Lenten guide: What can you (not) eat during Lent?

4 min readMar 15, 2023

Lent and food aren’t synonyms, but they’re inseparable. Lenten is the season of fasting, prayer, and consecration. The consecration also extends to food, where observers must follow strict diet rules. But your eating habits shouldn’t suffer because of the limited food options during Lent. There are healthy foods you should try during this time.

In this post, we provide the foods you can (or cannot) eat during Lent and how to order them.

Is Lent for everyone?

For starters, Lent isn’t for everyone. It’s a Christian practice, specifically favored by Catholic and Orthodox churches, that starts 40 days before Easter—the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

People aged 14 and above must abstain from meat on all Fridays of Lent, Good Friday, and Ash Wednesday — the start day of Lent. Similarly, people aged 18–59 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

However, there are some Lenten fast exceptions. They are:

  • Children (kids aged 14 and below)
  • Pregnant and nursing women
  • Ill persons, especially people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes
  • The elderly, i.e., people aged 60 and above.

Also, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says that people should “use common sense” and not put their health at risk during Lent.

What can I (not) eat during Lent?

Lenten fasting requires strict abstinence from meat. According to the USCCB, you shouldn’t eat meat from chickens, cows, sheep, ham, pigs, or birds. It’s also common practice to avoid alcohol, sweets and desserts, and fast foods made from chicken and beef.

Although you can’t eat protein-rich meat during Lent, it’s a great time to consume meatless meals, like seafood. Seafood like crayfish, prawns, crab, and fish contain high-quality protein, vitamins, and fatty acids that reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

During the fast, your body needs essential nutrients; this is why you must include fruits and vegetables in your menu. Research from Harvard University shows that regular intake of fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

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Selected prices of fruits available on Pricepally
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Is the Lenten fast beneficial?

Spiritual dedication is the focus of Lent. But its fasting principles have health benefits too.

  1. Reduces calorie intake

Lenten fasting keeps you away from animal-based, calorie-rich foods. Instead, it encourages you to eat more fruits and non-starchy vegetables (such as carrots, cucumbers, eggplants, and okra), which improve digestion and lower blood sugar levels.

2. It improves weight loss

Obesity (or excess weight) is a leading risk factor for premature death. In Nigeria, one-third of women (or 25% of adults) are overweight. Our World in Data says that eating foods with a lot of calories, like fatty foods, sugar, and refined cereal, is a major cause of obesity. You’re not forbidden from eating calorie-dense, plant-based foods during Lent. But the fasting period restricts your intake, which is good for keeping your body in shape.

3. Reduces alcohol consumption

Technically, the Lenten diet rules only apply to food, not drinks like alcohol and beverages. But Lent encourages people to be sober, and alcohol and wine are “not-sober” drinks. As a result, some observers avoid alcohol and beer intake, which is a good choice health-wise. Here’s why.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol use is a causal factor in more than 200 diseases, injuries, and mental and behavioral disorders. It’s also responsible for three million deaths globally. In Nigeria, 40% of people aged 15 and above consume alcohol.

However, reducing alcohol intake is healthy for your liver, heart, and body mass. Amitava Dasgupta, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, agrees. He said, “Drinking one or two glasses of wine once or twice a week has some health benefits, especially for men over 40; it reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases... for women, you can get those benefits anytime; it’s not age-dependent.” If you’re struggling to remove alcohol from your diet, the Lenten period is a good starting point.

Frequently Asked Questions about Lent

When does Lent start in 2023?

The 2023 Lent started on Wednesday, February 22. And it ends on Thursday, April 6.

Can I eat meat juices and liquid foods made from meat during Lent?

It depends. Lent preaches against meat consumption. But it isn’t a widespread practice to avoid meat-derived products.

Can I eat eggs on Fridays during Lent?

Yes. Eggs and meat-derived products (e.g., cheese, butter, and gelatin) that don’t have any meat taste aren’t forbidden.

Can I have sex during Lent?

Lenten abstinence principles apply to specific foods, not sex.

What can I eat (and drink) on Good Friday?

Foods rich in fruits and vegetables, like salad, are healthy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There are no rules guiding what you drink. But coffee, tea, and smoothies are healthy liquid choices.

How many times can I eat during Lent?

During fasting, you should eat one full meal or two smaller meals that aren’t equal to one meal. For this reason, some Lenten practitioners avoid eating at buffets and large parties that serve different food varieties.