Close up of a traditional afternoon tea

How to have a healthy afternoon tea

This month we’re celebrating the Great British institution of ‘Afternoon Tea’.  Traditionally laden with cakes, cream, biscuits and sandwiches, British afternoon tea is not noted for its health benefits! 

However, with a few simple swaps, you will not miss out on taste and will be on the winning side when it comes to calories.

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shows you how.


Boost your immunity with Malt Loaf

Slices of malt loaf

Who doesn’t love a traditional cream tea with scones, jam, and whipped cream?  But, unfortunately, this delivers a pretty hefty calorie and fat count.  It’s great to retain the ‘home-made’ feel to afternoon tea, but why not bake some traditional malt loaf which is still moreish, but guilt-free? Importantly each slice may contain less than 1 gram of fat rather than considerably more when eating scones and cream.

The good news is that malt loaf can be simply cooked using hot black tea, flour, malt extract, dried fruit, eggs and brown sugar.  Even better, dried fruit, especially raisins, are rich in the mineral iron, which is often lacking in the diet and is essential for boosting the immune system.

And if you’re really feeling deprived of cream then you could always add a little whipped coconut cream to a slice or two of malt loaf. While coconut cream is high in saturated fats, it still contains less than whipped dairy cream and the medium chain triglyceride fats in coconut can be burnt for energy rather than stored as fat. Low-fat cottage cheese also works really well on malt loaf as does cashew nut butter.

Load up on nutrients with Banana Cake

Slices of banana cake

If lemon drizzle is one of your guilty afternoon tea treats, then banana cake won’t disappoint.  It’s deliciously moist and has less sugar and calories overall. Even better, you’ll be getting some great benefits from health-giving bananas that are rich in energising vitamin B6 and heart-loving potassium. Plus, if you want to keep away from butter for health reasons, you can swap it for rapeseed oil without losing out on taste or texture.

Bananas work particularly well with walnuts, which really add to the texture and flavour and are great for reducing blood pressure, so chop up plenty and add to the mixture. Enjoy!

Get more bang for your buckwheat!

Buckwheat victoria sponge

With so many recipes using white flour, which has been refined and stripped of nutrients, it is easy to forget that there are plenty of other flour options out there. White flour has not only lost nutrients during the refining process but also fibre, which is not ideal when it comes to balancing blood sugar levels.

However, buckwheat flour is whole grain containing plenty of fibre, but also protein too, so energy levels will be much better sustained than by using white flour. A firm favourite is Buckwheat Victoria Sponge Layer Cake which is made in the normal way as traditional Victoria Sponge but gives much more ‘bang for your buck’ from your afternoon teatime treats.  Just avoid the butter cream filling and use jam instead. Buckwheat flour is also gluten-free which is helpful for many people.

Go for herbal tea

A range of herbal teas

While traditional English breakfast black tea delivers plenty of health benefits, especially antioxidants, green tea does have the edge on this.  However, with so many teas to choose from why not let your imagination flow and try some different flavours.  Importantly, these teas are caffeine-free so you avoid the caffeine rush that often accompanies afternoon tea, which can leave you feeling jittery and out of sorts.

Hibiscus tea is currently popular because it has anti-viral properties but can also help reduce blood pressure. Lemon balm tea, as the name suggests has a light lemony flavour, and works really well with afternoon tea. Research has found that it helps reduce arterial stiffness and increases production of the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes.

If you are looking to reduce anxiety levels, then passionflower tea is the perfect antidote. It has been found to significantly improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety levels, without any drowsiness.

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