Lent is a period of abstinence that most of us observe, and for Filipinos, it may be quite a challenge to keep ourselves meat-free (especially with so many sinfully delicious treats out there). Can you imagine going 40 days without the juicy goodness of a quarter pounder burger? Still, Lenten diet restrictions don’t have to be bland and tasteless, and here are just a few alternatives that’ll please your taste buds and keep you healthy, too.
1.Go Filipino and support local cuisine.
It’s no surprise that in a Roman Catholic country like ours, there are a myriad of choices that you can lay out on a buffet spread when it comes to Lenten food that’s uniquely Filipino. Abstaining from chicken, pork, and beef may come as a dreaded occasion for unseasoned tastes, but who says seafood and veggies need to be boring?
A crowd favorite, especially for big family reunions and various barkada get-togethers, is the simple yet scrumptious grilled squid or inihaw na pusit. The quick preparation is a big plus, too, and you just have to include a spiced vinegar dip for the dish to be fully enjoyed. Afterwards, some fresh shrimp in sour broth or sinigang can be a welcome comfort food for everyone. This Filipino staple is just as easy to prepare. Of course, seafood meals will not be complete without fish dishes, and the steamed grouper or lapu-lapu is as healthy as it is satisfying. And if you want to be truly Pinoy, why not munch on some salty tuyo, too?
Aside from seafood, vegetables are just as enjoyable when cooked with love this Lent. Your basic monggo beans and simple kangkong leaves stirred in garlic are great with rice, as well as some eggplant omelets fried to perfection and perfect with ketchup dips. Fresh spring rolls made local style or lumpiang sariwa may be prepared with ground pork, but you can always forego the meat for a pure veggie option. With these irresistible options on the dining table, who needs meat, right?
- Don’t forget your healthy seeds.
Chia seeds are already gaining a lot of popularity these days due to their gluten-free properties and high fiber content. Packed with minerals like molybdenum, manganese, phosphorus, and protein, chia seeds are also a wonderful source of antioxidants and healthy Omega-3 fats (even more than flax seeds) that are crucial for good eyesight as well as skin protection from harmful sun exposure. You can easily prepare chia seeds with porridge and cereal, or if you’re craving for a refreshing and nutritious drink, you can opt for a chia seed smoothie mixed with coconut or almond milk.
Speaking of seeds, walnuts are also a good source of alpha-linolenic acids and Omega-3 fatty acids. If you want to observe your Lenten tradition and at the same time keep those nasty illnesses at bay, then walnuts are the way to go. They can be your best bet against certain cancers, strokes, heart diseases, obesity, diabetes, and even clinical depression. These power snacks reduce bad cholesterol (also known as LDL), too.
Finally, another amazing wonder food is the quinoa, which is non-allergenic and jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals. The vital amino acids contained within make it a good alternative to soy and tofu products, and because it’s so easy to prepare (it can be steamed, boiled, or raw), it is no doubt a welcome addition to your Lenten diet.
- Swap common pantry items with healthier ones.
Lent doesn’t have to be just an excuse for you to keep fit. Often, seemingly innocent pantry items in your kitchen can greatly contribute to declining health conditions in the household. Therefore, it’s important to make that active choice of choosing healthier alternatives when it comes to what you eat. Some ideas include exchanging those tempting bags of potato chips for kale chips, and heavy lasagnas for spaghetti squash. When you’re indulging in a bowl of salad, don’t just think about the veggies inside; you have to consider your dressing, too. Before you pour on the ranch dressing, why not go for some balsamic vinaigrette? Also, if you’re reaching for that loaf of bread for your sandwich, wash some lettuce wraps instead.
- Be on the lookout for something fishy, or something cheesy.
Of course, the Lenten staple seems to be fish, and there are infinite ways to prepare it. A simple baked salmon with some lemon butter sauce will always do the trick, or you can also make yourself a hearty tuna sandwich (don’t forget to switch your typical slice of bread with some healthier lettuce wraps). In many kitchens, battered or breaded fish fillets are deep fried and enjoyed with tartar sauces, mayo dips, and mustard sauces.
Fans of gooey cheesy goodness, on the other hand, can prepare cheese quesadillas that can be sliced up and shared with everyone in the family. Or better yet, you can always turn to the classics—a delightful grilled cheese sandwich with warm tomato soup will never let you down. It doesn’t get any more comforting than this!
- When everything else fails, look for the lesser evil.
Not everyone has the luxury of preparing home-cooked meals every single day, especially for the most on-the-go individuals who just can’t seem to catch a break. Thankfully, our go-to fast food joints are considerate enough to open up Lenten season menus for those who don’t really have much of a choice. We all have to eat, and fast food meals are a guilty pleasure. At the very least, you can still observe your Lenten fasting with Jollibee’s Tuna Pie and milkfish dishes, Brothers Burger’s Fish and Chips, and BonChon’s Seafood Platter. There’s also the ever-reliable Fish Fillet sandwich from Wendy’s and McDonald’s—just don’t go making these an everyday habit.
What about you? What are your Lenten season staples that you love to munch on every year? Whatever they are, share with us your thoughts and unique recipes in the comments below. Best of luck on your Lent observances, and here’s to a healthier year ahead!