By Lori Bricker, MS, RD
Someone I follow on Twitter asked whether having afternoon tea with a sweet treat would harm her attempts at weight loss. She referenced an article called, Tea Time Calls For Sweet Treat, by Ginna Parsons, who mentions a book she read whose author says she finds that having a 150 calorie treat mid-afternoon helps her not eat too much later on. As a dietitian, I thought I should offer my opinion.
This can be a fine strategy for a number of reasons:
1. Having a reasonable portion of a perceived "treat" each day can help you cope with the otherwise hard facts of dieting. If you continually deny yourself every treat for the sake of your diet, you will set yourself up for a binge episode, which can easily get out of hand. But knowing that you can have a treat everyday is very soothing when you're feeling a bit deprived, and it gives you something to really look forward to.
2. A tea break in the afternoon (with or without food) can provide relief from the mental stress of your day. We all tend to eat more when we feel overwhelmed, so by preventing your stress level from climbing, you can avoid stress-eating later..
3. I have found that when you prevent yourself from getting overly hungry, it can help you eat less at the next meal. This doesn't always work for everyone, however, so you need to see how you do with it. The suggestion in the article of a 150 calorie treat seems reasonable — just enough to make you feel like you had something without blowing it. Make sure to help yourself control portion sizes by only taking to the table what you are allowing yourself to have, otherwise you may be too tempted to have a second helping.
If you're worried that having a treat will make you go over on your allowed calories, burn some extra by taking a brisk walk. A walk of 45 minutes should burn off that treat.
So what should you have? It seems to me that afternoon tea is very suggestive of the proper kind of treat to allow yourself. Typical treats at a casual afternoon tea would be a small scone, a couple of small cookies, or finger sandwiches. Just enough to go with a couple of cups of tea. Here is a list of snacks for roughly 150 calories, in case you'd like some ideas: Sweet, Creamy, and Crunchy Snacks for 150 Calories or Less. Oh, if you put milk or sugar in your tea, don't forget that counts, too.
My preference is for a small slice of homemade banana bread or some similar item. I like to make them myself so I can use whole wheat flour and less sugar and fat to keep it more nutritious.
Do you take afternoon tea? Anyone have any recipes or suggestions they'd like to share?