A spoonful here, a spoonful there

Styling by Corrine Kozlak, Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune

You know the drill: You're stirring along, and suddenly that spoon's in your mouth and, oh my, you've managed to gulp a wallop of red sauce. Or maybe it's the beater, dripping chocolaty batter, now being licked from your lips.

Face it, people, the spoons and the forks by the side of your stove, they're party to the culinary crime of shoveling down half a meal before you get to the table.

Oh, sure, we know chefs swear by it. But even the best of 'em acknowledge there's a whopping difference between tasting one teaspoon — that's really all you need — and standing there basically scarfing down dinner — one spoonful at a time.

"We call them the BLTs — bites, licks and tastes," said dietitian Stephanie Rost, corporate program development director for Weight Watchers International. And they're not to be slipped under the table.

For starters, you need to track 'em, every last one, says Rost. If it helps, write down each time you taste. Be sure to count them in your daily intake. It's not like they magically melt away, just because you're upright and not using a plate.

Enlist pre-emptive strikes: Do all your cooking, say, on Sunday afternoon, then just reheat and eat, so there's less time for temptation. Pop a mint in your mouth as you're cooking. Chop up raw veggies, and munch them instead.

And then, consider the numbers: Cake batter, one lick, 65 calories; red sauce with ground beef, one spoonful, 80 calories. That handful of shredded cheese? Oh, gee, 100 calories. Gulp.