The Sonoma Diet
Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD Reviewed by Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson
On its cover, The Sonoma Diet promises "a trimmer waist and better health in just 10 days." The author, a registered dietitian with a PhD in nutrition, assures readers if they follow the diet, they'll go from "overweight to perfect weight." Guttersen also claims following the specifics of the diet, which includes purging your pantry and refrigerator of all foods and items that are refined or contain sugar, will help readers "break their sugar addiction."
The Sonoma Diet, named for California's beautiful wine country, is influenced by a Mediterranean plant-based diet. It places particular emphasis on a variety of flavorful, nutrient-dense "power foods" including almonds, bell peppers, blueberries, broccoli, grapes, olive oil, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes and whole grains. The actual diet is divided up into three distinct phases, called "Waves." Wave 1 is designed to promote rapid weight loss, lasts 10 days and is by far the most restrictive in terms of calories and food choices. It encourages plenty of healthful foods including whole grains, eggs, nuts, vegetables and lean meats, but restricts fruit entirely and sets limits on dairy foods (up to one cup of skim milk a day). Sweets of any kind are completely banned as well. Wave 2 is much more liberal and allows for more calories as well as more food and beverage choices (including red and white wine) to promote gradual weight loss. Some foods people enjoy, including cashews, orange juice and chocolate (to name a few) continue to be off limits. Wave 3, the maintenance phase, is recommended for those who have reached their target or ideal weight. This phase continues to emphasize a variety of wholesome foods and allows for occasional so-called "indulgences," including dark chocolate, juices, potatoes and pretzels.
Nutritional Pros and Cons:
While Waves 2 and 3 of the Sonoma Diet emphasize a variety of nutritious foods in controlled portions, Wave 1 menus are seemingly low in calories (though no calorie information is provided) and may make it difficult for men and women to get adequate nutrients to meet their needs while they lose weight. However, Guttersen does recommend a basic multivitamin and calcium supplement to fill the nutritional void created during Wave 1. Wave 1 can certainly lead to rapid weight loss, though the calorie deficit created may be too low for some to sustain, even for 10 days.
There's no scientific support for the idea that people need to forego, for any length of time, nutrient-dense foods such as fruit and potatoes, which provide fiber that fills you up and can aid in weight management. Also, while it is a possibility, there's little evidence that supports the notion that eliminating sugary foods from the diet will make you desire those foods less; that may in fact set people up to feel deprived and return to old less-than-healthy eating habits. The jury is also still out on whether anyone is "addicted" to sugar or any food in particular.
Finally, the author claims following the Sonoma Diet will help dieters "lose every ounce of excess weight they need to." While some may reach their dream weight following this plan, this may not be possible for all people, especially those who are genetically predisposed to being overweight. Exercise is mentioned briefly, though it should be an equal partner to proper diet in any long-term weight management effort.
The Sonoma Diet emphasizes wholesome, flavorful foods, including those espoused by the Mediterranean-style of eating (heavy in plant foods, olive oil and other healthful foods). It also encourages enjoyment of meals, but in controlled portions. Waves 2 and 3 are the most balanced in terms of calories and food choices and following a similar eating pattern may help some successfully lose weight and body fat, especially if they balance their food intake with regular moderate enjoyable exercise.