This time of year it is very typical to read the calorie count of traditional holiday meals. The Thanksgiving Day Turkey Feast easily comes in at 1,400 calories and the Christmas Day Prime Rib Extravaganza packs in a whopping 1,800 calories. Experts warn us that weight gain from holiday eating is inevitable. But I dare say that, especially for those of us who have undergone gastric surgery for weight management, it is not the big meals that do us in: it is the BLT's: Bites, Licks, and Tastes
. I wish I knew which diet program or person coined the BLT's so I could give them credit, it has been in my diet-talk for as long as I can remember. You have probably heard it it too.
The Bites, Licks, and Tastes will do us more harm than any big meal because even with our little tummy pouches there is always room for another Bite, Lick or Taste. When we sit down to a big meal our pouch fills quickly and when we are full discomfort occurs and further eating adds to that discomfort, so we stop eating. That is how the pouch is supposed to work. But standing in the kitchen stirring a sauce or baking cookies it seems we always have room for little Bites, Licks and Tastes. I've talked to many people who are in the BLT boat with me, maybe you are there too. So here are a few tricks I've learned to help me avoid caloric uptick and weight gain that comes from unchecked BLTs:Eating vs. Tasting
: A skinny professional chef taught me this trick. When preparing sauces, reductions and gravies it is necessary he taste-test the mixture for seasoning and texture. As a home cook my inclination is to use a soup spoon to take full spoonful of the sauce for my culinary taste taste. "You are using the wrong end of the spoon!"
he scolded. The skinny chef demonstrated that by using the handle end of the spoon and just dipping the tip in the gravy for a taste on the tongue he could quickly discern any seasoning adjustments required at the cost of very few calories. "The objective is to taste mindfully and deliberately in order to make an informed decision about the sauce. You, on the other hand,"
he said, "were eating, not tasting."
What an awakening moment! He was correct. In fact, I am certain that in many cases I have eaten a meal's worth of calories in the guise of "testing" while I cook.Picky Taster
: Some things simply do not require a taste test like pasta, rice, potatoes or other starchy side-dishes. Face it: we already know how pasta or rice taste so when we taste-test pasta or rice we are either tasting to check doneness or we are eating. For me, most of the time I am eating. Skinny chef said he learned to test pasta and rice for doneness by taking two samples: one he would chew and the other he would cut with a fork on a cutting board. The simultaneous action of chewing and cutting taught him the feel of doneness with utensils so he no longer needs to taste for doneness. Now he only tests doneness with the fork and cutting board method. As he told me, "I'm in the kitchen for 10 or 12 hours a day. If I tasted a sample from every pot of pasta this kitchen puts out it would add up to hundreds of calories a day eating something that I already know how it tastes. Why take on those calories?"Spit like a lady
. One of the most elegant sophisticated women I know has a job that requires her to taste test food for a commercial retailer. On a given day she may be required to taste 12 cheesecakes and a dozen different cupcakes. Some job for a person recovering from morbid obesity with weight loss surgery! This classy woman has no qualms about tasting and spitting. She tastes, chews and spits. And then offers her informed, low-calorie opinion on the products at hand. There is no shame in spitting, she has taught me. If you must taste but do not have it in your caloric budget or dietary plan then spit: just spit like a lady and carry-on.Do the Twist!
One danger that befalls us this time of year is indulgent eating that leads to corrective eating. By that I mean indulging in sweet offerings leads us to correct the flavor balance by eating something salty and a cycle of corrective eating begins. Sweet-Salty, Sweet-Salty. Are you familiar with this cycle? It took me a very long time to figure this out and I can recall that as a child my dad would often say he needed something sweet to chase the salty taste away. After gastric surgery this eating cycle can be damaging to our sensitive system throwing our blood-glucose levels out of balance, possibly causing dumping syndrome
. As well as I understand our nutritional needs following weight loss surgery occasionally I find myself caught-up in this cycle. It happens easily this time of year. Recently I have taken a lesson from the French who for generations have relied upon the palate cleanser between menu courses to remove lingering flavors in the mouth and improve digestion. A palate cleanser effectively stops a sweet-salty cycle of corrective eating. It is a simple and effective fix. Try iced water with a pinch of lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice stirred in with a little honey for sweetness. Or try green tea or mint tea, warm or iced, to break an eating cycle. For a sophisticated treat try lemon ice cubes blended in a slushie as a reset when your holiday eating feels out of control. (See the recipe below.)