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The Promise

A trimmer waist and better health in just 10 days, without depriving yourself. That’s the promise of the Sonoma Diet, named for California’s wine country and influenced by a Mediterranean plant-focused way of eating.

The plan’s creator, Connie Guttersen, PhD, RD, says that besides losing weight, the plan will help you break your sugar addiction and teach you to satisfying cravings with healthy foods.

What You Can Eat

The emphasis is on a cornucopia of flavorful, nutrient-dense “power foods,” including almonds, bell peppers, blueberries, broccoli, grapes, olive oil, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, and whole grains.

The diet is divided into three “waves.”

  1. The first wave lasts 10 days and is designed to promote quick weight loss. It’s the most dramatic phase of the diet, when you are encouraged to chuck all processed foods and some fatty foods like chips, butter, and bacon. Other banned foods in this wave include items that contain natural sugars, like wine, fruit, juice, and some vegetables. But the long list of allowed foods contains things like lean beef, eggs, asparagus, soba noodles, olive oil, walnuts, and spices.
  2. In the second wave, you eat the same foods as you did in Wave 1, except you can add some fruit, more veggies, sugar-free treats, and up to 6 ounces of wine daily. You stay with this phase until you reach your goal weight.
  3. Once you’ve reached your ideal weight, you can jump into the third wave of the program, which focuses on making the Sonoma Diet a part of your lifestyle instead of a one-off diet fix. Guttersen encourages experimenting with different fruits, enjoying full-fat sweets as a rare treat, and having fun with fitness (while still limiting packaged foods and hydrogenated fats).

As a reference for how much of each food to eat, the diet utilizes portion management via plate size -- you eat off a 7-inch plate for breakfast and a 9-inch plate for lunch and dinner.

Level of Effort: Medium

The diet starts off hard -- throwing away a bunch of food at one time can be a shock to the system. The second and third waves become easier, as the program turns from diet to lifestyle change.

Limitations: The last two waves are pretty well-balanced, but Wave 1 suggests a fairly restrictive menu low in calories.

Cooking and shopping: If you’re prepared to stock your pantry with sugar- and trans-fat-free foods, you’ll do well with shopping and cooking on this diet. The diet’s book contains recipe samples for each wave of the program.

Packaged foods or meals: No.

In-person meetings: No.

Exercise: There is no formal exercise component tied to the plan, but you are encouraged to incorporate some daily physical activity.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Vegetarian or vegan: If you love fruit, veggies, wine, and healthy food in general, you’ll do well on this diet. Meat-free protein sources like soy and eggs are allowed, as long as they are low in saturated fat and free of extra breading or carbs.

Low-fat diet: This is a great option if you are on a low-fat diet. During the first wave, hydrogenated fats are banned; and sugars and carbs are limited throughout all waves.

Gluten-free: This diet doesn’t cater to gluten sensitivities, but it can work because emphasis is placed on fruits and vegetables. Read the labels of your foods to ensure they are gluten-free.

What Else You Should Know

Cost: Other than the cost of the book and your food, this diet is free.

Support: At an affiliated web site,, you can find recipes, success stories, and tips from Guttersen. You can also sign up for an email newsletter.

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

Does It Work?

There’s no magic to losing weight on the first phase of the Sonoma Diet because it really restricts your calories. As long as you are using more calories than you are taking in, you will shed pounds.

The Sonoma Diet lists “power foods” that includes some particular fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil. Although there is no scientific research on this special combination of foods or on the Sonoma Diet itself, there have been many studies that looked at the Mediterranean diet, which includes a very similar choice of foods. Most of the studies point to better overall health and longevity for many people who follow a Mediterranean diet.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

Research suggests that eating the type of foods in the Sonoma Diet may lead to better overall health, and in particular a healthier heart and lower risks of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

If you are overweight, the weight loss itself could help prevent and treat diabetes and heart disease, as well.

If you do have diabetes, talk to your doctor or dietitian first before making any changes to your diet or activity level. Restricting calories without adjusting your diabetes treatment plan could cause a dangerous dip in blood sugar.

The Final Word

If you follow the Sonoma Diet plan and begin to make healthy food choices, there is a very good chance that you will soon be on the road to better health, though it will take much longer than 10 days to get there.

You will need willpower to get through the first wave of the diet plan, as your food choices will be narrow and the pickings are slim. It will help if you like to cook. If you eat out often, you may have a hard time with it.

The second wave of the Sonoma Diet allows you greater food choice, and a little wine and sugar-free treats, but is still low in calories, and it might take your body a while to adjust.

Once you hit your goal weight, the diet does offer some more choices and advice on how to maintain your weight loss and continue a healthier lifestyle.

You should become more active, even though that's not specifically addressed in the Sonoma Diet.

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