What Can I Eat During Lent? (Complete Lent Fasting Rules Made Easy)

Wondering what you can eat during Lent? Chicken? Meat? Eggs? Find all the Lenten fasting rules here in this Ultimate Lenten Eating Guide. 


Wondering what you are allowed/not allowed to eat during Lent? This helpful guide has all the answers you need in a very easy to understand format!

Are you participating in Lent this year?

Growing up Protestant, we didn’t really observe Lent. So, when I married into a Catholic family, I didn’t really know what Catholics can eat during Lent.

It was really confusing and frustrating. I couldn’t find one single article that would break down the Lent rules in an easy-to-understand way.

So… Catholics aren’t allowed to eat meat during Lent, but fish is okay…? What about chicken wings…? What can I eat during Lent?

(They laughed when someone asked “Can you eat chicken wings during Lent?” in RCIA, but the truth is–if you didn’t grow up in Catholic culture–there are some things you just don’t know!)

So I decided to find out.

Now, technically, I’m not even required to participate in Lent–since I’m not even Catholic–but I want to for three reasons:

Reasons I Participate in Lent as a Non-Catholic

1. It’s a great opportunity to strengthen my faith. If I can make Christian New Year’s Resolutions, I can give something up for Lent as well. Same concept, different time of year.

2. It helps my family strengthen their faith as well. By choosing to give something up for Lent, my husband and I are better able to teach our children important lessons and values like obedience, sacrifice, priorities, and selflessness and to keep the focus on Christ–where it belongs.

3. Someday I am going to be held accountable for what I eat during Lent. Do I really want to have to explain to God how dieting for months to look good in a bathing suit isn’t too much trouble but going without meat for a few Fridays is? Um… no. I don’t.

Which brings us back to the question… What can you eat during Lent??

Free “What Can I Eat During Lent?” Cheat Sheet!

Free cheat sheet: What Can I Eat During Lent? (This is SO helpful!)

Struggling to figure out (or remember!) what you can / cannot eat during Lent?

Yeah, I was too.

The good news is — it’s actually pretty simple AND I have a really helpful free “What Can I Eat During Lent” cheat sheet to help you!

I’d be happy to email it to you. Simply enter your name and email in the boxes below, and I’ll send it right over!

Not only will it help you know WHAT you can eat, but hang it on your fridge and it’ll serve as a good reminder so you don’t forget!

(Plus, it even has 8 easy Lent meal ideas, perfect for those busy nights when you need dinner in a hurry – score!)

Super helpful. Super easy. Just let me know where to send it!

PIN THIS POST FOR LATER

Share this Lent infographic on your website

What Can I Eat During Lent?

Short Version – Catholics are required to:

  • fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
  • abstain on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays during Lent.

Here’s what that looks like…

Fasting: On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: Eat less

Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are expected to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (unless a solemnity falls on one of those days).

Here, “fasting” doesn’t mean going without any food at all, though. It just means eating noticeably less. So you can eat one full meal and possibly two smaller meals if needed, just as long as your total food intake for the day equals less than two full meals. And no snacking or grazing in between meals.

Why? Catholics fast during Lent so they can better focus on prayer and preparing their hearts for Easter instead.

There are many exemptions to this rule though. Keep reading to learn more!

Abstinence: On Ash Wednesday, all Fridays during Lent and Good Friday: Don’t eat meat.

Funny story–when I first heard Catholics were supposed to practice “fasting and abstinence,” I thought “Oh goodness. Not only can we not eat meat, but we can’t have sex either??” Eventually figured out that wasn’t what they were talking about… but it took me a while! lol

Catholics ages 14 and older are expected to abstain from eating meat (not sex) on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays during Lent and Good Friday, unless a solemnity falls on one of those days. “Meat” doesn’t include all animal products, though. Just the fleshy part of animals other than fish.

In other words… 

Eat These During Lent:

  • fish
  • eggs
  • animal products like milk, butter, yogurt or cottage cheese
  • any fruits
  • any veggies
  • grains like noodles, breads, donuts, etc.

Don’t Eat These During Lent:

  • beef
  • pork
  • chicken
  • ham
  • deer
  • lamb
  • buffalo
  • etc.

** And keep in mind – these rules only apply to Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Fridays during Lent. Every other day of the week, you just eat like normal.

Lent Tip: It’s a good idea to keep your meals simple. While you technically can eat Lobster during Lent, it’s not really in line with the purpose of Lent — to remember Christ’s sacrifice, to prepare your heart for Easter, and to practice self-denial.

Why isn’t Fish Considered Meat During Lent?

That’s a good question and it depends on who you ask. Possible answers include: because it was inexpensive and readily available (not a luxury item) when the rule was made and because fish belong to a different category of animal. No one really knows for sure.

Can I Eat Chicken Stock, Gravy, etc During Lent?

There is some disagreement about whether condiments derived from meats (such as chicken stock, beef gravy, etc.) are acceptable since they are made with meat but don’t actually contain chunks of meat. You’ll have to ask your local priest for a definitive answer on this one.

Exemptions/Exceptions

For most people, going without meat and eating a little less for a few meals really isn’t that much of a sacrifice. But for others, it could pose health problems. Which is why the Catholic church offers plenty of exemptions.

For example, the following people are all exempt:

  • Children
  • The elderly
  • Pregnant and nursing mothers
  • Those who are frail
  • “Individuals of unsound mind”
  • Manual laborers who need to eat to have the strength to work
  • People who cannot fast or abstain for health reasons
  • And even guests whose refusal to eat would greatly offend their dinner host!

Do you qualify for an exemption? If so, the extent to which you participate is between you and God. You and He both know if you truly should be exempt or if you are just trying to get out of it.

And don’t forget — even if you can’t fast, there are plenty of other things you could give up for Lent instead.

But Why Can’t Catholics Eat Meat During Lent?

To best explain this, allow me to use an analogy.

In our house, our boys are not allowed to jump on the furniture. As their parent, I have the authority to make that rule, and I have for the good of our family. I have good reasons for having this rule, but that doesn’t really matter. As my children, my boys are expected to listen and obey because I am their mother.

Is jumping on the couch inherently wrong? No. If my neighbor’s kids jump on their couch, is that wrong? No, not unless their mother has made the same rule at their house. Is jumping on the couch really that big of a deal? No, not really. But, as my children’s mother who is responsible for their well-being, I have the authority to make the rules for the good of my children as I see fit.

It’s the same thing with the Catholic church and Lent. Is eating meat inherently wrong? No. If non-Catholics don’t fast during Lent, is that wrong? No. Is eating meat really a big deal? No, not really. Eating meat isn’t the issue. It’s an issue of obedience to the authority figures that God has placed over us.

**And honestly this is the big sticking point–who has the authority? For more on this issue, please see my post: Who has the Ultimate Authority? A Biblical Look at Sola Scriptura. No matter which way you believe, it’s a great read!

Sure, the church could have said “Just do whatever you want,” but that leaves a lot open to interpretation. (And makes it reallllly easy to be lazy and do nothing at all.) By setting actual guidelines (that really aren’t that bad), the church makes it that much likely that people will actually follow through.

What Happens If I Forget and Eat Meat During Lent?

If you truly forget it’s Lent and eat meat without thinking about it, the good news is you aren’t going to Hell for it. Simply stop eating your hamburger, chicken wings, etc immediately and follow the rules the rest of the day.

And if you are Catholic, you should probably mention it the next time you go to confession.

Fridays Throughout the Year

Many people don’t know this, but technically Catholics are supposed to abstain from meat on ALL Fridays (except solemnities) throughout the year–not only during Lent. Catholics living in America are allowed to substitute a different penance throughout the rest of the year, but fasting and abstinence during Lent is required.

Will you be participating in Lent this year? Why or why not?

You may also like:

**Want to share the Lent infographic at the top of this post? That’d be great! Just follow these guidelines:

Print: You are more than welcome to print and distribute (RCIA, church bulletin, school newsletter…) the Lent infographic at the top of this post as long as you don’t alter the image in any way or cut off the watermark at the bottom.

Social Media: I’d love for you to share! Please make sure you include a link back to this article for more information.

On your Website: I’d love for you to share! Simply copy/paste this code to share my Lent infographic on your site:

[kdac-sharebox url=”https://equippinggodlywomen.com/homemaking/lenten-eating-guide/” image=”https://equippinggodlywomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Lent-infographic-small.jpg” alt=”Lent infographic – Equipping Godly Women” credit=”Image credit: Equipping Godly Women. Used with permission.”]Want a free printable copy for yourself? Please visit “What Can I Eat During Lent?” to learn more.[/kdac-sharebox]

Sources for Further Reading

Questions And Answers About Lent And Lenten Practices — United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Fast and Abstinence — EWTN Global Catholic Network

What is Lent? — Bible Gateway

Can Catholics Eat Meat on Good Friday? — Catholicism.About.com

What Are the Rules for Fasting and Abstinence in the Catholic Church? — Catholicism.About.com

Is Chicken Meat? And Other Surprising FAQs About Lent — Catholicism.About.com

The following two tabs change content below.
A devoted Christian, wife and mother, Brittany loves helping other women grow in these roles as well. When she isn’t busy taking care of her growing family, you can find her at Equipping Godly Women, where she regularly shares tips, tricks and encouragement to help you be the amazing woman God created you to be. Brittany also has a thriving online community on Facebook as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16 Comments

Hi Brittany. Thanks for giving us a look at Catholic Lent. It’s interesting to see what other Christians do for Great Lent. Eastern Orthodox Christians fast from all meat, dairy, oil, and wine every day throughout all of Lent. And, we actually do abstain from sex for all of Lent. (Traditionally, as in over one thousand years ago when East and West were united, all of the Church observed this fast.) Oh, and this year Orthodox and Western Churches have different Lent and Easter (or Pascha) dates. Orthodox Pascha is on May 1, making Great Lent start on March 14. Let’s pray that one day the Church will be united!

I’m actually a vegetarian, but I do believe giving something up is super important. My first time observing Lent, I gave up all refined sugars. It was torturous and a little difficult, so the next couple years or so, I gave up all caffeine for Lent.
But last year after realizing no chocolate was bad for my emotional health (I’m in college and I have severe depression, so I do literally need it for my emotional health), and it had become more habit than genuinely seeking spiritual renewing, I made the painful decision to give up my most unhealthy and unnecessary addiction– TV shows. And oh boy, it was PAINFUL! But it gave me more time to focus on things I needed to get done, and time to do more spiritual reading. I read through the entire Catholic Catechism (alongside your series on Catholicism, which was kind of a Sparknotes for my reading), learned about saints…And at the end of Lent, I was able to tell my uber reformed Protestant parents I was going to convert to Catholicism. Also, when I came back to TV shows after Lent, I realized I was now way more bothered about nudity and sex scenes than I had been before… I’d kind of become jaded to that kind of stuff.
This year, I decided to torture myself again and give up TV shows. I don’t know what I’ll be filling that time with, but I’m sure it will be another great season of spiritual growth for me.

Great article! Thanks for shedding light on what Catholics do and why.

One point though… we are not required to fast on all Fridays during lent. We fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays in between.

Beautiful post Brittany, you have really done a good job. I always have difficulty in remembering that iam not suppose to eat meat every friday, to the extent of eating meat on fridays during Lent. You have just make a good point by saying we should put it in a calender to remind ourself, by the grace of God i will put an alarm to remind me of this every Friday and also to do the stations of the cross every Friday too.
Thank you and God bless you.

Yes, the truth is, if it’s important enough to you, you’ll find a way to make it a priority. Even if you have to put a big sign on the fridge, set an alarm, have your family hold you accountable… it’s up to you! 🙂

Hi Brittany, thank you so much for this information. I grew up knowing all about lent, fasting and abstinence, to which I have pass on to my children. But today, many Catholics I know doesn’t seem to know this. Another thing we were taught, is to abstain from meat for the next 40 days (meaning) from Ash Wednesday, and all Friday’s until Good Friday. Then again 40 days (Friday’s) after Good Friday, to which I still follow. But I told my children, if they cannot follow through as I do, then they should abstain from meat on all Friday’s during year. This is easier to follow. Our priest told us, if you are not sure then do as the English do. Fish and Chips every Friday. God Bless you.

Yeah, it’s a lot easier to forget when it’s only a few weeks a year. Eating fish every Friday all year round would definitely make it easier to remember.