Gelato Freeze: A Four-Week Eating Challenge

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I'm sitting here with a mug of hot tea and a reheated (gluten-free, refined sugar-free) pumpkin spice doughnut I flipped up in the kitchen this morning. Turns out cake doughnuts are a cinch to make and if you're not afraid of hot oil, actually aren't intimidating to make. The other reason that I'm eating a doughnut at 9:15 PM is that tomorrow morning starts a month-long eating challenge and I wanted one last goodbye. Properly, I ought to have started a month-long eating challenge at the start of the month but I wanted to wait till after Labor Day because of reasons like picnics and gelato and sourdough bread that wanted to be eaten one last time for a bit.

I doubt I'm the only person who finds a serious carb-craving riding shotgun next to a determination to wear sweaters anytime the temperature drops below 80 degrees. Something about the cooler days and almost chilly evenings sends me into this primal hibernation mode. All I want to make are muffins, breads, toast, tea, potatoes, rice - even pasta, which I hardly ever crave unless we are talking about macaroni and cheese. In general, I try to temper these cravings by "healthying up" whatever I'm craving, eliminating refined sugar and putting the focus on flours other than wheat. But in the grand scheme of things, my goal is to retrain my tastes to the point where I don't gravitate as much toward carbohydrate-loaded foods, tinkered with or not. September is a perfect month to do a low-carb eating challenge because the carb-cravings have definitely begun, but summer's bounty of lighter foods is still fresh and available which vastly helps the difficulty of starting such a challenge in, say, October or November. Enter the eating challenge fondly known around here as the "Gelato Freeze" (ya know, because in a low-carb challenge you're not going to be eating...gelato?). Anyway.

What I hope to achieve with this cooking/eating challenge is a retraining of my habits (and yours, if you choose to join) in a sustainable, low-stress, delicious way. This way, when autumn really hits, I won't give in to the impulse to bury myself in an over-sized sweater under a heap of baked potatoes like I truly want to do! The goal isn't to eliminate all carbs completely, just to make mindful choices rather than going by impulse, and to choose the healthiest carbohydrates to fuel my day. Each week of the challenge will have a fun name, a suggested playlist, and a particular cooking challenge along with a recipe suggestions crafted just for the week. Read on if you want to see or participate in this four-week "Gelato Freeze." I'll list all four weeks and their premises, but save the details specifically for each week, starting with the full scope of Week One in this post. Let's make the next four weeks a total party!

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Week One: Confetti Plate
September 4-10
premise: avoid the colors white and beige by making your food choices as (naturally) colorful as possible; focus on the art of a fantastic salad, avoid any grains but whole-grains.

Week Two: Lighten Up
September 11-17
premise: kicking the challenge up a notch by eating one totally grain-free meal per day this week (including wheat, rice, oats, quinoa, etc.); take a favorite meal and adapt it to this week's grain-free standard

Week Three: Footloose
September 18-24
premise: learn how to snack/eat on the go without reverting to processed foods (including granola bars, protein bars, fruit bars, etc.); create your ultimate (low-carb) emergency snack-pack for the car.

Week Four: Fancy-Free
September 25-October 1
premise: along with eating only whole grains and one grain-free meal per day, go a week without a traditional-looking dessert (even if gluten-free/refined-sugar free); learn low-carb ways to cut sweet cravings, have a (very) dark-chocolate tasting party

On-board yet? Though it'll be hard farewell-for-the-month to some of my favorite carbs, I'm excited for this challenge and a chance to do a proper reset for autumn's onslaught of beauty. So let's get started with Week One: Confetti Plate! But first, the playlist. You can't have a proper Remember the Titans moment without a playlist and I'm a believer in the idea that every challenge needs a Remember the Titans moment...come hell or high water, we had good music. 

This week is all about maximum color. I know you minimalists are probably looking at the challenge askance already, but bear with me. In the natural world, color in food usually means that it is nutritive, wholesome, delicious, and good for you. In reverse, lack of color usually indicates a lack of life-giving ability. And though I'll never be a whole-grain hater or a mashed-potato enemy, I admit that the more fruits and vegetables I can squeeze into my life, the better I feel. This week the challenge is to make your meals with an eye for flair. If you decide to eat grains, be sure that they are whole grains: things like barley, quinoa, brown rice, and rolled oats which actually work good things in your body in exchange for their carbohydrate load.

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In addition to eating whole grains and rainbow foods, the cooking challenge this week is to fix a big salad for one meal each day. Lunch or dinner, make it big, jazzy, and bright. Make it look like Frida Kahlo started playing Twister with Pablo Picasso. Salads don't have to be boring, so look for ways to give each salad of the week a different vibe and see just how crazy you can get. Here are some ideas to jump-start the creativity, alongside an entire pinterest board of beautiful salads. A body can't have enough salad inspiration, as the options are almost endless.

Later this week I'll be sharing a recipe for a salad that my family and I put on repeat for dinner throughout the fall and winter. It's been a favorite for a year now, so keep an eye out for that. Until then, good luck with week one of this eating challenge! May our collective "Gelato Freeze" inspire us with a new love for taking care of our bodies and feeding them only the best food. Let me know in the comments below if you plan to join, have any fun salad suggestions, or simply want to talk about how much you love carbs. It's okay and I understand: I'm fluent in Sourdough.


  1. This is totally genius! For a couple reasons, I've had to cut dairy (and wheat, at least for a little while) and it's felt like a drag, but this has got me all excited. Less of a "you must eat this" diet, and more of a suggestion-based, fun and "I can totally do that!" type thing. So thank you and I'll definitely be joining along and looking forward to posts! (Especially Week 3) :)

    1. I'm so glad you're excited for the challenge - I'm all about the feasibility of things. Nobody will ever get me to totally go cold-turkey on things like carbs, as that would never be sustainable in my life!

  2. This is beautiful. I'm in transition for this month, so a full-blown cooking challenge won't work, but I'm definitely loving the inspiration here. It's an especially good reminder for me that I probably shouldn't consume lots of German brotchen each day, no matter how amazing they are loaded with butter and honey. :P

    1. Ummmmmmm, send some of that to me, please. I'll be happy to break this challenge for your sake. ;)