By: Nikki Nies
I, myself, am not Catholic nor do I practice Lent, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be knowledgable about the practices during the Lenten season. As you may know, as a nutrition professional, knowing an assortment of dietary restrictions and traditions is important to ensure I’m able to do my job successfully, but as a compassionate member of society, recognizing the practices that occur during Lent is a good gesture as well.
With that said, I’ve had to brush up on my knowledge of what Lenten season is all about. Lenten season is a period of approximately six weeks, starting from Ash Wednesday leading up to Easter Sunday. The intention of lent is to prepare the believer through prayer, repentance, atonement and self denial. While there are variations in the spiritual practices among Christians that practice Lent, Anglican, Calvinist, Lutheran, Methodist and Roman Catholic, the food traditions and changes.
The symbolism and importance of the number 40 in the Bible has helped formulate the suggested 40 days/6 weeks of fasting. Present day, the tradition of fasting has evolved into observers choosing a vice to give up, which will help them bring them closer to God. Growing up, I vividly remember my friends sharing about how they were giving up beloved foods, such as soda or candy for the 40 days and hearing how hard it was to abide by that fast during the Lenten season.
During lent, fasting is not comprised of the elimination of all foods, but for Catholics to eat one full meal and two smaller meals, which when perceived together, do not make up one full meal. Fasting regulations do not apply to the elderly, those younger than 21 years of age and/or those with compromised health.
The practice of fasting has become less strict in the Western world, with Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays during Lent deemed appropriate days to fast from meat. In comparison, the Eastern Orthodox Church prohibits meat and other animal products the week prior to Lent and during the second week of Lent, only two full meals are eaten on Wednesday and Friday. During Lent, observers are to avoid meat, meat products, fish, eggs, dairy, wine and oil. On Good Friday, it is recommended observers fast from all foods.
By viewing fasting as opportunity to reassess one’s current position in life and to help shed light on practices, which may include food, that are detrimental to current health is a great way to utilize the time during the Lenten season.
Again, whether you’re fasting from social media, dining out and/or multitasking, it’s important to plan out meals that reflect your fasting and Lenten Season practices. Not sure how to plan nonmeat meals? There are so many meatless proteins, Lenten season may be an opportunity to experiment in the kitchen! By being in the appropriate mindset, you can successfully navigate your way through periods of fasting and remind yourself that your support system is a critical aspect of your ability to get through the daily trials and mental outlook is stronger than you think.
Photo Credit: Ancient Faith