grain bread crumbs, for garnish


  1. Combine chopped carrots, onion, potato and 2 cups of water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Do not drain the vegetables.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Combine the cooked vegetables, their cooking liquid, cashews*, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, miso, mustard, turmeric, vinegar and salt in a blender. Blend on high until the sauce is thick and creamy. Add a bit more water to the sauce if it’s too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
  4. Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and stir to combine. Serve at once with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and/or nutritional yeast, if desired.
  5. Optional: sprinkle bread crumbs on top and bake in oven at 350F for 15 min.

The Nutrition Professor’s Prep Smart Tips

*Amount of cashews can be increased up to ¾ cup for a richer dish. Raw sunflower seeds (without shells) can also be substituted for all or part of the cashews, as they are less expensive and can offer a nut-free option.

**Soak cashews or sunflower seeds in water for 2 hours to overnight to soften, especially if not using a high-powered blender (quick soak method: 15 minutes in very hot water).

Timaree Hagenburger, a registered dietitian, certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in public health, and is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, where she is launching a new Plant-Based Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture certificate program. She is so thankful for meaningful connections with her current and former students, like Laura, who is prioritizing her health and living with integrity! Timaree also conducts local events, corporate wellness work, has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV and published her first cookbook – The Foodie Bar Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy.available at – where you will also find details about Timaree’s upcoming events (cooking demos, book signings and talks about the incredible power you yield with your fork!).

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