For many Latinas, we view Lent as a season of deprivation. There are days of moderate fasting, we are asked to abstain from meat on Fridays, and oftentimes, to choose another food group or behavior to abstain from throughout the 40 days.
Because so much attention gets put onto our food choices throughout Lent, I want to take a moment to talk about maintaining our nutrition even through times of fasting or abstinence.
Some people use this time as an excuse to diet. Now, it’s your spirituality and your body and you need to make the decision that will help you best connect with your faith. But if your goal is to give up chocolate for 40 days and all you do is deprive yourself and use your maximum willpower, I worry that you’re setting yourself up for a binge on Easter Sunday (or the day after).
So how do you observe Lent without sending your hunger signals off the charts, or overcompensating with a binge once it’s all overr? Following are my top 3 tips to get you through Lent so you can worry less about saying no to chocolate and focus on your faith. Make sure to read to the end for my round up of the best healthy Latin seafood recipes for your Friday meals!
3 Nutrition Tips for Lent
No meat doesn’t mean no protein.
If you’re going meatless for some or all of Lent, it’s not as simple as having the same meals and leaving out the meat. 40 days is a long time so it’s important to make sure you’re still getting all of the nutrients your body needs to thrive, including protein.
Fish and seafood are traditional on Fridays during Lent, so this is a good place to start with alternative proteins to meat and poultry. This swap is often the easiest to start with, as you can make a seafood alternative to most meat dishes. Fish tacos instead of tacos de carne asada, for instance.
But if you want to explore other proteins, or fish just isn’t your speed, consider these alternative options:
Beans and lentils
Nuts and seeds
Making sure your meat-free meals include one of these protein options will keep you full and make getting through the season so much easier.
2. Practice mindful eating.
Mindful eating can be as simple as turning off the tv or your computer during meals. It can also include thoughtful reflection including questions such as:
“What do I enjoy about this meal?”
“Why did I choose this meal?”
“How did this meal get to my table? How many people impacted my meal, from farm workers to grocery store employees? What systems need to exist in order for me to eat?”
Practicing mindfulness can also help you work through cravings during periods of abstinence. It’s possible it could deepen your connection to your faith during Lent, as well!
From a physiological standpoint, practicing mindfulness slows you down, which can be beneficial for digestion and keep you more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues.
3. Balance your plate, even for small meals.
One part of Lent is fasting, which in this case means having one regular-sized meal and two small meals instead of three regular-sized meals over the course of the day when you’re fasting.
Because you’re still eating three times throughout the day, it may not seem like you have to take extra nutrition care. But, a smaller meal can send our hunger signals through the roof unless we take care to get all our major nutrients and fill up on fiber.
To succeed with fasting days, use the Balanced Latin Plate to build your meals, even for smaller meals.
In general, this means you want 1/2 of your plate to come from fruits and veggies, 1/4 of your plate from carbohydrate-rich foods, and 1/4 of your plate from protein foods.
This pattern helps during fasting days of Lent because the protein and the fiber help you feel full and satisfied from your meal. It also prevents you from having any gaps in your nutrient intake despite the decreased intake.
Keep in mind this plate can change depending on your diet and your own health. For example, vegetarians may need to shift some proportions around because many vegetarian protein sources are higher in carbs than animal-based protein sources.
For a complete list of Latin foods and ingredients sorted by their place in the Balanced Latin Plate, or for plate modifications for diabetes-friendly diets or vegetarian/vegan diets, visit the shop to purchase the complete Balanced Latin Meals Guide!
Meat-Free Latin-American Meals for Lent
Now that we’ve established the main 3 principles for a healthy, stress-free Lent, let’s think about what foods you can eat!
I’ve compiled a list of the most delicious-sounding Latin seafood recipes from across the web to help you get your protein fix on Fridays throughout the season.
Recipe: Venezuelan White Fish Omelette
Source: Mi Terruno Food
Serve: This dish is protein-rich and provides carbs from the plantains and potatoes. Serve with a simple side salad to round out your meal.
Source: My Colombian Recipes
Serve: This dish almost perfectly fits the Balanced Latin Plate, just add a few extra veggie garnishes to get you all the way there! I’m thinking maybe some pickled red onion?
Recipe: Shrimp Pozole
Source: Mama Maggie’s Kitchen
Serve: If you serve this with all the garnishes + a tostada, you have a perfectly Balanced Latin Plate!
Recipe: Shrimp Stuffed Avocado
Source: Laylita’s Recipes
Serve: You’ve got your veggies and your shrimp covered here, so try serving with some extra carbs like a serving of rice and beans.
Recipe: Shrimp Ceviche (cooked through for anyone who doesn’t do raw seafood)
Source: Nutrition con Sabor 😉
Serve: This particular ceviche recipe is packed with veggies. Serve with a tostada or two plus maybe some avocado slices and you’ve got a balanced plate.