February 2

The Sonoma Diet – Introduction

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Reading time 3 min.

Named after the lush wine country region in California, the Sonoma Diet was created by Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD, a registered dietitian. The plan stresses portion control and healthy eating for weight loss and promises a smaller waist and improved health in only 10 days.

The Sonoma Diet mirrors the Mediterranean diet, which means it emphasizes whole grains, produce of many different colors, and the healthy fats in nuts and fish, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of the Flexitarian Diet and American Dietetic Association spokesperson.

The Sonoma Diet: How Does It Work?

The diet is structured in three phases called “waves.” The first, Wave 1, lasts for 10 days and is the most restrictive with a goal of rapid weight loss. Sweets such as cookies and candy are banned completely, as is all fruit. Guttersen eliminates desserts and fruit based on the theory that removing these foods from your diet will stop your craving. Dairy is allowed in limited amounts — one cup of skim milk a day.

Waves 2 and 3 encourage nutritious whole foods to help continue and then maintain the weight loss. Some foods and beverages are added back to your diet in Wave 2, including wine. Wave 3, the maintenance phase, is meant for those who’ve reached their target weight. Wave 3, like Wave 2, continues to emphasize healthy foods and portion control. It allows occasional “indulgences” of foods such as dark chocolate, potatoes, and pretzels. (The Sonoma Diet is part of the Everyday Health network.)

The Sonoma Diet: Sample Diet

You will eat nutritious meals and snacks on the Sonoma Diet:


Whole-grain cereal with milk


Chicken and wild rice salad

Hummus with baby carrots and celery sticks


Pork chops with rosemary

Brussels sprouts

Whole-grain bread slice

Fresh fruit

1 glass of wine (optional)


Whole-wheat pita with cucumber-yogurt dip


Apple and blueberry tart

The Sonoma Diet: Pros

There are advantages to the Sonoma Diet:

Overall good diet. The most significant benefit of the Sonoma Diet is that it stresses nutritious foods that are high in flavor and taste, says Blatner. Examples include almonds, blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, grapes, olive oil, spinach, tomatoes, and whole grains.

Portion control. To help you manage portions, the Sonoma Diet recommends certain sizes of plates and bowls, says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, also a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Each plate is divided into grains, vegetables, etcetera,” says Giancoli. “All the foods fall into certain parts of the plate.”

The Sonoma Diet: Cons

There are a few concerns as well:

Lack of physical activity guidelines. “The Sonoma Diet is very light on exercise advice,” says Giancoli. “[Guttersen] only devotes a few pages — she encourages it, but doesn’t prescribe it. Physical activity is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, so we should be including it.”

No scientific support for restrictions. There is no evidence that restricting nutritious foods such as fruit and potatoes is necessary for weight loss. “Fruit is nature’s dessert and could substitute for sweets,” says Giancoli, adding that there is no scientific proof that eliminating sweets and fruit will reduce one’s craving for those foods. “It may work for some, but not for others.”

Some confusing food advice. Some of the so-called “power foods” recommended in the Sonoma Diet, such as strawberries and blueberries, are fruit and restricted in Wave 1. Giancoli also questions the separation of vegetables into different “tiers.” Tier 1 includes vegetables you can eat in unlimited amounts, such as high-water content lettuces and peppers. Tier 2 vegetables, which the Sonoma Diet recommends limiting to only one serving per day, include artichokes, carrots, and beets. “I’m not crazy about Tier 1 and Tier 2 separations of vegetables,” says Giancoli. “Carrots aren’t making anyone fat.”

Potential weight gain after Wave 1. There is the danger of gaining the weight right back after the 10-day restrictive phase, says Giancoli: “It’s better to adopt a healthy eating plan, such as those of Waves 2 and 3 — just eliminate Wave 1 and [start with] Wave 2.”

The Sonoma Diet: Short- and Long-Term Effect

In the short term, those on the Sonoma Diet will probably experience rapid weight loss. “If you follow the directions and don’t pile your plate too high, for instance, you’ll probably lose weight,” says Giancoli.

The long-term effect of following the Sonoma Diet will be a realistic, achievable development of healthy eating habits for life, says Blatner. The Sonoma Diet can help people achieve and maintain weight loss, especially if they include regular exercise in their weight-management plan.


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