It's not easy to admit, but I'm a sweets addict. Though I make healthy choices for meals throughout the day, I always crave something sweet in the evenings—and find myself overdoing it on cookies and candy after dinner. A few weeks ago, I was talking about this with Anna Smith, MS, RDN, LDN, a retail dietitian coordinator with Kroger Health, and she suggested something that had never occurred to me: replacing dessert with hot tea in a dessert-like flavor.
I was skeptical. But when I cozied up on the couch with a cup in place of my nightly snack with my husband and Netflix, I had a revelation: This actually worked. My Blue Bell ice cream stash in the freezer was no longer calling my name.
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Eating too much dessert in the evenings is pretty common—but why do people crave sweets at this time to begin with? "One reason could be that you're not fueling enough or properly in general," explains Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, a Chicago-based registered dietitian. Aiming to get more protein and fiber in every meal can help prevent those spikes and crashes in blood sugar that leave you hungry for sweets, she adds. Lack of sleep can be another culprit, Michalczyk says, as sleep deprivation can lead our hunger and fullness hormones to get out of sync, making sugary, carbohydrate-heavy foods seem more appealing.
Another reason you're overeating sweets at night may be simply because you always do—and that can be a hard cycle to break. "If you're used to sitting down to watch TV with a sweet treat, it's easier to continue doing that night after night," says Michalczyk. "Sometimes changing up your routine can help."
Switching things up by reaching for a cup and a kettle—instead of a bowl of ice cream or a handful of M&Ms—helped me prove to myself that I didn't actually need to eat those sweets every night. I realized I was eating these desserts entirely out of habit, so much so that I was convincing myself I was hungry again after dinner, even though I really wasn't.
There's a reason for that. "Sometimes when we're feeling hungry, we're actually a little dehydrated," Michalczyk says. "Drinking something like tea can definitely quench that 'thirst' we have not only for liquids but when we're craving something sweet too."
Now, drinking a dessert tea isn't going to trick your brain into thinking its actual dessert. "Having red velvet tea is not the same as eating a piece of cake," says Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, a culinary and integrative dietitian based in Atlanta. "If you decide to drink dessert tea, I suggest doing so because you enjoy the flavor versus an attempt to evade cake."
There are plenty of dessert tea flavors on the market that taste pretty delicious, making them worth a try (though not a permanent substitue for all treats—especially red velvet desserts). If you're drinking them at night, be sure to find one that's caffeine free, if you're sensitive to that. Here are a few favorites to scoop up:
Teeccino Dark Chocolate Prebiotic Superboost Herbal Tea
This satisfies chocolate cravings with intense cocoa flavor while packing health benefits like gut-friendly prebiotics, which help aid digestion. Top a cup with a little frothed milk for a treat, says Caroline MacDougall, founder of Teecino.
J’Enwey Tea Co. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Tea
Tea designer Lisa Marie Gennawey uses cacao nib, dehydrated mint leaves, California-grown stevia leaf and a blend of Chinese black leaves to bring in a dessert element to this tea, designed to taste like the iconic favorite ice cream flavor.
Tazo Dessert Delights Butterscotch Blondie
While not caffeine free, steeping this addicting tea will have you checking your oven to make sure you don't have an actual pan of butterscotch blondies baking. It's made with a blend of black teas, cocoa peel and cinnamon for warm, toasty flavor.
The Republic of Tea Red Velvet Cuppa Chocolate Tea
A blend of Roobios, chocolate and beet root bits makes this a perfect calorie-free, liquid dessert—so much so that Oprah recommended it. Add a splash of milk and a pinch of sugar for a cupcake-like flavor.
Tazo Dessert Delights Glazed Lemon Loaf Tea
There's no denying lemon loaf is a lovely dessert—but when you don't want to indulge in a buttery slice, this tangy tea is the next best thing. Notes of bright citrus mingle with creamy vanilla for a cup that smells as heavenly as it tastes. One reviewer recommends adding a splash of coconut milk—a flavor combination we can get behind!
Adagio Chocolate Truffle Tea
Chicory roots adds depth to this tea—for serious chocolate lovers only. A mix of black tea with cocoa nibs, chocolate chips, and cocoa powder, it'll remind you of a triple-chocolate cookie, without the calories.
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