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The Sonoma diet is a plan for eating healthy, flavorful foods that emphasizes the enjoyment of eating, rather than restrictions. It draws from the culinary cultures of the Sonoma region of California and the Mediterranean coast of Europe. It is intended both to help people lose weight and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Connie Guttersen, R.D., Ph.D., introduced the Sonoma diet in January of 2006 with her book The Sonoma diet: Trimmer Waist, Better Health in Just 10 Days!. Her background in nutrition and food science helped her develop the program, which also draws from the influence of the Mediterranean and South Beach diets.

Guttersen earned her undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics from Texas Christian University and her doctoral degree from Texas Women’s University before returning to Texas Christian University to teach food science and food preparation from 1992 to 1993. She has been a visiting nutrition instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, a dietary consultant for numerous food producers including Kraft, Nestle, and Panera Bakery Cafe, and a guest speaker at food conferences such as the International Conference on Mediterranean diet in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. She is also a registered dietician.


Antioxidant—A molecule that prevents oxidation. In the body antioxidants attach to other molecules called free radicals and prevent the free radicals from causing damage to cell walls, DNA, and other parts of the cell.

Dietary supplement—A product, such as a vitamin, mineral, herb, amino acid, or enzyme, that is intended to be consumed in addition to an individual’s diet with the expectation that it will improve health.

Mineral—An inorganic substance found in the earth that is necessary in small quantities for the body to maintain a health. Examples: zinc, copper, iron.

Vitamin—A nutrient that the body needs in small amounts to remain healthy but that the body cannot manufacture for itself and must acquire through diet.

As of 2007, Guttersen lives in Napa Valley with her husband and two children. She continues to promote the Sonoma diet and lifestyle through lectures, books, and her website, and continues to develop new recipes. In December of 2006, she published The Sonoma Diet Cookbook which provides 150 new recipes to be used with the diet.

Guttersen says that the concept behind her diet is the lifestyle of people who live in the Sonoma Valley region of California. This area, approximately 30 miles north of San Francisco, is known for its over 250 award-winning wineries. Sonoma County is one of the most agriculturally productive counties in the United States. It is also a popular tourist destination, with many hotels, fine restaurants, golf courses, and spas. According to Guttersen, the people of the Sonoma Valley live a healthy lifestyle that emphasizes the enjoyment of food and wine.


In addition to the general guidelines, the Sonoma diet encourages dieters to use 10 ‘‘power foods’ as often as possible. Guttersen says that these power foods are not only low in calories and high in nutrients, but that they can prevent disease and illness. The foods are frequently included in the recipes, which she says are high in flavor, yet nutritious. These foods are prominent all throughout the recipes in the book and online program.

These 10 power foods are:

  • Almonds
  • Bell Peppers
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Grapes
  • Olive Oil
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Whole grains

Guttersen says olive oil and almonds are on the list because they are heart-healthy fats, and almonds can help dieters stave off hunger between meals. Whole grains are on the list because they contain fiber, and the fruits and vegetables are on the list because they contain antioxidants, both of which she says are important to weight loss.

The first wave of the Sonoma diet lasts ten days and is designed to redefine many eating habits that may have led dieters to gain weight previously. Foods that contain large amounts of sugar and processed flour are restricted. This is also the time when dieters are to replace their plates. During this wave, participants are told they will be doing the most changing and seeing the greatest results in terms of weight loss.

The second wave lasts longer than the first wave, and dieters are told that weight loss will begin to occur more slowly. Recipes for this wave are more varied and dieters learn more about enjoying meals slowly. Desserts are still not allowed during this wave, but wine is incorporated during this wave for those who wish. This is the main wave of the diet and it lasts until the dieter has reached his or her desired weight.

Once the dieter has lost the weight desired, the diet moves to the third and final wave. This wave maintains the habits learned during the previous stages of the diet and can last a lifetime. Infrequent desserts and snacks are allowed during this wave as well as wine. Dieters are also encouraged to design their own recipes during this wave, as long as the meals follow the diet guidelines.

Throughout all of the waves, limiting portion size is emphasized. The Sonoma diet relies on its ‘‘plate-and-bowl concept’’ which says that dieters should use 7-inch plates and 2-cup bowls for meals. Diagrams in the books and the online program demonstrate how these plates and bowls should be filled and what portions of each type of food should be included. Shrinking portion size and increasing overall enjoyment of the meal is key to the Sonoma diet. Guttersen says that one of the advantages of the Sonoma diet is that there are no difficult calculations to be made and that everything is intended to be simple.

Like several other diets modeled on European influences, the Sonoma diet does encourage the inclusion of wine in the diet, though it is not a necessary part of the program. A wine guide is included with the diet to help dieters choose a wine to pair with each meal. The diet is not particular about whether the wine be white, red, or sparkling.


The Sonoma diet is meant as a complete lifestyle change affecting the way a person eats, to promote weight loss. The first wave is intended for rapid weight loss, while the second wave of the diet emphasizes learning new patterns for eating. The third wave of the diet emphasizes dietary patterns and a variety of food types that can be eaten over the long term. It is intended not only to help people lose weight, but to maintain good health over the entire course of their lives.


Weight loss is generally quite beneficial for overweight individuals. Obese individuals are at greater risk for many diseases and other health problems, such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. A diet that lowers portion size and increases vegetable and fruit consumption, like the Sonoma Diet, is likely to aid weight loss.


Anyone thinking of beginning a new diet should consult a medical practitioner. Requirements of calories, fat, and nutrients can differ significantly from person to person, depending on gender, age, weight, and many other factors such as the presence of any disease or conditions. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should be especially cautious because deficiencies of vitamins or mineralscan have a significant negative impact on a baby.


  • Is this diet the best diet to meet my goals?
  • Does this diet pose any special risk for me that I should be aware of?
  • Would a multivitamin or other dietary supplement be appropriate for me if I were to begin this diet?
  • Is it safe for me to consume moderate amounts of wine?
  • Is this diet appropriate for my entire family?
  • Is it safe for me to follow this diet over a long period of time?
  • Are there any sign or symptoms that might indicate a problem while on this diet?

Special precaution should also be taken when consuming alcohol. The American Heart Association recommends that if a person decides to drink wine, that they do so in moderation, which means one to two drinks per day for men and only one drink per day for women. Consuming more than this can increase the risk of health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, and breast cancer. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume alcohol. Dieters should consult their physician before beginning to consume alcohol.


With any diet plan there are some risks. It is often difficult to get enough of some vitamins and minerals when eating a limited diet. Anyone beginning a diet may want to consult their physician about whether taking a vitamin or supplement might help them reduce this risk. Consuming wine in greater than moderate amounts can also increase the risk of alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, as well as automobile and other fatal accidents. The American Heart Association recommends that if a person does not already drink alcohol, that they do not start.

Research and general acceptance

Recently introduced, the Sonoma diet has not been the subject of any significant scholarly research. However, moderately limiting caloric intake, eating a diet low in fats and carbohydrates and high in vegetable and plant products is generally accepted as a healthy diet for most people. No direct comparison studies have conclusively demonstrated any health benefits associated with drinking wine.

Some critics have noted that the Sonoma diet is not likely to be practical for the average American because of the expense of the ingredients and the amount of cooking involved. Olive oil is generally more expensive than butter and fresh fruits and vegetables can cost more than frozen or canned ones. In addition, many dieters may find that they will need to spend more time preparing meals following the Sonoma diet than they did before they began the diet.

Although the Sonoma diet is intended as a lifestyle change, its main focus is food and wine. The plan does not include any specific recommendations for exercise. As of 2007, the U.S. Center for Disease Control recommended a minimum of 30 minutes a day of light to moderate exercise for healthy adults. Following the Sonoma diet without supplementing it with an exercise routine would not meet these recommendations.


Guttersen, Connie. The Sonoma Diet Cookbook. Des Moines, IA: Meredith Books, 2006.

Guttersen, Connie. The Sonoma Diet: Trimmer Waist, Better Health in Just 10 Days!. Des Moines, IA: Meredith Books, 2005.

Shannon, Joyce Brennfleck ed. Diet and Nutrition Source-book. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 2006.

Willis, Alicia P. ed. Diet Therapy Research Trends. New York: Nova Science, 2007.


American Dietetic Association. 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995. Telephone: (800) 877-1600. Website: <>


Guttersen, Connie. The Sonoma Diet 2006. <> (March 25, 2007).

Zamora, Dulce. ‘‘The Sonoma Diet: Promoting a Lifestyle.’’ WebMD. 2007. <> (March 29, 2007).

Helen Davidson