The Sonoma Diet: A Food Lover's Weight-Loss Plan
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The Sonoma Diet: A Food Lover's Weight-Loss Plan

The Sonoma Diet is named after the Northern California region famous for its nutritious Mediterranean-style eating and adds to it the science of safe weight loss. The result? A healthier, happier you, in just 10 days.

The Philosophy

The Sonoma Diet is a unique weight-loss plan that brings together the art and science of food. The food philosophy behind it is designed to make you healthier -- and happier. The diet gets it name from California's beautiful Sonoma County, a paradise of great-tasting, sun-drenched foods. Sonoma County cuisine is a way of eating that takes its cues from those who live on or near the Mediterranean Sea. These two communities -- New World and Old World -- have something in common besides superb nutritional instincts. They share a festive approach to eating and a heartfelt love of great food that turns every meal into a celebration.

Decades ago researchers started pondering why Mediterranean populations live healthier, longer lives with lower rates of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes compared with groups in many other parts of the world. The answer lies in the food, which is minimally processed. Healthy eating is not based on avoiding certain "dangerous" or "unhealthy" foods; it's about enjoying more of those foods that are rich in nutrients, such as seasonal vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, nuts, and olive oil. Fish and poultry are more prominent than red meat or dairy. Wine, red or white, also plays an important role in meals.

Lose Weight Safely -- and Keep It Off

The big difference between the Sonoma and Mediterranean diets, though, is the goal. The Sonoma Diet is designed for losing weight and keeping it off. Connie Guttersen, PhD, a registered dietitian who specializes in nutritional physiology, has combined the heart-healthy Mediterranean way of eating with the most-up-to-date studies to create a diet plan resulting in safe, easy weight loss. With the latest research showing that seven out of 10 American women and nine out of 10 men will become overweight or obese by age 60, effective plans like Sonoma are urgently needed.

The diet is neither low carb nor low fat. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy, nutrients, and fiber, and limiting them is a strategy that can't be maintained because it's unhealthy and unsatisfying. Fats are absolutely essential because they help your body absorb nutrients. Most important, they create a feeling of fullness as no other food type can, which prevents overeating. The food choices and portion control built into the Sonoma Diet are calculated for the optimal balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats -- a balance that keeps you satisfied at every step of your weight-loss journey.

The 3 Waves of Sonoma

The diet is simple. You use plates of a specific size, divide them into percentages, and fill them with the "right" food, so portion control is automatic.

During Wave 1, the 10-day jump-start phase of rapid weight loss, you choose from a somewhat restricted list of vegetables, grains, protein, and fat.

During Wave 2, which lasts until you reach your target weight, the food lists are longer and include fresh fruit.

By the time you reach Wave 3, healthy portion control and food choices will come naturally.

As the mother of 5- and 8-year-old children, Dr. Guttersen knows the importance of a diet that's easy to follow and dishes that are a snap to prepare and appeal to the entire family. You'll love the meals you're eating -- and the new wardrobe you will soon be buying.

Easy Portion Control

Sick of measuring out your food on other diets? The Sonoma Diet makes portion control user-friendly. To avoid the American bad habit of waistline-busting "supersizing," the Sonoma Diet lets plates do the work for you. You use a 7-inch plate or a 2-cup bowl for breakfast, and a 9-inch plate for lunch and dinner. Simply fill up your plate in the proper proportions of protein, vegetables, grains, and fruit, and you instantly have the healthy amount you need.

Breakfast: Option 1

25% Grains, 75% Protein (7-inch plate)

Breakfast: Option 2

Dairy 50%, Grains 50% (2-cup bowl)


40% Protein, 60% Vegetables


30% Protein, 20% Grains, 50% Vegetables

Sit, Eat, Savor

People who eat fast are prone to eat too much, since they're still bolting down food before their stomachs tell their brains they've had enough. Eating slowly and deliberately is at the heart of the Sonoma Diet. Sitting down to savor a meal -- with your family, preferably -- and appreciating each bite will help you feel more satisfied. While that's not easy in today's fast-paced world, your goal is to find a way to do so.

During Wave 1, start with one slow meal a day. No rushing or eating while in the car, standing up, talking on the phone, or watching TV. Make time for it; it's something you'll all get used to and love.

Conquer Your Cravings

Banishing the sweets you've loved since childhood isn't easy. But remember: The more you give in to your cravings, the less likely you are to overcome them. If you're pining for sweets during Wave 1, try hard not to cave in. Wave 1 does require you to quit cold turkey, but if you just can't hold out, restrict yourself to one or two cans of diet soda and one or two packets of artificial sweetener a day. In Wave 2, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with such fruits as berries or mangoes. If you absolutely must have a special dessert, bittersweet chocolate is allowed, but just one bite-size piece a day, no more than three days a week.

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

Becoming aware of the pattern of your cravings can help you conquer them. If you mindlessly snack while watching late-night television, don't watch it. Try going to sleep earlier instead. If you feel a craving coming on, get proactive: Take a walk, brush your teeth, pop some gum into your mouth. If you can get your mind off the craving, often it will go away. Or take preemptive action. If you find yourself regularly craving sweets at 8:30 p.p., shift one of your daily afternoon snacks to 8:30. It's better to indulge slowly at 8:30 than devour a candy bar at 10.

Stock a Healthy Kitchen

Before you start the Sonoma Diet, get rid of junk foods and restock with healthy ones. You'll be tossing out your bad habits as well!

Out with...

  • Butter, margarine
  • Cheese, cream cheese, ice cream
  • Cookies, cake, candy
  • Crackers and chips
  • White rice
  • Non-diet soda, fruit juices
  • Hydrogenated fat, lard
  • Mayonnaise, creamy salad dressings
  • Jam and jelly
  • Maple syrup
  • Fatty meats (such as bacon or sausage)

In with...

  • Vegetables low in sugar and starch (such as cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, mushrooms, carrots, artichokes)
  • Fruit (apples, oranges, plums, bananas, pears, and more)
  • Lean beef, chicken, and fish
  • Low-fat milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt
  • Whole grains (bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice)
  • Olive or canola oil
  • Healthy nuts, such as almonds and walnuts

Excerpted from The Sonoma Diet, by Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD. Copyright 2005 Meredith Corporation.

Originally excerpted in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, January 2006.