Can I eat meat on Saturday during Lent?

Lent is a 40-day period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving observed by many Christian denominations leading up to Easter. During Lent, many Christians choose to abstain from eating meat on Fridays as a sacrifice and act of devotion. However, the rules around eating meat on Saturdays during Lent are less clear cut.

Quick Answers

– Roman Catholics are required to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, but not Saturdays.

– Orthodox Christians abstain from meat, fish, dairy, and eggs on weekdays during Great Lent, but allow them on Saturdays and Sundays.

– Anglicans and other Protestant denominations have varying practices – some choose to give up meat on Fridays, while others don’t restrict diet during Lent.

– Ultimately, abstaining from meat on Saturdays during Lent is a matter of personal devotion and not a strict requirement in most denominations.

Lenten Regulations in the Roman Catholic Church

For Roman Catholics, abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent is obligatory according to Church law. The 1983 Code of Canon Law states:

The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent. (Canon 1250)

Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday… (Canon 1251)

So for Roman Catholics, abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent is mandatory. However, there is no similar regulation prohibiting meat on Saturdays during Lent. In 1966, Pope Paul VI wrote that the obligation to abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays does not extend to Saturdays, except on Holy Saturday when the Easter Vigil is celebrated.

Therefore, Roman Catholics are permitted to eat meat on Saturdays during Lent, with the exception of Holy Saturday. Many choose to voluntarily continue abstaining from meat on Saturdays as a personal sacrifice, but it is not required by canon law.

Exceptions to the Friday Meat Abstinence

There are a few exceptions when Roman Catholics are not required to abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays:

  • If the Friday falls on a solemnity such as the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25)
  • On Fridays outside the Lenten season
  • When health or ability to work would be negatively impacted
  • When dispensations are granted by bishops for particular occasions

In these exceptional cases, Roman Catholics are permitted to eat meat on the Friday in question. However, there are no blanket exceptions for Saturdays during Lent outside of Holy Saturday.

Orthodox Practice during Great Lent

In the various Orthodox churches, the guidelines for fasting during Lent differ considerably from the Roman Catholic regulations. Instead of abstaining from meat on Fridays alone, Orthodox Christians abstain from meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products throughout the weekdays of Great Lent.

Specifically, abstinence from the above foods is prescribed in the weekdays (Monday to Friday) of the 7 weeks of Great Lent and Holy Week. But Orthodox Canon Law permits fish, wine, and oil to be consumed on Saturdays and Sundays during Lent except on Holy Saturday.

During the weekdays of the Great Lent, fasting should be observed by eating only one main meal a day. On weekends fish, wine and oil are allowed. (Russian Orthodox Church)

So while Orthodox Christians have very strict dietary restrictions during the Lenten weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays are joyful relaxation of the fast. Meat and dairy are permitted again on the Lenten Saturdays in the Orthodox tradition.

Exceptions in Orthodox Practice

Exceptions are made for certain groups such as the elderly, infants, pregnant or nursing mothers, the sick, and those with physically demanding jobs. They are typically exempted from the full restrictive Lenten weekdays diet, and allowed to eat some meat, dairy or eggs. Individual Orthodox churches may also relax some regulations for the entire congregation depending on locality.

Anglican and Protestant Approaches

Among Anglicans and Protestants, Lenten fasting practices vary considerably and are less defined than in Catholicism or Orthodoxy. Typical Lenten practices may include:

  • Giving up a particular food item or luxury
  • Spending more time in prayer, Bible study and charity
  • Abstaining from meat on Fridays

However, many Protestant churches do not have formal regulations for Lent. Those who choose to fast or abstain from certain foods do so voluntarily as an act of devotion, rather than out of obligation.

Some Anglo-Catholic parishes within the Anglican Communion closely mirror Roman Catholic practices by requiring abstinence from meat on Fridays. But they do not extend this obligation to Saturdays – meat can be eaten then.

For Protestants who choose to abstain from meat during Lent, this again tends to be practiced only on Fridays, while Saturdays remain free to eat meat unless an individual decides otherwise.


In summary, here are the key points to remember:

  • Roman Catholics are required to abstain from meat only on Fridays during Lent. Saturdays are exempt, except Holy Saturday.
  • Orthodox Christians abstain from meat, fish, eggs and dairy on weekdays during Great Lent, but allow them on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Protestants and Anglicans have diverse Lenten practices – some abstain from meat on Fridays, others give up different foods or luxury items, while many have no dietary restrictions.
  • Abstaining from meat on Saturdays during Lent is a matter of personal devotion, not compulsory church law in most denominations.

So, the answer to whether you can eat meat on Saturdays during Lent depends on your denomination and personal piety. For Roman Catholics, the answer is yes. For Orthodox Christians, meat is permitted on Lenten Saturdays but not during weekdays. For other Christians, the decision is a matter of individual choice and devotion.

Some Factors To Consider

Here are some points you may want to consider when deciding whether to abstain from meat on Saturdays during Lent:

  • Your personal faith background and denominational norms
  • Whether you want to use Saturday as an “easier fast day” compared to Friday
  • If you observe Lentenfasting on Saturdays as well for devotion
  • Advice and guidance from your church leaders or community
  • Whether you need a reprieve from abstinence for health or other reasons

Ultimately there is freedom in choosing your own Lenten practice, as long as you approach it with prayerful intent and without passing judgment on others. Let your heart guide you, while also being sensitive to your church’s general norms and stance.

Significance of Abstaining from Meat

Here are some key reasons why abstaining from meat holds significance for many Christians during Lent:

  • Penitence and sacrifice: Giving up something valuable is a way of joining Christ’s suffering and deepening spiritual growth.
  • Spiritual discipline: Choosing to abstain trains and strengthens willpower against earthly desires.
  • Solidarity with the poor: Meat was scarce for peasants historically, so abstinence reminds us of hunger issues.
  • Environmental impact: Meat production has a heavy carbon footprint, so abstinence benefits the planet.
  • Health benefits: Cutting down on meat can improve health – a form of caring for the body’s temple.

These concepts can help reflect on the purpose behind Lenten abstinence, making it more than just a changed diet. The willingness to “give something up” matters more than the specific item.

Alternative Foods to Eat

For those abstaining from meat on Lenten Saturdays, or throughout the week, here are some nutritious and tasty alternatives:

Food Category Meatless Options
Protein Beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, seitan, nuts, eggs (for some)
Meals Vegetarian pasta, rice bowls, stir fries, stews, vegetable curries, egg dishes, dairy-free soups
Snacks Hummus, bean dips, smoothies, roasted chickpeas, energy bars, peanut butter on toast

With a little creativity, you can enjoy delicious and satisfying meat-free meals. Don’t be afraid to explore new ingredients, spices, cuisines and recipes to prevent boredom.

Making Exceptions for Medical Reasons

Although Lenten fasting is intended for spiritual growth, health should be the first priority. Here are some cases when making an exception is wise:

  • You have a medical condition requiring meat or animal protein in your diet.
  • You are elderly, very young, pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • You take medications where eating meat avoids adverse effects.
  • You have issues with blood sugar regulation, iron levels or low energy.
  • You are underweight, malnourished or have a history of eating disorders.

In these cases, speak to your doctor or dietitian to plan suitable accommodations. Don’t put health at grave risk. Also consult your priest or pastor for guidance on making exceptions if needed.

With some conditions, like diabetes or anemia, a partial exception could be made such as: eating fish or eggs but no other meats, or having meat a few times a week but not daily. With care and wisdom, proper medical exemptions can be discerned.

Common Questions

1. Do eggs count as meat?

In the Roman Catholic and Anglican tradition, eggs are considered a dairy product rather than a meat. Thus, eggs can be consumed even when abstaining from meat during Lent.

However, in the Orthodox tradition, eggs are forbidden together with meat, fish and dairy during Lenten weekdays. Some Protestants also choose to avoid eggs along with other animal products as a devotion.

2. What about plant-based meat substitutes?

Foods like tofu, tempeh and seitan that mimic meat in texture and protein are permissible during Lent, even on strict fast days. However, some people abstain from these optionally to stay in a penitential spirit.

3. Can I eat fish or seafood on Saturdays?

Yes, Roman Catholics and Anglicans who abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays are allowed to eat fish and seafood on Saturdays. Even Orthodox Christians, who avoid fish Monday to Friday, can enjoy seafood on Saturdays and Sundays outside Holy Week.

4. How old do you need to be to start abstaining from meat for Lent?

Both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches consider age 14 the threshold when abstinence obligations begin to apply. However, some parents introduce children even younger to partial fasting or giving up certain treats.

Pastoral Advice for Lenten Practice

When taking on spiritual disciplines like Lenten fasting, the pastoral advice is to begin slowly and focus on the interior meaning, not just external deeds. Build up your “fasting muscles” over the years as an exercise tailored to your season of life.

The point is to challenge yourself in a way that connects you closer with God, not to take on excessive burdens. Be willing to make exceptions when needed – Lent should not damage health or relationships.

Above all, pray for the grace of God to guide your Lenten journey and transform your heart. Receiving spiritual fruit is what matters most, more than food rules or feats of self-denial.


In conclusion, whether one can eat meat on Saturdays during Lent depends on their Christian denomination and personal piety:

  • Roman Catholics are required to abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays but can eat it on Saturdays.
  • Orthodox abstain from meat, fish, eggs and dairy on weekdays but allow them on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Protestants have diverse practices – some only give up meat on Fridays, while many have no dietary restrictions.
  • Abstaining from meat on Saturdays or throughout Lent can be a voluntary sacrifice for devotees of any denomination.
  • Pastoral advice is to approach Lent carefully prayerfully, and make exceptions when needed for health or life conditions.

The key motivation is growing closer to God through self-discipline, charity and contemplation of Christ’s sacrifice. With wisdom and guidance, Lent can be fruitful whether you eat meat or not on Saturdays.

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