Short-term nutrition goals for Lent (even if you’re not Catholic!)

Y’all. Next Tuesday is MARDI GRAAAASSSS!


How everyone feels the morning after Mardi Gras

For those of you who don’t know, I did my Dietetic Internship at Tulane in New Orleans, and have henceforth been 100% obsessed with that city which of course includes being really into Mardi Gras. Yes, I will be there this weekend – look for me wearing a Buc-ee’s Mardi Gras T shirt and my shiny gold pants. And what comes after Fat Tuesday? LENT.

That’s right, all the Catholic boozehounds in the Big Easy are supposed to put down their daiquiris, chuck the king cake and straighten up, at least for the 40 days until Easter. I am not about to get theological on you, but typically Catholics a.) don’t eat meat on Fridays during lent (which often means fish) and b.) give something up. It’s supposed to be tough, and it’s supposed to be something that helps you to grow as a person. If you’ve been reading for a while you probably remember my renouncement of all added sugar during Lent last year. If you haven’t, read it here.

Whether or not you’re Catholic, or even if you’re not religious at all, I still think Lent is a great time to think about changes you want to make to your nutrition habits and take on the challenge 100% for 40 days. I can’t really talk about this with patients at work, so I’m going to encourage everyone here to make a positive nutrition change this Lent. There are so many things in life that get a “yeah, I should do that, BUT” or “It would be helpful if I could change X, BUT”. Get rid of the buts! Here is why I really love the 40-day Lenten nutrition challenge:

1. It’s short: There is that “21 days to make a habit” saying but I am pretty confident that it’s based on ZERO science because I can do a lot of things for 3 weeks and be totally over it by week 4. But diligent focus for 40 days is pretty legit. Hopefully after you spend 40 whole days doing whatever it is that you decided to do, at least a morsel of that good behavior will be ingrained in your daily routine. If “pretty legit” isn’t enough for you, check out this article – the truth is the amount of time varies for people but 40 days is a good middle ground.

2. Everybody’s doing itThe only other time where there are a bunch of people with resolve to make some changes (that I can think of) is New Years, but New Years resolutions fail #1 automatically – it’s not nearly as easy to stick to a goal if there is no end in sight. Having other people in on the 40-day challenge provides accountability. Accountability is one of the reasons why Weight Watchers can be so effective, and one of the reasons why several of my successful patients keep their monthly follow up appointments even though they’ve met weight loss goals. Now, if nobody you interact with is Catholic, then you should recruit someone and just tell them “Let’s do this healthy eating challenge I found online it sounds really cool!!” and then make up the rules yourself for whatever your personal goal is.

3. Customized goals: I always think of giving something up for Lent, but it’s just as easy to decide you want to introduce something: eat more vegetables, cook at home at least 3 times weekly, bring your lunch, plan your meals for the week ahead. A lot of pre-packaged challenge programs tell you what you need to do. We are going to make this goal something tailored specifically to YOU. Your goal should:

  • Be something you’ve thought about or tried to do and failed in the past i.e. I always want to cook at home so I can eat balanced meals and save money but I end up eating out too much for no reason
  • Be  specific and measurable i.e. I will cook a meal at home that conforms to the Plate Method three days per week 
  • Be more than you’re doing now, but not so much that it won’t happen i.e. I cook twice a week, so it needs to be more than that, but five times would be way too much because I would have too many leftovers and I just wouldn’t do it

4. I’m here, encouraging you! Sometimes all it takes is a gentle nudge to challenge yourself. That sugar-free 40 days last year? I only did it because my friends suggested it. Nothing big and fancy. This is me challenging you to test your boundaries. Now go prove your strength!


So there you have it, the merit of short-term goals, and a little bit of convincing to make it happen right now. If you need help determining exactly what to make your goal, check out this list.

So what is my Lenten nutrition goal?

Thanks to Carolyn’s post, I’m going to make a point to try at least one NEW vegetarian/vegan entree recipe weekly. Follow along on Instagram to see the results (if they’re pretty) and give me a shout to let me know what you’re doing!





4 responses to “Short-term nutrition goals for Lent (even if you’re not Catholic!)

  1. Woohoo! I cannot tell you how excited I am for Lent this year (mostly because my husband HAS to give up meat for at least one day a week), and also because FAT TUESDAY!! and Paczkis! Everything in my mind and body tells me how bad they are for me, but everything in my stomachs says eat, EAT! Hey its only one a year right? Last year I gave up alcohol (yes, even wine) this year I am going to recycle an old one and avoid added sugars as much as possible. I hope you have a fun time at Mardi Gras! Happy Eats!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I once did “only one cup of coffee per day” because that was a significant decrease in a bunch of caffeine I didn’t need, and I’ve done the added sugar (will probably do that again this year, maybe with one day on the weekend where I have it anyway). I wanted to try to add something this year because I’ve noticed we are always saying “We should eat more beans!” “We should have vegetarian dinners sometimes” but it’s just a matter of changing the mindset and the grocery list. I’m excited!


      • I agree with the vegetarian dinners. It seems like that is a big movement right now with the Meatless Monday campaign going on in schools. I recently learned the term “Reducetarian” and have decided that’s what I am lol. I explained it in a blog post but its basically making a conscious effort to eat less meat without restricting yourself or following rules. I have actually stopped eating meat during the day just because I enjoy vegetables more. I still eat meat at dinner but usually not more than 2-3 ounces! I feel a lot better in general and like feeling like I’m making a positive impact on the environment too! Good luck with your lent!


  2. Pingback: Plant-based proteins | How to Eat, R.D.·

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