Beginner's Guide to Drinking Tea: Why Switch? (part 1 of 3)

It's the beginning of a new year and for many people it's a time for change and new beginnings. Many of you have likely made resolutions, most of which, if you're anything like me, will be forgotten within the first 60 days. If your resolution for the new year was to lose weight, or to make changes in your diet, I would love to help you out. Just keep in mind that like any successful endeavor you need a plan and the dedication to stick with it. You also need a starting point for these changes.

Had you considered taking a look at what you have been drinking lately?

Your first step should be knowing what you are currently consuming, you need a baseline. According to the Dr Pepper website, a 20oz bottle of Dr. Pepper contains roughly 250 calories and is considered not 1, but 2.5 servings. The average Grande (16oz) latte from your local Starbucks also contains roughly 250 calories. 

If you frequently consume one or more large, half caf, 4 pumps not 5 of cherry not raspberry, skim, no whip berry white mochas with three shots not two or some other similarly complicated drink, then of course tea is going to be more healthy just from a caloric standpoint. According to Caribou Coffee's website the average, much less complicated, Large Berry White Mocha contains 680 calories. Yes, you read that correctly, nearly 700 calories in one drink. I was surprised as well.

(A special thanks to the person who ordered this drink while I was struggling to come up with a complicated drink example. It meant I didn't have to bother my favorite barista with yet another odd question, although by now I think she expects it of me.)

This might be a good area for you to look at so you can start to cut back and in fact this was the area I targeted last year. By only drinking one small latte every Wednesday I started consuming 1500 fewer calories per week. I filled the void by increasing my tea consumption because I've always enjoyed tea.

You may have heard about the additional health benefits of tea.

I'm not a doctor or medical professional, which means I don't feel qualified to make some of the claims you may hear associated with increased tea consumption. You won't hear me bandying about words like antioxidants, flavonoids, and free radicals or making claims of weight loss and decreased risk of cancer. There are certainly studies that show drinking tea does have health benefits and there are also studies that show they may not have all of the health benefits that have been claimed. For every study done someone has likely done another study to disprove the findings in the first making coming to any conclusions confusing. Can someone please remind me if eggs are good or bad for me today? My point is, you shouldn't switch to drinking tea because you read a study or article touting it's health benefits. You should drink it because you enjoy it, or think you might enjoy it, otherwise it will be a difficult habit to sustain. If you don't enjoy tea you can still reduce the amount of calories and sugar you consume by switching to water. 

This is a very controversial topic in many circles and I've been following several discussions about the health benefits of tea and the FDA's ruling about making claims about said benefits. It isn't that I don't think drinking tea has additional health benefits, I could give you a laundry list of things I've noticed in the last year in regards to my personal health, but this is a topic I could write a whole series on in and of itself. Perhaps I will do that at a later point, until then, if you want to debate the topic feel free to contact me directly or leave a comment. I love to hear the views of my readers, especially on such a controversial topic.

For now, I'll stick with my simplified point that you should drink tea because you enjoy it and it can be a good way to consume fewer calories.

The many misconceptions of tea and paying homage to Lord Starbucks...

Tea, isn't that what my grandmother drinks? It's a little, uh, girly.

Ah, you're picturing dainty bone china tea cups painted in assorted shades of pink, perhaps decorated with flowers, aren't you? This is a concern I've heard from several of my male friends and I've told them that they won't have their man card revoked for drinking tea. Dainty bone china isn't my style either, but I'm not knocking it if it is your thing. I have a few friends who are collectors and I love admiring their dainty cups that I'm totally terrified of dropping.

I'm pretty sure they don't bounce. In my life, I need things that bounce, I have an energetic toddler running around.

If you aren't comfortable telling everyone that you've switched, then don't. No one is going to notice what is in your travel tumbler anyway, unless you point it out. If you happen to work in an office who prefers to pay homage to our Lord Starbucks, just buy yourself a Starbucks branded travel mug so you fit in and put tea in it. You can even order it from Starbucks. I did that every day for years and no one ever noticed. 

Did you know that Starbucks owns not one, but two tea companies? Tazo has been owned by Starbucks since 1999 and Teavana was purchased in 2012. 

Not all tea is created equal and some can be as unhealthy as a bottle of soda.

Like anything else, you really need to read the label, be informed of what you are consuming, and ask questions. There are many teas that contain as many calories as soda. Bottled tea is one example, many of them are loaded up with sugar to help "improve" the flavor. Flavored teas and teas containing fruit pieces are another key area you'll need to watch and ask questions about. Some blends contain Stevia, such as Organic Blueberry Jam from DAVIDsTEA. Some blends contain added sugar in the form of candied fruit, such as Maharaja chai/Samurai chai blend from Teavana. If you are worried about your sugar intake try starting with an unflavored oolong tea (my personal favorite) or perhaps green tea. 

If you have no idea what that even means, check back next week for the second part in the beginner's guide to drinking tea. We'll be talking about the different types of tea you may encounter on your tea drinking journey. In the meantime be informed, be healthy, and enjoy a good cup of tea. 

This is a three part series, follow the links below for parts two and three.

Beginner's Guide to Drinking Tea: Types of Tea (part 2 of 3)
Beginner's Guide to Drinking Tea: What Do You Need to Brew Your Perfect Cup of Tea? (part 3 of 3)