Surviving Lent: Gluten Free

Fat Tuesday has come and gone. Sales for McDonald’s Fish Filets are up, and the infamous Friday fish fry season has returned. Yes, it’s that time of year again . . . Lent is back.

Catholics everywhere come out of the woodwork to partake in a 40-day period of sacrifice and reflection. I kid you not. There’s something about this time of year that gets even the biggest non-believers and the E&C (Easter and Christmas) folk into the church – or well at least the idea crosses their mind (I can attest to this for I am a living / breathing example).

For those who may not know, during Lent, Catholics are asked to either do or give up something for the 40 day period — up until Easter Sunday. On top of this task, Catholics refrain from eating meat (except fish) on Ash Wednesday and all of the Fridays during this time frame.

Why Friday? The Catholic Church chose the day to commemorate Jesus who died on that specific day of the week. You see, Catholics believe that upon his death, Jesus redeemed a sinful world. Thus Friday stuck. In fact, people have written of fasting on Friday to commemorate this sacrifice as early as the first century.

Why fish? There are a number of theories for this. Some say meat was associated with wealth and fish was the “poor man’s meal” back in the day. Others even say the Church was trying to boost sales for the fishing industry…Regardless, the practice is alive and well.

The Friday Fish Fry Debacle

Coincidentally, in light of this sacrifice, Catholics began hosting events every Friday during Lent that revolve around fish. And not just any fish – these bad boys are deep-fried and breaded to perfection.

And boy, let me tell you, people take their fish fries seriously. I kid you not, it’s like a competitive sport in a way. Churches across the United States fight to the finish to be the ultimate champion of beer-battered cod. Shoot, there are even apps that track and rate the best events near you…

Thus, celiacs and those who cannot tolerate gluten are yet again at a crossroads. You better believe those breadcrumbs won’t sit well with us. And don’t even get me started on the french fries we “can eat” though. It’s a cross contamination nightmare just waiting to happen. So what’s a gluten-free guy or gal to do??? You obviously want to partake in the Friday festivities with your fellow parishioners and Catholic confidants, but clearly the odds are not in our favor.

The Lenten Plan of Attack

Though, Lent is a time of sacrifice, it does not mean that a celiac should sacrifice his/her health to partake in the Lenten tradition. There are a number of options we gluten-free folk can take.

Eat Before or Pack A Meal To-Go.

Are you a social butterfly who hates missing out on the Fishy fun? You can always pack a gluten-free PBJ, grilled cheese, or mac and cheese to go. You could even fry your own fish beforehand and bring it along if you really want to look like you fit in. I don’t know why you would – that seems like a lot of effort – but, hey whatever floats your boat.

Regardless, there’s no need to stay in and experience FOMO when you can eat a snack before or bring one along for the ride. When you attend you can even talk to your priest/pastor about catering to your specific dietary needs. Maybe even offer to bring a side or help create the menu in the future?


Lobby For A Gluten Free Fryer.

Get active. Many don’t think twice about us Celiacs, nor will they unless we bring it to the local Fish Fry planning committee’s attention. It doesn’t hurt to ask for a gluten-free fryer or maybe even offering up a grilled option for those who can’t tolerate gluten. Creating an awareness and addressing the need is the first and best step to getting proper accommodations.


Host Your Own Fish-Filled Friday Fun Day.

Can’t get support for your gluten free fryer bill? Or maybe you are a party planning fiend like me. No problem. You can always plan your own Gluten Free Fish fry for your closest friends and family. Offer up one or two fridays during Lent and invite your favorite gluten-loving catholic friends over to your casa for a gluten-free dinner party.

The best part? If you’re like me and are repulsed by fried fish altogether you don’t even have to serve it. You can eat anything your heart desires. Maybe a veggie stir-fry, a gluten free panini bar, or even a meat-free pasta party? The sky is the limit.

Plus let’s be real. You can most certainly have too much of a “good” thing — fried fish included.



Opt Out.

Simply put – nix the idea altogether. Treat yo self to all-you-can-eat sushi? I can dig that.


What’s your game plan? How do you plan to tackle Lent as a celiac? Share your tips and tricks.