High tea and afternoon tea have been gaining in popularity in the United States as a way to spend an afternoon or early evening with friends, eating good food and getting a literal taste of a British tradition. The terms have led to some initial confusion; afternoon tea is the stereotypical small-cakes-and-finger-sandwiches event, while high tea is really an early evening meal meant to satisfy people after a hard day's work. Some places still treat high tea and afternoon tea as the same thing (simply because that's what their customers expect), but many places now offer a real high tea. The problem is that traditional high tea foods are often fried or have a high calorie count. But there are ways to make the meal healthier while still getting that British-food experience.
Baked, Not Fried
Fish and chips may be one of the best-loved high tea foods. Its high calorie count is perfect if you're a factory worker, blacksmith, or other employee who does heavy physical work during the day and who needs a high level of calories for sustenance. But if you're an office worker who sits all day, the calories from frying in oil can quickly make you exceed a healthy daily calorie count. Take a look at the fried foods you want to have, such as fish and chips, or sausage, and see if there is a baked or roasted version offered by the kitchen at the restaurant you're going to. Many places now have menus online, making it easy to check.
Another option is having a half-sized serving, such as a child's-menu serving (often smaller than adult sizes) or asking the kitchen to put half of the order in a takeout box at the beginning of the meal, rather than at the end.
High tea menus often contain vegetables, and not just in the form of overcooked peas and carrots inside a shepherd's pie. Potatoes were common in basic British high teas, so a baked potato with minimal toppings could serve as a healthy starch. Carrots, rutabagas, vegetables soups, and beans are all good choices to add to your high tea choices. AfternoonTea.co.uk notes that an upper-class version of the high tea, which combined the high tea with afternoon tea elements, also added fruit.
Calcium-laden cheese is a major component of high tea meals. In a restaurant, look for a cheese platter with cubes or small slabs that you can add to bread. If you're trying to throw a high tea at home, make the cheese platter one of the first foods that people see, along with a vegetable dish. In either case, it can help satisfy hunger before the larger courses like roast beef are brought out.
As real high teas make their way into more restaurants, more options will be available, especially as customers decide to ask for healthier choices. Contact the restaurant you want to go to and ask about choices for low-sodium, heart-healthy, and low-fat diets. You'll find that many places are ready and willing to accommodate you. Check out a tea store like Clumzy Clover Teas & Treasures for more on this subject.