The Pros and Cons of the Sonoma Diet

Analyzing the structure and nutrition of the Sonoma Diet

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Deciding whether or not the Sonoma Diet is right for you is a difficult decision. While the books make many great claims, you're probably wondering if it is just another low-carb diet. Can it provide you with the nutrition you need while you lose weight?

These are good questions to answer before embarking on a such a significant change in the way you eat. To help you make an informed decision, let's look at the positive and negative aspects of the diet.


The Sonoma Diet has some good things going for it. If you're looking for a diet plan that offers guidance and education while keeping things simple, it may be a good option for you.

It's Simple

The strongest case for the Sonoma Diet is that it is very simple. It does not require you to count grams or calories and the size of your plate is used for portion control.

It Emphasizes the Positives

The Sonoma Diet places emphasis on what you do eat rather than what you don't, though only to a certain extent. The list of forbidden foods is one that is common to most low-carb diets, including the South Beach Diet.

It Focuses on Enjoying Food

As you learn more about it, you will notice that this diet emphasizes eating slowly and savoring food. This can help you feel fuller and get more enjoyment out of your meals, rather than feeling deprived. Also, a glass of wine is allowed for dinner after the first 10 days, so it does include little rewards.

It Teaches You About Nutrition

The books talk about getting a variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants, partially through "power foods." Whole foods are emphasized and very few processed foods are recommended, which is always a good sign. All of this information can benefit you in the long-term as your diet becomes more of a lifestyle in which you understand how to make good choices.

It Provides Structure

Some of the popular low-carb diets lack structure. For those who want more guidance, the Sonoma Diet delivers, though it may be too much for some people.


There are a number of aspects of the Sonoma Diet that can be concerning. If you dig into the recommendations, you might find some parts that simply will not allow it to work for you.

Very Little Flexibility

The Wave One menus are 900 to 1100 calories for women and 1100 to 1300 for men, with 200 to 300 calories added in Wave Two. Depending on your size and activity level, this is going to be too low for most people in the first phase. Even after that, many people may have a hard time with the restrictions. Within a few days, it's possible to become ravenous, and this isn't sustainable.

The other problem is that there is very little guidance on what to do when you're hungry. The advice for "a small snack [of plain raw vegetables] to tide you over" doesn't actually work well when you're ready to sink your teeth into the nearest chair. It seems a bit ridiculous, but cutting carbs to such low levels can have that effect.

Vegetable Servings Are Very Limited

Since the Sonoma Diet limits volume, it limits low-starch and high fiber vegetables more than almost any other diet. This may be an unintended consequence, but when you try to follow the Wave One guidelines in your meals, you will keep bumping up against this limitation. Additionally, vegetable serving sizes shrink by half after the first 10 days, which simply isn't acceptable.

This issue comes up because the diet is focused on the actual size of your plate. For example, one cup of cooked spinach almost fills half of a nine-inch plate. Likewise, a healthy low-calorie, high nutrition breakfast of two eggs on a mound of vegetables would never fit on a seven-inch plate. 

There Are Many Forbidden Foods

The Sonoma Diet emphasizes whole foods, which is both laudable and optimal. However, this is going to be a big change for most people. Most diets give you a few "outs" in terms of sugar substitutes, more fats, or extra foods, for example. Many of these are not allowed on the Sonoma Diet.

In Danger of a Carb Crash in Wave One

Experiencing a carb crash early on is common to many low-carb diets. This can cause you to feel shaky, irritable, and tired. However, since the Sonoma Diet claims not to be low-carb, it has no method of dealing with it. 

Inconsistencies and Inaccuracies

To be fair, almost every popular diet has inconsistencies and inaccuracies. The Sonoma Diet does have a few issues that you will want to remain aware of.

Is It Low-Carb or Not?

The Sonoma Diet claims over and over again not to be low in carbohydrate and repeatedly criticizes low-carb diets. Yet, the carb levels they recommended are consistent with other reduced carb plans.

The Wave One menus analyzed were around 40 grams of usable carb per day. Likewise, none of the Wave Two menus were over 100 grams (some were as low as 69). That's low-carb by any standard. In fact, this diet proves that low-carb diets can be high in fiber and have a variety of foods, which almost all low-carb diet authors advocate.

Glycemic Levels of Bread

The book claims that whole wheat bread is less glycemic than white bread. While it's true that heavy bread made partially with cracked wheat are less glycemic than white bread, this is not the case for most 100 percent whole grain bread in which finely-ground flour is used.

Daily Grain Servings

The author claims that grains are "the heart and soul of the diet." However, the Sonoma Diet has fewer grain servings than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends.

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Article Sources
  • Gutterson C. The Sonoma Diet: Trimmer Waist, Better Health in Just 10 Days! Meredith Books. 2005.
  • U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020. 8th ed. 2015.