The Sonoma Diet
319 Pages, Hardcover
By Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., Ph.D.
Meredith Books, Des Moines, Iowa, December 2005
Reviewed by Chef John Vyhnanek, June 2006

I receive many cookbooks to review and when I get one about dieting I always shrug my shoulders and say, "What now, how many twists on dieting can there be?" I've never been on a diet, so to speak, but I do try and watch what I eat, vary what is eaten, eat whole grains, rarely eat sweets and cook everything from fresh ingredients myself. My doctor would like me to lose weight and get more exercise but isn't banning me from food all together! I do have a big appetite especially after doing physically challenging work and especially like bread. I eat what I want and would quiver at the thought of miniscule portions, tasteless, bland food with no character. Well, that's my opinion of a diet and probably that's true for many other people. You can't eat butter, steak, starches, sugar, but you can eat like a rabbit! My favorite movie moment was in Sleeper: Woody Allen is resuscitated after many years to learn that scientists discovered butter and fat was good for you! Hey what the heck, Julia Child lived into her 90's and her favorite food was steak!

It's all in moderation and that's the principle of the Sonoma Diet. Eat what you like, within reason, exercise and you will lose weight, be happy and fit. As with any diet and mentioned on the copyright page, see your doctor first regarding whether the Sonoma Diet is right for you. If it is, then you're in for a real treat of delicious and high quality foods to choose from. First read about 130 pages of information, the principles and how to implement and track your progress. You will be making a lifestyle change, but not one that is impossible to achieve. The Sonoma Diet is not a deprivation, low-carb, low-fat diet. There are many similarities to the Mediterranean style of eating, so olive oil, tomatoes, fresh vegetables and grains are prevalent in many recipes. "The Sonoma Diet is a state of mind and reflection of the way of eating and daily foods enjoyed by the people who live on or near the Mediterranean Sea."

The book is well written and easy to read. There is a tremendous amount of really good information about all sorts of food's health benefits. You will learn about healthy fats, the wonders of blueberries, strawberries and grapes, and how whole grains and vegetables all work together. Yes, you can fill your plate but your plate isn't a platter! It may be a 7 inch or 10 inch plate or even a 2 cup bowl. Within these vessels you place a certain percentage of protein/dairy, vegetables, grains and fruit made from the great recipes that are listed starting on page 133. To start your diet, you will follow 3 waves leading you to your target weight and maintaining it for the new happy you! In these waves and in the recipes section, there are meal plans to get you started. After you understand the principles It'seems that you will find it easy to develop your own menus too.

Good Cooking likes the book very much for its easy to read and understand information. The recipes aren't fake tasteless creations. They are full of good ingredients, loaded with flavor, easy prepare and present well on plates. Why not enjoy the good recipes, and lose weight with the Sonoma Diet? After all, why not enjoy delicious food, slim down and be happy!

Sonoma Salad with Tomatoes and Feta
Start to finish: 20 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

8 cups torn mixed salad greens
12 ounces cooked skinless chicken or turkey breast, lean beef, or pork, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup sliced, halved cucumber
¼ cup small fresh basil leaves
1 recipe Red Wine Vinaigrette (see recipe, page 152)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (1 ounce)
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

1. In a very large bowl combine greens, meat, tomatoes, cucumber, and basil. Drizzle with Red Wine Vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Top with feta cheese and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 267 cal., 13 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 80 mg chol.,318 mg sodium, 6 g carbo., 2 g fiber, 30 g pro.

Shrimp with Serranos
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

1 pound fresh or frozen peeled and deveined medium shrimp
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped shallots-
3 cloves garlic, minced (1½ teaspoons minced)
¼ cup chopped red sweet pepper
2 to 3 fresh serrano or jalapeño chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped*
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1. Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add peppers. Stir-fry for 1 minute more. Add shrimp; stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Drizzle with lemon juice. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 195 cal., 9 g total fat (1 g sat. fat), 172 mg chol., 171 mg sodium, 5 g carbo., 0 g fiber, 24 g pro.

*Note: Because hot chile peppers contain oils that can burn your skin and eyes, wear rubber or plastic gloves when working with them. If your bare hands do touch the chile peppers, wash your hands well with soap and water.

California Chicken Salad
Start to finish: 35 minutes
Makes: 6 servings

1 pound cubed cooked chicken breast
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
½ cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup light dairy sour cream
¼ cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
6 cups torn mixed salad greens1. 

In a large bowl combine chicken, apples, celery, green onions, and parsley. Stir in sour cream, red wine vinegar, mayonnaise, kosher salt, and pepper. Stir walnuts into chicken mixture. Divide greens among 6 serving plates; top with chicken mixture.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 258 cal., 12 g total fat (2 g sat. fat), 70 mg chol.,288 mg sodium, 11 g carbo., 3 g fiber, 26 g pro.

Tunisian Carrot Salad
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Stand: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

1 pound carrots, sliced ¼ to ½ inch thick
¼ cup Harissa Sauce (see recipe, page 142)
1 clove garlic, minced (½ teaspoon minced)
¼ cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (1 ounce)
4 lemon wedges1. 

In a covered large saucepan cook carrots in a small amount of boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water to cool quickly. Drain well. Place carrots in a medium bowl. Add Harissa Sauce and garlic; toss to combine. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to develop flavors; stir occasionally.
2. Sprinkle servings with olives and feta. Serve with lemon wedges.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 136 cal., 8 g total fat (2 g sat. fat), 8 mg chol., 340 mg sodium, 18 g carbo., 6 g fiber, 3 g pro.

Garlic and Mint Chicken Breasts
Prep: 15 minutes
Marinate: 4 to 24 hours
Grill: 12 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1¼ to 1½ pounds)
Fresh mint sprigs (optional)

1. For marinade, in a blender combine mint leaves, lemon juice, oil, soy sauce, chili powder, pepper, and garlic. Cover and blend until smooth.
2. Place chicken in a self-sealing plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Pour marinade over chicken. Seal bag; turn to coat chicken. Marinate in refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.
3. Drain chicken, discarding marinade. For a charcoal grill, place chicken on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes or until no longer pink (170°F), turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place chicken on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.) If desired, garnish with mint sprigs.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 202 cal., 6 g total fat (1 g sat. fat), 82 mg chol.,228 mg sodium, 2 g carbo., 0 g fiber, 34 g pro.

Grilled Tuna with Rosemary
Prep: 10 minutes
Grill: 8 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

1 pound fresh or frozen tuna, halibut, or salmon steaks, cut 1 inch thick
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced (1 teaspoon minced)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary or tarragon, crushed
1 tablespoon drained capers, slightly crushed
Fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)

1. Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Cut fish into 4 serving-size pieces. Brush both sides of fish with oil and lemon juice; sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Sprinkle garlic and rosemary evenly onto fish; rub in with your fingers.
2. For a charcoal grill, place fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium-hot coals. Grill for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.)
3. Top fish with capers. If desired, garnish with fresh rosemary.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 145 cal., 3 g total fat (1 g sat. fat), 51 mg chol., 179 mg sodium, 1 g carbo., 0 g fiber, 27 g pro.

Broiler method: Place fish on the greased unheated rack of a broiler pan. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, turning once halfway through broiling.

Copyright © 2006 Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., Ph.D.Author Dr. Connie Peraglie Guttersen, R.D., Ph.D., a leading nutrition expert, has devoted her career to developing flavorful approaches to healthy eating and weight reduction.

A registered dietitian, culinary professional, and nutrition consultant to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, Dr. Guttersen delivers key nutrition messages to the food industry, media, and health professionals by bringing together the art and science of food. She has focused extensively on the health benefits of diets inspired by Mediterranean and other regional cuisines.

Dr. Guttersen's many accomplishments include developing the standards of care for a medical obesity treatment center in Bellevue, Washington, as well as serving as a nutrition consultant for a broad range of companies including Kraft, Nestle, Sodexho Marriott, Radisson Hotels, Hyatt Classic Residences, and Panera Bread. Visit for more information.