How To Follow The Sonoma Diet + A Complete Food List

Analyzing the Power Foods Approach to Weight Loss


The Sonoma Diet is a weight loss diet focusing on consuming ten specific “power foods” and being mindful of your portion sizes.

It is similar to the Mediterranean diet but tends to be stricter and tougher to adhere to.

The Sonoma Diet has three different waves, or phases, that become slightly more lenient as you move through them, regarding what and how much you can eat of each type of food.

In this diet guide, we will discuss how to follow the Sonoma Diet plan and the foods you can and cannot eat so you can decide if this eating plan is right for you and your health and weight loss goals.

Let’s jump in!

A variety of healthy foods such as vegetables and protein.

What Is the Sonoma Diet Plan?

The Sonoma Diet is a weight loss program that dictates specific portions and food groups through three phases.

It was created by a registered dietitian named Dr. Connie Guttersen, who authored a diet book on the plan that includes the principles behind following the Sonoma Diet for weight loss, the 10 Sonoma Diet power foods, and specific recipes to prepare.

Is the Sonoma Diet the Same as the Mediterranean diet?

The Sonoma Diet has the most overlap with the Mediterranean diet, because the meal plan is centered around foods found in the Mediterranean region.

Many of the power foods in the Sonoma Diet can be found in the Mediterranean diet and the general principles of healthy eating are shared by both the Mediterranean and the Sonoma Diet for weight loss and health.

A handful of nuts.

How Do You Follow the Sonoma Diet Meal Plan?

The Sonoma Diet has three different “waves,“ which are essentially phases of the Sonoma Diet plan that differ in how strict the meal plan is. 

There are also different tiers of certain foods, which can make following the Sonoma Diet plan somewhat complicated.

Wave one is 10 days long and is extremely restrictive both in terms of the foods that you can eat, the serving sizes, as well as the grams of carbohydrates.

Although you don’t need to be calorie counting, the Sonoma Diet wave one recipes provide only about 40 grams of net carbs per day, which is along the lines of the keto diet.

This is a way to induce rapid weight loss, largely due to water weight.1Yang, M. U., & Van Itallie, T. B. (1976). Composition of weight lost during short-term weight reduction. Metabolic responses of obese subjects to starvation and low-calorie ketogenic and nonketogenic diets. Journal of Clinical Investigation58(3), 722–730. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC333231/

‌However, because the calories are so low, you will also start burning fat due to the caloric deficit.2Weight Loss Depends on Less Calories, Not Nutrient Mix. (2015, May 22). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/weight-loss-depends-less-calories-not-nutrient-mix

Wave 2 is the main phase of the diet and is followed until you reach your goal weight.

Wave 3 is the weight maintenance phase that you should follow as a lifestyle diet moving forward.

Strawberries and blueberries.

What are the Power Foods in the Sonoma Diet?

As mentioned, the Sonoma Diet plan resembles the Mediterranean diet but with a focus on 10 specific foods that are designated as “Sonoma Diet power foods.”

Sonoma Diet Power Foods

  • Whole grains
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Almonds
  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil

What Can You Eat On the Sonoma Diet Meal Plan?

Although it might seem like the Sonoma Diet meal plan only includes the 10 power foods, there are plenty of other nutritious foods permitted on the meal plan, though serving sizes are tightly regulated (and small!).

The Sonoma Diet food choices list essentially centers on lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, whole grains, and small amounts of low-fat dairy products.

The specific Sonoma Diet food list will depend on the particular wave of the diet that you are in because the limitations or restrictions in terms of what you can eat gradually become more lenient as you work through the first phase through the third phase.

Here are some of the main healthy foods that you can eat on the Sonoma Diet plan for weight loss and health:

#1: Vegetables

Although the Sonoma Diet meals center around consuming plenty of vegetables, the types and amounts of vegetables you can eat depend on the “tier of vegetables“ that you are consuming and the wave of the diet plan that you are in.

Essentially, vegetables are ranked in terms of their caloric content or how starchy they are.

Low-calorie, non-starchy vegetables are in tier 1 and the vegetables get increasingly calorically dense through tier 3.

Leafy greens.

Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are some of the Sonoma Diet tiers of veggies:

Tier 1

Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, celery, asparagus, cucumber, broccoli, zucchini, and eggplant. The Sonoma Diet first wave meal plan only allows these tier 1 vegetables.

Tier 2

These vegetables are slightly higher in carbohydrate content but are still considered non-starchy vegetables.

Examples include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, green beans, bell peppers, okra, and yellow squash.

You can have one serving per day in the Sonoma Diet wave 2 meal plan of tier 2 vegetables (along with plenty of tier 1 vegetables).

Tier 3

These are starchy vegetables such as corn, sweet potatoes, yams, taro, peas, winter squash like butternut squash, etc.

You can start to incorporate these tier 3 vegetables into your wave two Sonoma Diet recipes.

Note that regular white potatoes are highly discouraged on the Sonoma Diet plan for weight loss, though you can have them occasionally on tier 3 as a “splurge food.”

A variety of whole grains.

#2: Whole Grains

You must choose 100% whole grains.

Examples include high-fiber whole grain bread, whole-grain high-fiber cereal (with bran so that there’s at least 8 grams of fiber per serving), whole grain pasta like buckwheat pasta, and cut whole grains such as quinoa, barley, bulgur, rolled oats, brown rice, or wheat berries.

Generally, the serving size is 1/2 cup.

You can also have air-popped popcorn as a snack as long as it does not have any butter or oil.

You must have at least one serving of whole grains per day during wave 1 and up to two servings.

This bumps up to 3-4 servings per day (with a minimum of two per day) in the wave 2 Sonoma Diet plan servings.

#3: Lean Proteins

Lean protein is central to the Sonoma Diet meal plan even though none of the Sonoma Diet power foods are lean proteins.

Unlike vegetables, the types and serving sizes of lean protein that you can eat in your Sonoma Diet meals do not change based on the wave or tear of the diet plan that you are following.

Some of the primary lean proteins you should emphasize in your Sonoma Diet recipes include skinless chicken or turkey, eggs, fish, soy such as tofu, and lean cuts of beef and pork.   

Olive oil.

#4: Dairy Products

The Sonoma Diet recipes limit dairy products to only a select number of dairy foods as well as smaller serving sizes in your Sonoma Diet meals.

In the first wave of the Sonoma Diet, you can have low-fat cottage cheese, up to one cup of skim milk, and up to 1 ounce of Parmesan or mozzarella cheese.

For the Sonoma Diet wave 2 meal plan, you can add plain, fat-free Greek yogurt in moderation as well.

#5: Legumes

Legumes such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, and soybeans are permitted on the Sonoma Diet meal plan.

However, due to the high starch content, you can only have a maximum of 1/2 cup serving during the first wave of the diet.

#6: Nuts and Nut Oils

The Sonoma Diet plan does encourage the consumption of healthy fats from nuts and nut oils such as almond oil and walnut oil.

You can also use olive oil or canola oil for cooking, and snacking on nuts is recommended.

However, due to the calories in nuts, serving sizes are quite small and strictly defined, particularly in the Sonoma Diet wave 1 food rules.

In wave one, you could have a total of three servings of nuts, nut oils, or plant-based oils per day, including oils that you use for cooking.

In wave two, you can start adding 2 tablespoons of peanut butter as a protein choice or you can have 1 tablespoon of peanut butter as your Sonoma Diet snack.

The serving sizes for nuts are tightly regulated. For example, a serving of almonds is 11 almonds, a serving of walnuts is 7 halves, a serving of pecans is 10 halves, and a serving of peanuts is 14 peanuts.


#7: Olive Oil and Condiments

Condiments are mostly discouraged on the Sonoma Diet plan aside from olive oil, which should be your primary cooking oil and oil used for dressing and seasoning.

Much like the Mediterranean diet, the Sonoma Diet encourages the consumption of olive oil for its anti-inflammatory properties and satiating benefits, which may help support weight loss and improve heart health.3Riolo, R., De Rosa, R., Simonetta, I., & Tuttolomondo, A. (2022). Olive Oil in the Mediterranean Diet and Its Biochemical and Molecular Effects on Cardiovascular Health through an Analysis of Genetics and Epigenetics. International Journal of Molecular Sciences23(24), 16002. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms232416002

‌Vinegar is also permitted, but any sort of condiments with added sugars or fats are not allowed.

The Sonoma Diet meal plan is generally a fairly low-carb diet for weight loss and you also cannot have any added sugars. Saturated fat is also limited as much as possible.

Key foods to avoid on the Sonoma Diet plan are sweets including sweetened yogurt, sweetened beverages, desserts, etc., all refined grains such as anything made with white flour, and all processed foods such as processed meats, cookies, canned soups, as well as fruit.

A glass of red wine.

In fact, even though the list of Sonoma Diet power foods includes strawberries and blueberries, you cannot have any fruit on the wave one meal plan.

And with two, you can have low-sugar fruits up to two servings per day, which is half a cup or one small piece of fruit.

No alcohol is allowed in wave one, but you can have up to 6 ounces of red wine or white wine per day in your wave two Sonoma Diet meal plan.

Overall, while the Sonoma Diet plan emphasizes whole, natural, unprocessed foods, teaches portion control, and removes ultra processed food, added sugars, and industrial oils.4National Institutes of Health. (2019, June 4). Eating highly processed foods linked to weight gain. National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/eating-highly-processed-foods-linked-weight-gain

The Sonoma Diet plan is quite restrictive, difficult to follow, and tends to be too low in calories to be safe or sustainable.

If you are looking for a similar healthy diet to lose weight or simply adapt to a healthier lifestyle that is a bit less restrictive, check out our guide to the Mediterranean Diet:


Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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