It’s only a bite: Avoid the pitfalls of pre-meal snacking

I love to cook. And I love to eat. And I love to feel my best. And fit into my best black dress. Especially during the holidays. Don’t you?

Spending time in the kitchen and cooking up a storm poses a hidden hazard: the caloric build of just a bite. That’s right, you think it’s “just a bite” — a lick, a spoonful or a nibble– but in the end, trust me, those mouthfuls add up. Plus, being around great smelling food in the kitchen just makes you want to eat, doesn’t it?

Spending time in the kitchen cooking up a storm poses a hidden hazard: the caloric build of just a bite.

While you absolutely must taste your food before serving it lovingly to your guests, you can be somewhat strategic about how you taste, ensuring both the best tasting meal and your best feeling self. Below are my seven ways to avoid putting on those unwanted pounds while cooking. They come from the heart, and from far too much experience.

1. Taste with your pinky, don’t lick the bowl

There have been days where cooking and tasting my creations amounted to consuming more calories than my meals combined. Taste with your pinky and save licking the bowl for your hungry growing kids. Good news: the more you cook, the more practiced you’ll become and the less you’ll need to taste to know if your dish is perfect.

2. Don’t cook crap

All of what I love to cook revolves around good-for-you-food. Cooking with high quality, nutritious ingredients means that a pinky taste is much better for you (and your waistline). It’s far more difficult to resist munching when you bake a batch of cookies than when you roast a pan of veggies. But on the days when you do bake those cookies? Read on for more tricks.

3. Sweat it out

Honestly, if I know I have a day of cooking and eating, I plan my activity level accordingly. I schedule in a sweat pumping session that day or a walk outdoors to clear my mind. My workouts complement my cookouts and yours should too. Move more than you eat and you set yourself up for a fabulous feast.

4. Don’t shop or cook when you’re hungry

Ever been to the supermarket and ended up buying a little extra something (or far too much of another thing) because you were hungry? Temptation wins when it’s faced with a starving opponent. Have a meal before you shop and you’re less likely to get sidetracked by the chips and sugar aisle.

5. Sip hot lemon water in the kitchen

This is my best tip. I find drinking hot water with lemon suppresses my appetite and reminds me that I’m probably more thirsty than hungry. It’s also an easy way to ensure you stay hydrated all day. Or brew your favorite tea, turn on some good music and get into your creative flow.

6. Eat off of a smaller plate

This is the oldest trick in the book. Place your food on a smaller plate and you’re likely to eat what your body needs not what you brain craves. So, after a long day in the kitchen, eat your dinner off of a kids size plate and chances are you’ll stop when you’re satisfied.

7. Cook for friends

Remember that cooking is so much about nourishing and giving to others. Your role in the kitchen is an act of love. Immerse yourself in the creative process of giving. Most importantly remember that when the day is done and your hard work is over-enjoy the fruits of your labor and enjoy all that you’ve prepared.