Time to break out the ashes and the sackcloth again!
Yes....Lent is here. Which means sacrifice, penance and mortification. The time of "giving up stuff".
And every adult's favorite Lenten practice.....fasting.
With recent easements, it is only necessary to fast two days out the year, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (oddly enough, both days of complete abstinence as well.)
However, most traditional parishes encourage and heartily recommend fasting the full forty days if at all possible.
The fasting guidelines for the Catholic Church are very simple: one complete meal (allows meat, unless it's a day of abstinence) and two small meals that don't equal one complete meal (no meat). No snacking is allowed.
Sure, if I don't overthink the details....
The biggest thing that I got hung up on was: what constituted a small incomplete meal?
There are a couple ways to look at it: the scientific approach (calories) and the size and structure method.
Most humans eat between 1200-2400 calories per day. Broken up into three meals, that is 400-800 calories, which includes the calories that are in drinks such as soda and juice.
So...in terms of calories, fasting would look like eating 150-300 calories for two meals and a regular 400-800 calorie portion.
Now that is all fine and dandy for the people that count their calories. But I don't have the patience to do that daily. So I looked at a second method - portion size and meal structure.
By fasting law, the two small meals cannot equal a full meal. Therefore, cutting portions in half doesn't work (as two halves equals one full).
But....cutting in a third does work. Because 2/3rds does not equal 1.
Therefore, a small meal would be a third of a regular meal.
This could especially easy for portioning foods like spaghetti. But what if you meal is made up of various foods?
Lets say that you always have very structured meals. Breakfast is pancakes and/or eggs and pastry with some fruit. For lunch, it is sandwiches or yogurt, some sort of carb (crackers or chips) and something sweet (usually cookies). For dinner it is an entree (usually meat or fish), a carb side (potatoes, pasta, rice) and a vegetable.
How do you make small meals from that? Well, you can simply reduce your regular portion by 2/3rds or you can cut foods entirely.
From previous experience, I know that while cutting foods out is easier, it doesn't work as well as a smaller, more balanced meal.
If you do decide to cut foods out, which do you cut?
For me, the first thing that would get cut is the sweet stuff. As a lot of people already know, just living on cookies and desserts can wreak havoc on your health and your blood sugar levels.
As to the question of entree vs. carbohydrate side? That gets trickier.
Humans get most of their energy from complex carbohydrates (the really stodgy grain-based foods.) Historically, that has been the sustaining food group, which is what you want. Protein can also give a lot of energy and help muscles, so that would be more helpful to people that do a lot of physical labor.
It may just be better to have a combined protein/carb source in a small portion size.
Whichever route you take, make sure that the meal you eat is enough to give you enough energy to last until your next meal without feeling sick or faint. The idea is to be hungry (a sting, as my priest told me), not on the floor dying.
Have a blessed Lent!