Food Prep: My Meal Before a Meal!

Have you seen Taco Bell’s campaign (about a year or two old, but still running) called “Fourth Meal?” It shows 20-somethings who are out late and hankering for their midnight nosh–massive bean and beef burritos dripping with shredded cheese.

It’s actually a pretty good marketing campaign to promote 1) that Taco Bell is open later than most of the competition and 2) that it is totally OK to tack another full meal onto your 24-hour clock.

Since you are health conscious, you probably wouldn’t hit the TB drive-thru at 2 am for your fourth meal. You may even say, “I would never do that–at least not sober.” But what if your fourth meal was way less conspicuous than pulling up to “Window Number 2” and scoring a Value Meal after your so-called “traditional dinner” a few hours earlier? In fact, many women often consume a fourth (even a fifth) meal without even realizing it. I’m calling it the “Food Prep 4th Meal.”

The “Food Prep 4th Meal” is the meal you consume while you are standing around preparing whatever breakfast, lunch, or dinner you are ultimately making. God, I am SO guilty of this ALL THE TIME. In the morning while my eggs are cooking I want to take just a handful of almonds, a bite or two of a cracker, a sip of my EAS chocolate drink. By the time I sit down and my eggs are done I’ve already consumed enough for a large snack or small meal!

I read all the time that the best way to eat healthy is to make your own meals at home, but the authors never address the food prep trap. Here are a couple tips if you are guilty of eating a “Food Prep 4th Meal.”

1) Don’t drink wine while preparing dinner

I know it’s relaxing to have the music on, the sauce simmering and a nice Pinot in hand while stirring, but it lowers your clean-eating inhibitions. The sugar from the wine will spike your food cravings and make you eat more. Save wine for dinner or, better yet, dessert. If you need to sip something, have some unsweetened tea with lemon or a Propel flavored water if you need a sweet drink (I love the Black Cherry).

2) Don’t reach for snacks and munch while you are waiting for something to boil, broil, braise, or microwave.

Grazing is my weakness. Here are two tricks I use. 1) If I have some time while things are on the stove or in the microwave I go do laundry (away from the kitchen), tidy up my office, set the table, go on my computer, etc. 2) If you need to be in the kitchen while things are cooking (like trying to time all parts of your dinner) then try doing stretches or standing, side-to-side ab exercises while you wait. It’s a lot harder to snack when you are exercising (it just feels gross and unnatural) and I swear these ab exercises will bring fantabulous results over time (go ahead and laugh, but I pretend I’m a belly-dancer).

3) Don’t taste everything you are making

Hey, I understand that you don’t want to put food in front of your guests that may be unpalatable. But you don’t have to try EVERYTHING associated with your dinner. If you are experimenting with a new, complicated sauce, then by all means, have a taste. But if you are making white rice, you don’t need to eat a few bites of the rice before you bring it to the table. IT’S JUST WHITE RICE. If you bought rolls from the grocery, you don’t need to rip one apart and gnaw half of it. You know what crusty rolls taste like. If you are spreading cheddar cheese over guests’ salads, you don’t need to eat a handful of cheddar. YOU ALREADY KNOW WHAT CHEDDAR TASTES LIKE. If you’re guilty of this, it helps to tell yourself that you will get to taste it at your table in just a short while! An exception to the rule is vegetables. If you are making fresh salads and cutting up veggies, feel free to test the vegetables. Sometimes I even cut up extra vegetables so I will have something to snack on while I prep. They’re low in calories and fill me up so I don’t eat so much when I finally sit down to dinner.

4) Don’t wait until your starving to prepare your meal.

Whenever we are famished is when we blow our clean-eating habits. If you know your guests aren’t arriving until late, then make yourself a snack with a balance of protein and carbs (low sugar) so you won’t be ravenous while preparing dinner.

I have to be conscious of these tips above every day. Do you have any tips to prevent the Food Prep 4th Meal? Is eating while you are cooking an issue for you? As always, keep counting.


  1. Asheaon Squirrel says

    I always end up eating spoonfuls of peanut butter when I'm cooking stuff. Of all these great suggestions, I like the exercise while waiting one most of all :). I think I'll do kegel exercises and ballerina arms! I'm serious! This is my new plan!Oh, and I also find chewing gum to be helpful when I'm making food b/c then I can't chew the gum and eat the food I am making at the same time.Love you blog!!!

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