Taming temptation with mindful eating during Lent

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During the season of Lent, Christians honor the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the desert by observing their own fasting. If you are looking for ways to balance your relationship with food this Lenten season, mindful eating can help you curtail cravings and resist the temptation to overindulge during Lent.

A woman is mindfully eating a bowl of salad during Lent.
During Lent, mindful eating and other strategies can help you curtail cravings and resist the temptation to overindulge. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Using mindful eating to change your relationship with food

Mindful eating is an extension of the practice of mindfulness. Practitioners of mindfulness look inward, focusing on their thoughts, emotions and physical feelings rather than simply reacting to the external world.

With mindful eating, you bring these same ideas of mindfulness to your diet and become more engaged with the foods you eat and how you feel about them. When you are getting started, common practices in mindful eating can guide you.

How mindful eating can reduce temptation

Reacting to temptation is usually instinctual. A person feels a craving and reaches for the food that will satisfy it without taking the time to choose mindfully.

Mindful eating might not make temptations go away, but it will give you more control over them. Instead of reacting to a physical feeling, you get to make an informed decision about the food you eat. Often, you will find that the temptation loses its pull after conscious thought on your part.

This approach to food and eating is helpful throughout the year, but it can be particularly beneficial during Lent. Many people give up foods that they enjoy during Lent, so the cravings can be intense. Mindful eating can help your self-discipline while also promoting reflection and gratitude.

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Exploring healthy alternatives for Lent

As you stay mindful about the food you and your family eat during Lent, incorporating alternatives to less-healthy favorites can limit temptation. Try out these healthy meals and snacks this Lent.

Make a nutritious salad to share

A lettuce salad with leafy greens and your other favorite toppings is packed with vitamins and nutrients.  

In addition to the health benefits, lettuce salad is a great meal to share with family and friends. This can contribute to mindful eating as you bring loved ones together, focus on food and enjoy a vibrant meal full of tastes and textures.

Protein muffins for a satisfying yet healthy snack

Protein is a necessary nutrient for the body, and increasing the amount of protein you consume can also reduce cravings. Data compiled by Heather J. Leidy, Ph.D., at the University of Missouri, indicates that eating high-protein foods makes you feel fuller for longer. More protein might also reduce activity in the part of the brain responsible for causing cravings.

Protein muffins add a nutritional boost to a breakfast favorite. The sweetness and carbs make for a tasty snack, and the extra protein will keep you feeling full for several hours. During Lent, protein muffins can be a good alternative to unhealthy sweets you’ve given up.

Coconut flour pancakes as a guilt-free indulgence

If you like pancakes, switching wheat flour out for coconut flour can add a health boost to this popular breakfast. Coconut flour, made from the meat of coconuts, has more protein and fiber than wheat flour, according to PlantX, a leading vegan grocery. It is also gluten-free and can be a source of antioxidants.

Coconut flour pancakes can satisfy your taste for a sweet breakfast. At the same time, you can be sure your family is eating healthy throughout Lent. 

Mindful eating practices during Lent

Lent is a season for being more mindful in general as you reflect on the things that are most important. Incorporating mindful eating offers opportunities to be deliberate with decisions around food.

  • Express gratitude around meals: Lent has an innate connection to food as it is traditionally a time of fasting. Use meal times to reflect on the meaning of the season, and take time to be thankful for your food and the energy that has gone into getting it onto your plate.
  • Eat slowly and without distraction: When you eat, engage with the food and the people around you. Be intentional about food by scheduling time to eat and removing distractions like TV and phones while your family eats. Take the time to savor each bite with all five senses to slow down eating.
  • Watch portion sizes: Lent is a time to avoid overindulgence. As you add food to your plate, check in with your body to see how hungry you feel and only take what you need. While you eat, listen to your body and stop when you feel full.
  • Enjoy warm, comforting drinks made from your favorite loose-leaf tea and take time to reflect. 

How mindful eating can benefit your Lenten journey

While everyone can take a different meaning from Lent each year, practicing mindful eating encourages the pillars of Lent.

I always look forward to Lent because it’s a time to practice mindfulness and reconnect with my Christian values. Beyond spiritual growth, though, Lent helps me adopt healthier eating habits by cutting out indulgences like alcohol, sweets and red meats. Surprisingly, it’s not difficult, and I experience a boost of energy. After Lent, I consistently feel in better shape, both physically and mentally.

— Tamara Tsaturyan, Thriving In Parenting

Become more mindful about food this Lent

As you give up luxuries and focus on gratitude this year, you may face temptations and cravings. Mindful eating during Lent can help you stay connected to what matters most. By adding mindful eating practices to your routines around food, you’ll have better self-discipline to resist temptation. You will also be able to balance healthy eating with reflection for a fulfilling Lenten season.

Sharon Rhodes is the creative force behind the food blog The Honour System. With a passion for all things homemade, Sharon is a seasoned recipe curator focused on making healthier cooking and baking accessible to all.

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents of this article made available via Food Drink Life, are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. The content presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or dietary changes. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk.

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