Diane May Nutrition Blog

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The Best and the Worst Diets and Trends for 2020

January 5th, 2020

Every year media and news outlets put out lists of what the best and worst diets and food trends of the year will be. This year has been no different. Everyone has made their health and wellness resolutions and look to these guides for inspiration and guidance. The top three overall diet plans listed in U.S. News are the Mediterranean Diet, DASH and The Flexitarian plan. These are my favorite plans and I will discuss all three. They can actually be combined/refined to create a plan that works for you.

  • The Mediterranean Diet: A plan focused on plants, whole grains, healthy fats such as olive oil, beans, legumes and fish. Moderate amounts of chicken , low fat dairy and eggs. Limiting red meat, sweets and processed foods. Stresses the importance of daily physical activity. It even allows for some red wine. This is a manageable  program that can improve heart health, liver function and help to manage weight and increase longevity.
  • DASH: An acronym that stands for: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension was promoted by the U.S. based National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to lower blood pressure but was found to have the side benefit of aiding in weight loss. It is similar to the Mediterranean Diet in that it focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean proteins. It stresses reducing processed foods, moderate amounts of sodium and increasing potassium, magnesium, calcium and fiber.
  • Flexitarian Diet: This diet encourages a primarily plant based diet including vegetables, fruits, legumes and beans with the ability to occasionally consume animal proteins. It may seem optimal to be vegan or vegetarian, but this plan allows flexibility  which makes it easier to succeed. This plan also limits processed  foods and refined sweets.

The lowest ranking diets of 2020 were the Keto Diet and the Dukan Diet.

  • Keto Diet: A Ketogenic Diet was initially created to stabilize pediatric seizure disorders.  It is a plan in which 70-75% of your calories  come from healthy fats and limiting carbs. Although the Ketogenic Diet has shown benefit with initial weight loss and blood glucose control, there are some serious concerns. This plan has been shown to increase risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis as well as risk of gout. There is great potential for nutrient deficiencies and feelings of overall unwell health “keto flu”. 
  • Dukan Diet: This plan, started in France,  is similar to the Atkins plan, which is a high protein, fat/low carb program, however it is more restrictive. NO carbs other than small amounts of oat bran are allowed and some low carb vegetables are not allowed initially such as spinach. This plan also limits fats such as steak and eggs. Due to these restrictions, it would be difficult to meat adequate nutrient needs and is very hard to follow long term.

Discussing food trends is also very popular in the New Year. A few of the predictions for 2020 are:

  • Sweet potato: The headlines are sweet potato is the new cauliflower. Over the last year we saw every permutation of cauliflower. Made into “steaks”, riced, mashed and even made into pizza and wraps. This year companies such as Banza and Caulipower are using sweet potato in new and innovative ways as a replacement for refined carbs such as sauce for Mac and Cheese to toast slices. No matter how you find it, sweet potatoes are a great addition to your diet for added fiber, beta carotene and other beneficial nutrients. 
  • Plant based meats: Everyone from Burger King to Dunkin Donuts has already jumped on the trend of plant based meats. You can’t escape this trend, and it isn’t a great one. They may be  better for the environment, but not your body. These plant based burgers/patties are considered “ultra processed”, which is not a good thing. Loaded with fillers, coconut oil and sodium, as well as other things, I would avoid.  If you want to avoid meat, consider traditional plant based burgers from companies such as Praegers, Boca or Morningstar and don’t go for the fake meat.
  • Mocktails: People are moving away from alcohol and to non alcoholic beverages. There will be an influx of non alcoholic beverages coming our way in 2020. From non alcoholic beers to gin. They may be tasty and interesting, but keep in mind they will still have non nutritive calories that we will have to be mindful of.
  • Oat milk: The age of only almond or soy milk as alternatives to dairy is coming to an end. Pay attention the the added sugars found in oat milk-just like other plant alternatives, always buy unsweetened products and use judiciously.
  • CBD infused products: We are still learning about the benefits and potential risks associated with CBD, but that will not stop food and beverage companies from pumping out as many CBD products as they can this year. Whether in your morning beverage drink or in a snack cookie, you will be finding this ingredient. CBD is most effective suspended in a fat/oil base. Always look for full/broad spectrum products. 
  • Plant butters: As we become more aware of the dangers of saturated and trans fats, food companies are looking for better alternatives to butter and margarine.  In comes plant based butters. These products will still have saturated fats, but the total amount will be lower. Look for blends of avocado oil, safflower oil and other alternatives. 
  • Probiotic and prebiotic enhanced foods: From smoothies to granola bars, pre and probiotics will be added as consumers look for more enhancement to their foods. It is important to know that these products will still come with added sugar and potentially sodium. Always look for products with less than 5 grams of sugar.
  • Fruit based flours: We are already starting to utilize alternative flours that are nut and legume based, but this year may show and influx of fruit based flours such as apple and banana flour. These flours are gluten free and have added fiber. These flours will also have the added benefit of nutrients not found in grain or other alternative flours.

Whatever the trends of the year are, it is always important to have a healthy, balanced diet that works for your lifestyle. Talk to your doctor or RD about plans that can work for you and maybe try incorporating something new in 2020. Every day is a new day to start fresh and get healthy!


Chili-Topped Sweet Potatoes

Transform ordinary baked potatoes into a full dinner with these chili-topped spuds. In this healthy recipe, we use sweet potatoes for an added nutrient kick. Sprinkle on extra toppings as you see fit–sliced scallions, chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado and sliced jalapeños are all tasty choices. Source: EatingWell Magazine, January/February 2017

Recipe Summary

Active: 30 mins

Total: 30 mins

Servings: 4


  • 1 pound lean ground chicken or turkey (optional)-can replace with beans or soy
  • ¾ cup finely chopped white onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano 
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup shredded cheese, such as Cheddar or pepper Jack-low fat


  • Step 1

Cook beef, onion, bell pepper and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat, crumbling the beef with a spatula, until the meat is browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano and coriander; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes (with their juice) and water and simmer for 5 minutes.

  • Step 2

Meanwhile, prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places. Microwave on High until tender all the way through, 12 to 15 minutes.

  • Step 3

Serve the sweet potatoes topped with the chili and cheese.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving:

417 calories; 17.6 g total fat; 7.4 g saturated fat; 88 mg cholesterol; 443 mg sodium. 1286 mg potassium; 35.2 g carbohydrates; 8.4 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 30.7 g protein; 24269 IU vitamin a iu; 62 mg vitamin c; 42 mcg folate; 233 mg calcium; 5 mg iron; 81 mg magnesium; 1 mg thiamin;


1 1/2 Starch, 1 1/2 Vegetable, 3 Lean Meat, 1/2 Low-Fat Meat


How Much Protein Do We Actually Need?

December 4th, 2019

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, how much protein do I really need. Before I answer that question, what is protein and why do we need it? Proteins are the building blocks of bone, muscle, cartilage, skin and blood as well as a fuel source. They are made of amino acids, organic compounds found in every cell of our body. Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions. Proteins transport materials throughout the body and are necessary to form blood cells. Every gram of protein has 4 calories, the same as a carbohydrate. Dietary sources of protein include both animals and plants, but there is a difference.

Plant based proteins have healthy unsaturated fat and fiber, whereas animal proteins contain saturated fat, which we need to limit in our diet. Most Americans consume way more animal proteins than plant proteins.

There are three types of protein:

  • Complete proteins- Contain all amino acids and are found in animal products: meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs.
  • Incomplete proteins-Contain at least one amino acid, but not all. Plant foods are predominantly incomplete. (soy and quinoa are complete)
  • Complementary proteins-When you combine two incomplete proteins to form a complete protein such as rice and beans.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) recommends that the average person needs .8 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. If you are doing intense weight or endurance training, recovering from an illness or pregnant, the number increases to 1.2-2.0g/kg.  So how do you calculate this?

  • First calculate your weight in kilograms (kg) by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2.
  • Multiply your weight in kilograms (kg) times the number of protein grams per day.
  • Example: 135 pound sedentary woman, who does regular moderate exercise:
  • 135 pounds/2.2=61.36 kg,   61.36kg x .8=49 grams of protein per day.

In the United State, we do not have standardized units of measure, so although we calculate protein in grams, most people are more familiar with pounds and ounces. Below is a helpful guide to assist you in converting some proteins from ounces to grams.

  • Chicken, skinless-3 ounces=28 grams
  • Red meat-3 ounces=26 grams
  • Turkey- 3ounces=25 grams
  • Lamb- 3 ounces=23 grams
  • Pork-3 ounces=22 grams
  • Egg- 1 large=6 grams
  • Salmon 3 ounces=22 grams
  • Tuna-3 ounces=22 grams
  • shrimp-3 ounces=20 grams
  • Pinto beans-1/2 cup=11 grams
  • Lentils-1/2 cup=9 grams
  • Edamame-1/2 cup=9 grams
  • Black Beans-1/2 cup=8 grams
  • Chickpeas-1/2 cup=7 grams
  • Quinoa-1/2 cup=4 grams
  • Pasta, cooked-1/3 cup=3 grams
  • Peas-1/2 cup=4 grams
  • Broccoli-1 cup raw-2.6 grams
  • Brussels sprouts-1 cup=3 grams
  • Spinach-1/2 cup=3 grams
  • Tofu-1/2 cup=11 grams
  • Pumpkin seeds-1 ounce=9 grams
  • Peanut butter-1 Tablespoon=7 grams
  • Almonds-1 ounce=6 grams
  • Chia seeds-1 ounce=5 grams
  • Walnuts-1 ounce=4 grams
  • Cashews-1 ounce=4 grams
  • Greek yogurt-6 ounces=18 grams
  • Cottage cheese-4 ounces=14 grams
  • Skim milk-1 cup=8 grams
  • Non fat string cheese-1 piece=6 grams

Protein helps to keep you feeling full longer, which can aide with weight loss.  Consuming healthy amounts of protein helps to preserve and build muscle mass. That is not to say more is better. Always aim to consume lean protein, low in saturated fat and avoid processed carbohydrates. Eat a variety of proteins. Choose low fat cooking methods such as: broil, grill, bake, roast, grill and poach. Pay attention to labels, especially of high protein bars and shakes as they are usually loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners. I recommend limiting red meat and increasing fish and plant sources of protein. Occasionally make your whole day plant based-beans, peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains and other plant sources and see how you feel! When in doubt, ask your RD how much protein you need to meet your daily requirements.

Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes, Beans & Almond Pesto

From: EatingWell Magazine, January/February 2017

Looking at a tangle of spaghetti squash tricks your brain into thinking you’re about to eat a serving of eggy noodles, when in fact, you get a nice calorie and carb savings in this healthy recipe. Giving tomatoes a stint in a hot oven makes them candy-sweet.

  • By:Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N.


Ingredients       4 servings

  • Almond Pesto
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup whole raw almonds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1½ tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • Spaghetti Squash & Vegetables
  • 1 3-pound spaghetti squash
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 cup canned cannellini beans, rinsed


    •  Prep     45 m
  • Ready In     45 m
  1. To prepare pesto: Pulse basil, parsley, Parmesan, almonds, garlic, vinegar and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper in a food processor until coarsely chopped, scraping down the sides. With the motor running, add ¼ cup oil; process until well combined.


  1. Add water to the pesto in the food processor; pulse to combine.


  1. To prepare squash & vegetables: Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.


  1. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut-side down in a microwave-safe dish and add water. Microwave on High until the flesh can be easily scraped with a fork, about 15 minutes.


  1. Meanwhile, toss tomatoes with oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Roast until soft and wrinkled, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven. Add beans and stir to combine.


  1. Scrape the squash flesh into the bowl and divide among 4 plates. Top each portion with some of the tomato-bean mixture and about 3 tablespoons pesto sauce.
  • To make ahead: Refrigerate pesto (Step 1) for up to 5 days.
  • Tips: Turn leftovers into a pesto-turkey sandwich for lunch: Spread 1½ Tbsp. leftover pesto on 2 slices toasted whole-wheat bread. Top with 3 oz. sliced deli turkey, 2 lettuce leaves and 2 tomato slices.

Nutrition information


  • Serving size: 1½ cups each
  • Per serving: 400 calories; 26 g fat(4 g sat); 10 g fiber; 37 g carbohydrates; 12 g protein; 140 mcg folate; 8 mg cholesterol; 12 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 3,780 IU vitamin A; 47 mg vitamin C; 262 mg calcium; 4 mg iron; 499 mg sodium; 1,020 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (78% daily value), Vitamin A (76% dv), Folate (35% dv), Calcium (26% dv), Iron (22% dv)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 2½
  • Exchanges: 1½ starch, 1 vegetable, ½ lean meat, 4½ fat