Pros and Cons of the Sonoma Diet

Analyzing the structure and nutrition of the Sonoma Diet

Are you wondering whether the Sonoma Diet is for you? Check out some of the positives and negatives of the diet.

Sonoma Diet Pros

  • Simple: The strongest point of Sonoma Diet is that it is very simple. There is no counting grams or calories. Plate size is used for portion control.
  • Positive emphasis: The emphasis is supposedly on what you do eat rather than what you don't, and this is true to an extent. However, the list of forbidden foods is one that is common to, for example, the South Beach Diet, and most of that list is common to all low-carb diets.
  • Focus on food: There is an emphasis on eating slowly and savoring food. Partially to this end, a glass of wine is allowed with dinner after the first 10 days.
  • Nutrition: The books talks getting a variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants, partially through "power foods." Whole foods are emphasized (very few processed foods are recommended), which is always a good sign.
  • Structure: Some of the popular low-carb diets lack structure. For those who want more guidance, the Sonoma Diet delivers, but perhaps too much for some.

Sonoma Diet Cons

  • Very little flexibility in a low-calorie diet: The Wave One menus are 900 to 1100 calories for women and 1100 to 1300 for men, with 200 to 300 calories more in Wave Two. This is going to be too low for most people in the first phase, and many people after that, depending on their size and activity level. Within a few days, those people are going to be ravenous, which isn't sustainable. Very little guidance is given as to what to do when hungry, "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.
  • Vegetable servings are very limited, especially after the first phase: Because it limits volume, it limits low-starch/high fiber vegetables more than almost any other diet. This may be an unintended consequence of the diet, but when you try to follow even the Wave One guidelines in your meals, you will keep bumping up against this limitation. One cup of cooked spinach almost fills half of a nine-inch plate. A healthy low-calorie, high nutrition breakfast of two eggs on a mound of vegetables would never fit on a seven-inch plate. Vegetable serving sizes shrink by half after the first 10 days, which just isn't acceptable.
  • Many forbidden foods: The Sonoma Diet emphasizes whole foods, which is laudable (and optimal), but this is going to be a big change for most people. Most diets give more "outs" in terms of, for example, sugar substitutes, more fats, or extra foods. Many of these are not allowed on the Sonoma Diet.
  • Danger of carb crash in the first phase: Carb crash early on is common to many low-carb diets, but possibly 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 these. Be aware of these issues in the Sonoma Diet:

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