The Sonoma Diet: Weight-Loss Tips From Wine Country

Q. I keep hearing about The Sonoma Diet. Is it healthful? Will it help me lose weight?

A. Yes on both counts. This weight-loss bestseller, titled The Sonoma Diet:
Trimmer Waist, Better Health in Just 10 Days!, by Connie Guttersen, R.D., Ph.D. (Meredith Books, 2005), is not only one of the most popular diet books right now, but is probably one of the best.
   Despite a sensationalized subtitle, the diet itself offers no outrageous promises of instant weight loss, and calorie counting is not allowed. Instead, The Sonoma Diet offers plenty of practical, how-to advice for eating healthfully while losing weight. Best of all, the emphasis is on enjoying food, not depriving yourself.

Sonoma Secrets. The author, a registered dietitian, was inspired both by the traditional Mediterranean way of eating and by the modern diet and lifestyle of California’s Sonoma wine region. Guttersen believes flavorful food is the missing ingredient in the long-term success of any diet, and she sets out to fill the void.
   The emphasis throughout The Sonoma Diet is on enjoying full-flavored whole foods and limiting processed packaged foods. And in true Sonoma Valley style, wine is an integral part of the weight-loss plan.

Weight Loss in Waves. The diet is framed around three ?waves.? Wave 1 lasts 10 days and involves a kitchen purge, in which dieters completely empty their cabinets of any processed foods or sugars. No refined grains are allowed (only whole grains), no starchy vegetables, no fruit and no wine?. yet. The logic behind the ?no-fruit? rule is to briefly eliminate all sweets, even the natural sugar in fruits, while you recalibrate your taste buds.
   Low-fat dairy, lean meats and legumes are allowed in portion-controlled amounts. (Guttersen provides a removable guide showing plates and bowls divided into sections for protein, grains, vegetables and dairy.) You?ll probably lose weight fairly quickly during this wave.
   You move to Wave 2 after 10 days. Fruits and wine are now allowed, but the no-refined-grains and no-sugar guidelines stand firm.
   Wave 3 kicks in once you?ve reached your goal weight. This phase is basically do-it-yourself, but within the guidelines of the diet. Guttersen does suggest that indulgences like snacks and desserts be limited to special occasions.

Diet’s Disadvantages. While the diet mostly mirrors EN‘s recommendations to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains, the Sonoma plan, with over half its pages devoted to recipes, assumes the dieter loves to cook and has the time to shop and prepare dishes from scratch. If you have neither the time nor the inclination to cook three meals a day, this plan may not be for you.
   Our other complaint about The Sonoma Diet is that it doesn’t place enough emphasis on physical activity. Guttersen encourages exercise, of course, but gives no specifics, leaving it to the reader to develop a plan.

EN‘s Bottom Line. You won’t find any groundbreaking nutrition truths in this bestseller. But if you love good food and good wine, have the time to cook and want to learn more about the basics of getting back to whole foods while losing weight, then The Sonoma Diet gets a thumbs up.

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