Bad habit of snacking while cooking/baking

Over the years I have developed a terrible habit of constantly tasting and sampling the things I'm working on in the kitchen. It doesn't matter what I'm making: main course meat, veggie sides, soups, baked goods, sauces, healthy food or junky food - anything and everything! I know an occasional taste is important to test seasoning, but I tend to go WAAAY beyond that - to the point that occasionally I have snacked so much that I am sick of the dish by the time I serve it. I can avoid snacking when I'm not cooking and doing other things in the kitchen - but when I'm cooking I'm hopeless.
So I'd appreciate hearing any tips from others who have this tendency but have managed to conquer it. Need some ideas so I don't have to banish myself from the kitchen altogether! (Also would love to teach better kitchen habits to my kids than my mom apparently taught me.)

  • Posted by: TobiT
  • July 10, 2014


Annette P. July 17, 2014
Something that always seems to work for me is a few nuts - they seem to satisfy and distract me from nibbling and they also keep me busy munching.
misiaz July 12, 2014
chewing gum solves my problems
TobiT July 10, 2014
All - thank you so much for your thoughtful and creative advice. I agree about the mindfulness (and the comparison to eating your kids' food - I had a lot of trouble with that, too, but I guess I got so sick of Mac and cheese etc that that particular problem took care of itself).

Pegeen, you are dead right about not starting hungry, or taking the edge off with protein+fat. I've learned to do that pre-grocery shopping. You are also right about the emotional component of eating (working on it...). And I did get a clean bill of health recently, so I don't get any good excuses ... Just lack of self-discipline in kitchen!

I will be trying many of these helpful hints - some in combination: 4-5 demitasse spoons, notes to myself, gum, water ... And mostly mindfulness.

Also, for anyone interested, I mentioned this today to someone not on Food52, and she had a couple ideas I thought I'd share:

Wear tooth whitening strips while cooking (I suppose that would work when you truly don't need to do any tasting) and

Tell your kid or spouse or roommate or whoever is with you in the kitchen to charge you a quarter each time you taste unnecessarily. In my case, however, I might be tempted to pull that Mae West trick - where she handed the "swear jar" guy on the movie set $5 in anticipation of all the swearing she knew she'd do!

Cheers all - and many thanks!
Susan W. July 10, 2014
I totally love the Mae West swear jar connection. :0)
savorthis July 10, 2014
I think mindfulness is key- though not easy. Anyone with small kids can probably attest to eating all the leftover bits on the kids' plates in addition to their own meals. I have to purposefully think (sometimes even out loud) that I'm not going to mindlessly keep popping things in my mouth. And if I have prepped something like browned sausage or bacon that is ripe for the tasting, I cover it and put it away.

As for grocery shopping, I do chew gum or bring water with me not only to avoid needless samples that I don't even want, but to avoid plopping things in my cart that I don't want or need. Maybe you can try swallowing a chug of water every time you think you want to nibble....but you have to first be mindful of the nibble!
creamtea July 10, 2014
I do love to taste, and re-taste if what I'm cooking is real good. But I'm a caffeine addict and usually try to have a cup of coffee, iced or hot, depending on the season, nearby. For me it's a treat that never gets old. Might not work for everyone, though.
Susan W. July 10, 2014
I call this the BLT (bites, licks, tastes) syndrome and I used to have it BAD. I noticed it would take the edge off of my hunger and others enjoyed the meal more than I did.

A friend had the same issue, so we challenged ourselves and chose to give it up for one month. Supposedly, that is how long it takes to develop a new habit. I literally would walk around looking for tasters. Luckily, I lived with a foodie bunch.

Things that helped were (like pegreen) eating a little protein and fat before cooking. Brushing my teeth. Having a pretty glass of Sassy Water close by.

After a month, happily we both broke our BLT habit. Food tastes so much better when you haven't gone overboard on the quality control. :)
Judy T. July 10, 2014
Make the spoons demitasse spoons too!

Voted the Best Reply!

AntoniaJames July 10, 2014
Put 4-5 small spoons in a glass next to the stove. Decide (yes, consciously think about it, as no solution here works until you decide you want to break this habit) that you won't put anything in your mouth unless it's necessary to taste as part of the cooking process. Then, don't put anything in your mouth that you've decided must go there except as a small taste on a spoon. One exception: you may taste a lettuce leaf or 2, if necessary, after dressing your salad, to see if it needs more salt. You can use your fingers for that, and not one of your spoons. Also, print and post this question (adjust the font before printing, if necessary, so you can easily read it) somewhere in the kitchen where you'll see it. Read it start to finish before you put on your apron, or wash your hands, or whatever your very first activity in the kitchen typically is. Then pour yourself a big glass of water, keep it nearby, and drink it while you cook. People often eat when they're actually thirsty, not hungry. Good luck! ;o) P.S. Think about how much you'll enjoy your meal, too, if you toe the line here.
Pegeen July 10, 2014
Sorry to all if I'm over-posting, but I'm trained to look at things 360 degrees and just thought of something else...

TobiT, is it possible this has a physical or emotional component? If you haven't seen your doc in over a year, might be helpful to get a basic check-up, basic blood tests, thyroid function, heart function, etc. And talk to them about whether therapy might be useful. A lot of eating is emotional... sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Be well!
Pegeen July 10, 2014
What a good topic. Try not to be too hungry while you're cooking. Obviously, that's easier to manage if you're planning to cook a special dish over the week. Much harder to manage on weeknights when you're trying to get a meal on the table for the family, and probably didn't each lunch yourself.

Don't laugh, but if I'm hungry and about to cook, I often eat a hard-boiled egg (or scrambled, whatever, it's just easy to keep some hard-boiled eggs in the fridge) before starting on a recipe because the protein works fast to curb my appetite. I hope it doesn't sound awful but sometimes I dip them in hummus because of the chickpeas (think of it as a cheap deviled egg). Or just eat a banana. RESTRAIN YOURSELF while you chop some vegetables to give the protein snack a few minutes to get into your bloodstream and digestive system. Works for me.
Pegeen July 10, 2014
"Obviously, that's easier to manage if you're planning to cook a special dish over the week."

Meant to type "weekend," not "week." Wish we had a window for previewing/editing posts!
ChefJune July 10, 2014
I'm thinking of the usual ways to avoid snacking of any kind. Pop a mint or minty gum, drink a glass of water, brush your teeth. If it persists, you might try hypnosis?
Regine July 10, 2014
I am a bit like you. But in my case I try to limit the sampling by telling myself before I dig in (with a clean ustensil every single time of course 0) ) "r u tasting to check seasoning or have u already ascertained dish is good as is?" So if answer is yes, then I stay away. But I guess this may be more easily said than done. LOL
I say that you stick a mint gum in your mouth.
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