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Build Healthy Habits During Lent

Brooke McKelvey

Published in Seasonal

7 min read

March 16, 2022
Christian Cross
Christian Cross

You probably already know a little bit about Lent! But just in case: Lent is a religious season in preparation for Easter. The Christian holiday lasts for 40 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. It’s a time of fasting, prayer, and reflection.

Many use this period to give up something they enjoy, such as smoking or eating certain foods, in a bid to focus on their faith. Others use this time to take on a new challenge, such as volunteering or reading the Bible daily.

The History of Lent

Crown of Thorns on Bible

Lent has its roots in the Bible, commemorating Jesus' time spent in the desert preparing for his ministry. It’s a time of introspection and reflection when Christians remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert preparing for his ministry. According to Christian belief, it's also a time to examine your own life and make sure you're living according to God's will. Over the years, different traditions have developed around Lent, such as giving up certain foods or activities. 

Some Common Lent Traditions

a bowl of porridge and a glass of water

What comes to mind when you think of Lent? For many, it's a time of giving up certain foods or habits. Many choose to give up something during Lent as a way of sacrificing for their faith. For some, this may mean giving up a favorite food or activity. No matter what your traditions are, Lent is a great time to focus on your faith. Some folks observe Lent by going to church more often or giving charity. Others may use Lent as a time of reflection and introspection.

The three things that those who observe Lent focus on include:

1) Short fasting periods or giving up a favorite food or habit, prayer, and charity.

2) Abstaining from eating meat on Fridays for the duration of the Lenten season.

3) Fasting throughout the entire Lenten season, beginning on Ash Wednesday.  

How to Have a Healthy Lent

a plate of an apple walnuts, dried apricots, raisins

It can be difficult for some people to stick to tradition or figure out how to celebrate Lent. For example, fasting and giving up certain foods can be challenging, especially when trying to maintain specific health goals. Here are some tips from our team to help you observe Lent without ignoring your health:

  • If you want to honor Lent traditionally, try intermittent fasting in the evenings. Studies show that your body regulates blood sugar better earlier in the day. So by fasting in the evenings, you may help your body even out its blood glucose levels. 
  • If you want to give up a particular food this Lent, try giving up something you know isn’t supporting your health. Consider things like processed foods, refined carbohydrates, or sugary drinks. 
  • When you observe “meatless Fridays,” make sure that you get some protein in your system. There are plenty of protein-rich foods that you can substitute, like legumes, eggs, fish, or nuts. 
  • This year, add a habit to honor your body, like a new exercise routine or meal prepping routine. 
Brooke McKelvey

Monitoring Your Blood Sugar During Lent

someone looking at their glucose data in the Nutrisense app

If you have diabetes, a chronic illness, or struggle with blood glucose control, holidays like Lent can also be a time of stress. So how can you observe holidays like this without putting your health at risk? By monitoring your blood sugar levels and following a few simple tips, you can avoid dangerous blood sugar swings.

Keeping your blood sugar levels steady during Lent can be a challenge, but it's a good time to try out some new ideas (like the tips we listed above). It can also be helpful to utilize technology like CGMs to monitor your blood sugar levels as you change habits. 

If you want to use Lent to make positive changes in your diet and lifestyle, consider working with a nutrition specialist. A registered dietitian can help you identify the best foods or lifestyle habits to give up for Lent. They can also identify new habits or foods that may be good to add to your routine. 

Our Favorite Lent-Friendly, Healthy Recipes

Are you giving up meat, trying to cut out caffeine, going easy on the desserts, or avoiding alcohol? Whatever you choose to cut out, you don’t have to rifle through old salad recipes or live on grilled cheese. Instead of suffering through the season, consider spending some time cooking up a storm in the kitchen instead. Pick from meat-free meals, delicious healthy dinner recipes, and mocktails from this list of lent-friendly recipes we love.

Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos

a plate of Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos

If you’re going meat-free for lent, try this delicious recipe. It sounds strange, but it’s delicious. We wouldn’t have thought of pairing butternut squash with tacos either, and it may not satisfy any cravings for authentic Mexican food. But if you’re stumped for ideas and want to try something unique, this one’s for you. It also includes purple cabbage, cilantro, black beans, and avocado-loaded guacamole that also pairs well with other types of tacos (fish tacos, anyone?!).

Salmon Burgers

Salmon Burger on a plate

Can’t eat your favorite cheeseburger because you’re going meat-free? Consider a tasty salmon burger instead. The obvious option is frozen salmon burger patties sandwiched between some burger buns if you're looking for a quick fix. But if you’re looking for an easy recipe that tastes like a gourmet meal, this is a good option. The healthy meal has a lemon-dill twist, with some Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce adding a burst of flavor.

Moroccan Vegetarian Stew

a bowl of Moroccan Vegetarian Stew

If you’re trying a fish and meat-free lent, this one’s for you. Forget side dishes; this veggie-filled treat is the main dish of our dreams. It’s an easy recipe that you can whip up on a weeknight, then pop the leftovers in the refrigerator for later. It’s a comfort food filled with heady spices like cilantro and red pepper. The hearty veggies in this stew include potatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, carrots, and garbanzo beans. It’s a stovetop meal, but you can also make it in a crockpot or your slow cooker. Get inventive with this one: add some lentils to thicken it, or experiment with different veggies. And if you’re watching your carbohydrate intake, you can sub out cauliflower for the potatoes.

Lime Rickey

a glass of Lime Rickey

It’s not easy picking just one mocktail—we love so many. But if we had to choose, this one’s a hot favorite at the moment. It’s refreshing and so simple you’ll be making it over and over again. And with spring right around the corner, the lime and seltzer drink is the perfect lent-friendly treat.If you’re watching your blood sugar, opt for less simple syrup in this one. 

Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Carrot Cake

Sugar-Free Carrot Cake on a plate

Did you give up chocolate, gluten, and sugar? Don’t worry; there is a healthy recipe for a dessert you can still indulge in. Filled with the goodness of coconut flour, carrots, and cardamom, this is an easy recipe that tastes much better than it sounds. It does contain Erythritol sweetener, which you can swap out for whatever your body tolerates best.

Of course, this is just the beginning. You can pick from fish fillets to meat-free lasagna, from grilled scallops to Mediterranean mussels, and so much more. Remember, as you give up foods for lent, make sure you add in other types of food to balance things out, so you’re still getting the nutrients your body needs.

Since everyone has different needs, it’s a good idea to work with a dietitian to ensure you have a healthy Lenten season.

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Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the Nutrisense CGM program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

Find the right Nutrisense program    to help you discover and reach your health potential.
Carlee Hayes, RDN, CD

Reviewed by: Carlee Hayes, RDN, CD

Carlee's training at Western Illinois University and an internship at the Memphis VA Hospital lead her to a career in outpatient counseling and bariatric nutrition therapy. In these positions, Carlee realized many of the disease states (upwards of 80%!) her patients experienced were actually preventable. She knew she had to dig deeper into preventative health and has since been passionate about helping people translate this complex glucose data into actionable changes anyone can implement into their everyday lives.