Book Review: The Sonoma Diet

The Sonoma Diet 
By Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD
Meredith Books (2005)
Reviewed by Holly R. Layer, RD

Named for the California county that shares the same latitude as regions of Italy, Greece and Southern France, The Sonoma Diet highlights the benefits of eating a Mediterranean-style diet. This eating pattern, long famous for its lean meat, plant-based protein and fats and variety of produce, is no stranger to diet books and programs.


The Sonoma Diet promises to help dieters shed pounds quickly; in fact, the phrase ‘a trimmer waist and better health in just 10 days’ graces the cover of the book. Additionally, the author claims that ‘every step of the journey from overweight to perfect weight will be comfortable, pleasant and simple.’ By following the diet plan and incorporating ten ‘power foods’ (almonds, bell peppers, blueberries, broccoli, grapes, olive oil, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, whole grains), the author enthusiastically guarantees swift weight loss and easy maintenance, all while enjoying a glass of wine or a little chocolate (later on in the diet).

Synopsis of Diet Plan:

The Sonoma Diet is made up of three ‘waves,’ each with lists of allowed foods. The author begins by prescribing a ‘kitchen clean-out’ and instructs dieters to throw out processed foods, sources of sugar, saturated fats and hydrogenated oils, as well as white or refined-grain products and full-fat diary.

Wave 1 lasts for 10 days and ‘will rid you of destructive eating habits that cause weight gain’ and will ‘recalibrate your body.’ During Wave 1, fruits are not allowed, nor are wine or added sugar, some vegetables and up to 3 tsp of fat (in the form of plant-based oils or foods) per day. Low-fat and no-fat diary is allowed, but only in small portions and not as a source of protein.

Wave 2 begins on Day 11 and lasts until a dieter’s goal weight is reached. During this Wave, fruits are back on the table and the list of vegetables gets longer. Additionally, dieters can start incorporating wine, dark chocolate and honey into their diets again.

Wave 3 begins once the dieter has met their weight-loss goal and is designed to ‘extend the diet into a lifestyle.’

Nutritional Pros and Cons:

The diet, while made up of lots of real, healthy food, is very restrictive during the first wave. Because it only lasts for 10 days, it’s unlikely dieters would experience any deficiencies as long as they are consuming a variety of ‘allowed’ foods. By promoting portion control and mindful eating, the author is helping the reader build skills they can use beyond the diet itself. Wave 1 eliminates fruit entirely, which must be noted.

Bottom Line:

There’s a lot to like about The Sonoma Diet and the optimistic tone may help motivate some dieters. The author emphasizes eating real, whole foods as part of a lifestyle change. The book addresses more than just what foods to eat or not eat; the author gives visual examples of plate sizes and portions, as well as addressing maintaining weight loss (Wave 3), how to add indulgent foods back into the diet, and even a diet ‘q&a’ section. Throughout the book, the author includes helpful information, such as the importance of fiber in the diet, tips for eating out and even a list of recommended products by brand.

On the flip side, the author’s overly enthusiastic tone may over-promise results and does not address those with significant medical issues. Some readers may be intimidated by the multiple Wave/Tier system with lists of approved foods and specific percentages of each food group at meals. Wave 1 doesn’t include fruit and allows very little fat, and may not provide enough calories for some dieters. While The Sonoma Diet lauds the enjoyment of eating (hence the allowance of wine and dark chocolate in Wave 2), it doesn’t address the importance of exercise beyond a couple paragraphs. Lastly, the book’s weight-loss claims may be unrealistic for most dieters.

The book includes approximately 170 pages of recipes of varying difficulty and a sample 10-day meal plan for Wave 1.

See also:

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