Julia Kinder

Sweet Tea; Making it Healthier.

February 24, 2013
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I know I have your attention. What is it about those two little words that make you feel all happy inside? You sit down to eat at a restaurant. From the corner of your eye you see a waitress scurrying towards you for the drink order. You know what you want-but do they have it?? Your eyes quickly scan the menu for “SWEET TEA”. Ah yes….there it is!

Chances are pretty good you could find an assortment of sugars and sweeteners on your table. Those could be used to make “SWEET TEA”. But it just isn’t the same. First you must decide on yellow, blue, pink, raw, or brown varieties. Then you have to decide how many to use to achieve the appropriate level of sweetness-each variety is different, after all. Opening those tiny parcels is messy. Then the mixing starts. With luck you will have a spoon or even a knife on hand. If not, you are left attempting to stir using a flimsy straw. Using real sugar? Be prepared to stir until tomorrow if you want it to dissolve in your iced-cold drink. The dreaded taste-test often reveals your chemistry project still isn’t sweet enough. Go back to step one.

Here’s your health advice. Sweet tea has a lot of calories. One example from a well-known restaurant has 130 calories in 16oz of tea. That is about 7 teaspoons of sugar, which is approximately the same as cramming 2 and ½ cookies into your glass. Add more calories if they keep coming around with refills. All of that sugar takes away from the healthful benefits of tea.

So can you make your sweet tea healthier, aside from eliminating it completely? This is where taste buds come in. You don’t like un-sweet tea, you say. Well, was there ever something you disliked as a child but now eat? Taste buds can, and do, change. The rate of change has many variables and is different for each person, but averages 2-3 weeks. You can learn to like un-sweet, or less-sweet tea! The next time you order tea, ask for 75% sweet mixed with 25% un-sweet (The wait staff loves this.). It is not an exact science, but you will be consuming less sugar and fewer calories. Drink your tea this way until you are brave enough to go for a 50-50 mixture (you just cut your calorie intake in half!). Your next step is 75% un-sweet topped with 25% sweet. Once you have gone all the way to un-sweet, taste a 100% sweet tea. Expect to grimace with shock at the sticky, syrupy sludge.

I quit drinking sweet tea about three years ago. Occasionally I still treat myself to a 75 % un-sweet/25% sweet mix of tea. I learned not all tea is the same; like wine, there are different taste-profiles and quality. Most of the common super-market teas in tea-bags are the lowest quality tea, and don’t have good flavor unless you mask it with sugar. A high-quality, loose-leaf tea  is a totally different experience. I suggest you start experimenting with new teas while you are weaning from the sweetened tea. Most malls now have tea stores where you can sample both hot and iced tea.


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