The Sonoma diet is inspired by the Mediterranean diet and mainly emphasizes plenty of vegetables, healthy fats found in nuts and fish, and lean meats.
Created by Connie Guttersen, the Sonoma diet is a weight loss regime based on portion control and only eating foods from the approved list. The diet is developed around 10 “superfoods,” including olive oil, strawberries, blueberries, spinach, grapes, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, almonds, and whole grains. While whole grains are at the top of the list, this eating plan is lower in carbs than other popular diets.
The author explains the philosophy behind creating the Sonoma diet in her books, namely “The New Sonoma Diet” and “The Sonoma Diet.” Gutternsen said that the diet was named after Sonoma, a wine country region in California, and is largely based on the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is based on traditional foods in the Mediterranean region, where people are known to live long and healthy lives. The Mediterranean diet features some “superfoods,” including whole grains and olive oil, nuts, legumes, fish, and plenty of vegetables and fruits. The diet offers three guidelines waves, from least to most strict.
What You Can Eat
As mentioned above, the Sonoma diet design involves three stages, called waves. Wave one is the most restrictive and lasts for ten days. Wave two is the second phase; here, users aim to reach their target weight. Wave three is the final phase and involves maintaining the ideal weight.
Approved foods such as lean proteins, vegetables and minimal low-fat dairy are eaten through each of the three waves. The type of vegetables you choose to eat varies depending on the specific tier category and the exact wave you’re in. During the first wave, the Sonoma diet is pretty restrictive. Portion sizes are pretty small. The first phase is structured to break all the bad eating habits and achieve the goals below:
- Teach portion control
- Promote weight loss by limiting calories and carbs
- Reduce carb cravings and wean users off sugar
- Familiarize with this diets eating plan
While carbs aren’t counted, wave one foods have about 40g of usable carbohydrate. This is in line with the initial phase of popular low-carb diets and is considered ketogenic for many people, which means they burn more fats than carbohydrates.
The Sonoma diet will work for those who prefer eating low fat, gluten-free or vegetarian. As is the case with other diets, you should consult a healthcare physician if you have any underlying medical condition like kidney or heart disease. Those living with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar levels and adjust carb levels accordingly.
They include soy products, lean cuts of pork or beef, poultry (with no skin), seafood, and eggs – all these are protein sources, which are lower in saturated fats. The amounts and types of lean protein do not change from one wave to another.
While legumes are a great, plant-based protein source, they are restricted to half a cup serving in wave one.
During wave one, only use canola oil, olive oil, or nut oils for cooking. Also, take snack in tiny amounts of nuts, for a total of up to 3 servings every day. In the second wave, you can eat a small serving of peanut butter for your protein intake.
During the first wave, two whole-grain servings are allowed every day. During the second wave, 3 or 4 daily servings of whole grains are permitted; two are a must. Whole grain servings should be 100% whole and include cooked whole grains, whole grain pasta, high fiber cereals, popcorn, and whole-grain bread.
What You Cannot Eat
As with any other weight loss diet, they are a few foods that you should not eat while on the Sonoma diet.
You should avoid added sugars. In essence, nothing sweet should be consumed in wave one. However, small amounts of diet soda or sweetener might be eaten if you’re having a rough time, but they are discouraged in wave one.
Even though blueberries and strawberries are included in the list of Sonoma diets power foods, you shouldn’t eat fruits during wave one. In the second wave, you can enjoy two servings of fruit every day.
You shouldn’t take any alcohol in wave one. However, a maximum of 6 ounces per day of red wine are allowed during wave two.
Does It Aid Weight Loss?
Besides the anecdotal reports, there is no formal scientific research, which has found the Sonoma diet aids weight loss. However, many studies show that the low-calorie Mediterranean-inspired diet is quite effective in the long-term management of weight loss.[i] Since the Sonoma diet is based on the Mediterranean diet, it might provide similar results.
It’s important to note that the Sonoma diet reduces your intake of added sugar and processed foods while encouraging users to eat a wide variety of healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. These foods tend to be lower in calories than the processed foods. More importantly, these foods provide valuable nutrients like protein and fiber, which might control your metabolism and appetite.
Moreover, since wave one is so restrictive, your intake of calories will, without a doubt, drop. Like other diets, you must eat fewer calories if you’re looking to lose weight, and since this is what the Sonoma diet is all about, then there’s a chance you’ll shed some weight. Keep in mind that weight loss is a process that’s also impacted by age, metabolism, sleep quality, and physical activity.
What Are The Rules Of The Sonoma Diet?
The rules of this diet are pretty straightforward. As mentioned earlier, this diet is structured into three different phases, known as waves. All you have to do is follow exactly what each of the waves entails. Following is a breakdown of wave one, two, and three:
Wave one is the most restrictive stage and lasts for ten days. This wave is created to encourage fast weight loss and help you stop bad eating habits. In wave 1, you’ll be required to eliminate the foods below:
- Added sugars – Jam, soda, sweet treats, desserts, agave, maple syrup, white sugar, and honey.
- Fats – Creamy dressings, mayonnaise, margarine, and lard
- Refined grains – Cereals, white bread, and white rice
- Dairy – Butter, full-fat cheeses, and yogurt
- Alcohol – All types
- Artificially sweetened foods
Foods you should eat during wave one
- No starch vegetables – Bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, asparagus, and leeks
- Fruit – Apricots, apples, blueberries, and strawberries
- Whole grains – Breakfast cereal, pasta, whole grain bread, wild rice, and oats
- Beverages – Water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee
- Fats – Walnuts, peanut butter, avocado, almonds
- Protein – Beans, seafood, eggs, chicken, pork, and beef
Foods to eat during wave 2
- Sweets – sugar-free threats and dark chocolate
- Dairy – include fat-free yogurt
- Red or white wine
This is a maintenance phase. So, most of the rules in the second wave also apply to this phase.
Potential Health Benefits
The Sonoma diet emphasizes lean proteins, whole grains, some vegetables and limits refined carbs and saturated fats. As a result, this will ultimately help you learn to eat healthier and balanced whole foods and avoid processed foods.
Focused On Enjoying Foods
As you start following this diet, you’ll realize that the diet primarily emphasizes eating moderately and savoring food. This helps feel full for longer and enjoy more foods instead of feeling deprived. Moreover, you can sip on a glass of red or white wine after dinner.
Start following this diet, and you’ll most likely shed a few pounds after wave one since it cuts out many foods and significantly lowers calorie intake. The second wave is much easier to follow but quite restrictive and will most likely be effective for you too.
The Sonoma diet books talk about getting different antioxidants and phytonutrients from the ‘power foods’ included in this diet. The diet mainly emphasizes whole foods and very few processed foods, which is a great thing. This information will benefit you because if you continue following the Sonoma diet, then it becomes like a lifestyle, but in this case, you get to make informed choices.
Sample Shopping List
The Sonoma diet encourages followers to consume whole grains, tomatoes, strawberries, spinach, olive oil, grapes, broccoli, blueberries, bell peppers, and almonds. The shopping list below provides an overview of foods you should include in your shopping plan if you’re looking to get started with the Sonoma diet. However, this isn’t an exclusive shopping list, and you might find other types of foods that work for you. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been following the Sonoma diet, consider filling your shopping cart with the following items.
- Vegetables: garlic, kale, spinach, broccoli, onions, and carrots
- Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, etc.
- Fruit: apricots, apples
- Dairy: skim milk, parmesan, and cottage cheese
- Whole grains: breakfast cereal, pasta, whole grain bread, wild rice, oats, chickpea flour, wheatberries, farro, bulgur, freekeh, quinoa, couscous, brown rice
- Protein: chicken, pork, lean beef, beans, seafood, and eggs
- Fats: walnuts, peanut butter, avocado, almonds, and extra virgin oil
- Beverages: water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee
- Wine: white or red
- Seafood and poultry: clams, crab, shrimp, mahi-mahi, mackerel, sea bass, herring, tuna, cod, salmon, eggs, turkey, chicken
- Oils: avocados, avocado oil, olives, olive oil
- Sweets: dried fruits, dates, honey
Sample Meal Plan
Unlike other diets, Sonoma diets don’t require you to count fat, carbs, or calories because of the kinds of food you eat. Rather, portion control is created according to the plate size. Following are some of the things you must have:
- One 9 inch plate
- One 7 inch plate
- A bowl that can hold two cups of liquid
The creator of this diet recommends eating three meals per day with an occasional snack every once in a while. The bowls and plates should be measured to meet these requirements. According to the creator, a slight difference in the size of your plate or bowl can make a huge difference in the amounts of food you eat. Below is an outline of how wave one meals should be served:
- Breakfast – Eat a serving of grains and protein on your 7-inch plate or whole-grain cereal plus some milk (milk should be poured into the bowl).
- Lunch – Fill the 9-inch plate with half vegetables and fill the remaining part with proteins
- Dinner – Fill your 9-inch plate with 20% grains, 30% protein, and 50% vegetables.
Remember this isn’t an exclusive meal plan, and if you choose to follow this diet, you might also find other meals, which work better for you. In essence, you’re also allowed 1 or 2 think slices of oat, barley, rye, or buckwheat bread. Below is the Sonoma diet sample meal plan:
- Breakfast – cheese, peppers, two egg omelet
- Lunch – one-cup chicken bread topped with cheese, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
- Dinner – one cup of salad, garden, and lamb
- Breakfast – two poached eggs
- Lunch – two cups shrimp topped with tomato, cheese, cucumber, garlic, radish, and olive oil
- Dinner – six ounces of white fish and asparagus
- Breakfast – oat flakes
- Lunch – two cups turkey breast and green beans
- Dinner – one cup chicken breast with almonds and broccoli
Pros and cons of Sonoma diet
A Sonoma diet places more emphasis on what you should eat instead of what you should not eat. This is unlike other diets that primarily focus on the foods that you shouldn’t eat. As a result, the Sonoma diet encourages more positivity.
Simple And Practical
One of the things you’ll love about this diet is that it’s pretty simple. The Sonoma diet doesn’t require followers to count calories or grams. You only get to use your plate size to control the portions you take. After you’ve had a great sense of the foods you should eat and those you ought to avoid, the Sonoma diet is straightforward because all the dishes and bowls you use usually take care of all the portioning, measuring, and counting.
Many low-carb diets don’t have any structure, which can be confusing to those looking for more guidance. However, this is the area that the Sonoma diet excels; for those looking for guidance, this diet comes with a great structure that’s easy to understand and follow. Looking for an eating plan that offers education and guidance while keeping this pretty simple, this Sonoma diet might be an excellent option for you. However, there are several aspects of the Sonoma diet that could be concerning.
This diet has a powerful nutritional component. People following this diet will reap the health benefits of antioxidants and phytonutrients present in this diet. Also, the Sonoma diet is largely based on healthy eating rather than starvation. So, followers remain healthy, and their metabolism rate remains active.[ii]
A Sonoma diet mainly emphasizes whole foods. This is both optimal and laudable. Nevertheless, this might be a huge chance for many people. Most low-carb diets give users very few outs when it comes to sugar alternatives, extra foods, and more fat. Unfortunately, most of these aren’t allowed on this diet.
Wave one is pretty restrictive and doesn’t include any vegetables or fruits. Also, it’s pretty low in calories. It may be hard for some people to get enough of their daily recommended minerals and vitamins from the restrictive food choices and reduced calories.
The creator of the Sonoma diet claims that whole grains are the central aspect of this diet. Nevertheless, this diet has few grains servings than what’s recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA).
Basically, the carb levels recommended are consistent with reduced-carb diet plans. Foods included in wave 1 come with approximately 40g of usable carb every day. None of the second wave foods are more than 100g. This is low carb by all standards. Essentially, the Sonoma diet has proved that low carb diet plans can contain high amounts of fiber and have a wide range of foods, which other low carb diet creators advocate.
Keep in mind that experiencing a carb crash after you’ve started following a low-carb diet is quite common.[iii] This could make you start feeling tired, irritable, and shaky. Nevertheless, because the Sonoma diet doesn’t claim to be a low-carb diet, it has no predefined method to deal with such effects.
Is The Sonoma Diet A Healthy Option For You?
Although the Sonoma diet has many similarities with other low-carb diet plans, the creator claims the diet is based on the Mediterranean diet. The Sonoma diet is nutritionally balanced, but wave one (first phase) is pretty restrictive. While this diet refers to whole grains as ‘power food’ and says it isn’t a low-carb diet, it has many things in common with other low-carb diet plans.
The United States department of agriculture recommends 5 to 10 servings of grains every day, based on the overall calorie intake. However, the Sonoma diet only allows two in the first wave; this increases to four grains in the second wave. The Sonoma diet removes fruits from the first wave, whereas the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends fruits as an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet.[iv] However, other foods included in the Sonoma diet are more in line with the USDA guidelines because they emphasize lean proteins and vegetables.
As mentioned earlier, this Sonoma diet has very few calories, especially in the first wave. According to the USDA, individuals looking to lose weight should consume between 1600 and 3000 calories every day, based on activity level, sex, and age. Generally, those looking to lose weight should reduce their calorie intake.
While this diet promotes eating numerous nutrient-rich foods, limited calories and small portion sizes, this makes it difficult to get enough nutrients. However, the few calorie limits could make following the Sonoma diet unsuitable for many people, particularly if you are always active.
How Much Does The Sonoma Diet Cost?
As mentioned earlier, the Sonoma diet emphasizes whole foods, fresh veggies and fruits. Although it’s based on the Mediterranean diet, what’s new in the Sonoma diet are the added costs. The Sonoma diet might be costly, especially if you consider more natural and fresher foods as well as red wine costs.
Also, the Sonoma diet might have added costs because of online support. The online help is in addition to the costs of the book, which is available for $24.99. Although some might feel the need to spend more as they look to lose weight, much of what’s offered with this diet online for a fee is general knowledge. So, if you don’t want to pay for online support, you can get most of this information from doing a little research online.
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Is the Sonoma diet good for you?
- [i] DeBruyne, Linda Kelly; Pinna, Kathryn; Whitney, Eleanor. (2015). Nutrition and Diet Therapy, Ninth Edition. Cengage Learning. pp. 185-188.
- [ii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Role of Potassium and Sodium in Your Diet. June 29, 2018.
- [iii] Allison RL. Back to basics: the effect of healthy diet and exercise on chronic disease management. S D Med. 2017;Spec No:10-18.
- [iv] U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services. 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Published December 2020.