Sweet Tea Ban?

Iced tea is a matter of life or death here in the South.

Ah, sweet tea! Nothing is more refreshing in summertime than this refreshing, Southern elixir.

I grew up drinking sweet tea morning, noon, and night, and my mother used to make it so concentrated that we would joke that the spoon could stand up in the middle of the cup.

If you go to a restaurant in Savannah and just say you want iced tea, the waitress will assume you want it sweet. Many places don’t even have unsweetened tea available.

Often times, I will I see a patient who swears they’re following a proper diet but simply can’t lose weight. They may be telling the truth.

Fortunately, I learned a long time ago that I have to ask specifically whether or not they’re drinking sweet tea. You might be amazed, but people don’t seem to recognize sweetened beverages as a source of significant calories.

Calories are Calories
Our nation’s obesity crisis—and its associated impact on health care costs—has everyone in the medical field and many in government concerned.

Most notably, New York City (where over half of all adults are overweight or obese) will soon enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks, including pre-sweetened iced tea. I’d love to see someone try that here in the South. When I tell my patients, “No more iced tea made with sugar,” some get very anxious. Upset even. Angry. It’s as if they are about to lose a lifelong friend.

After all, it’s just sweet tea! How many calories could it possibly have in it?

The answer is surprising: about 200 empty calories in a large, 20 ounce glass. If you drink four of those a day (and many do) you’re up to 800 calories just for tea. There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat. That means that even if you’re eating a diet where the calories and carbs are in balance with your metabolic needs, the addition of that sweet tea alone can cause you to gain almost a pound every four days.

Oh – and one of those 20 oz. bottles of Coca Cola Classic: 240 calories, all from sugar!

The good news is that by eliminating sweet tea and other sugary beverages, you can boost your weight loss and make some significant strides for your overall health.

“What sacrilege is this?!”Yes, if you are overweight, artificial sweeteners may be worth the risk.
Iced tea can be flavored with any of the artificial sweeteners and made to taste just as good.

It will always be just as refreshing.

And without all that sugar, especially if you are making it at home, you might just gain some benefits from its anti-oxidizing power.

A trick that might save your life…
There’re some people who tell me they simply can’t have tea made with artificial sweetener. It’s just not the same, they’ll say. I have found a trick that can help.

I learned this one when I was much younger. One of the fast food restaurants in town, in order to save money, used to make their iced tea with half the sugar as everyone else and added a little bit of Sweet’N Low. Interestingly, the Sweet’N Low boosted the flavor of the sugar and the difference was barely perceptible. I have used this trick ever since.

You can slowly make the change from sugar to artificial sweetener by making your tea with less and less sugar and more and more artificial sweetener over time. Most of us won’t be able to tell the difference, as the gradual shift gives your taste buds time to adjust.

This works with more than just iced tea. You can also take a small amount of orange juice or lemon juice and add water and artificial sweetener and you’ve got a really delicious and refreshing beverage.

For those of you who insist on sugar-sodas despite all evidence and warnings to the contrary: consider cutting the calories in half by mixing your soda with a zero-calorie beverage in the same family. Over time you can up the ratio of diet to regular, and pretty soon you won’t miss the calories one bit.

I know that everyone’s going to ask me, which artificial sweetener to choose. And what of the health risks? But I’m going to save those questions for my next post…

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