The sensation of feeling famished doesn’t always signal that your body needs food. How do we tell the difference between a real hunger pang and a passing one? Nutritionists suggest we can and should evaluate our hunger level before taking that first bite.

When your belly growls again, try this. Drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes. That rumble may just be thirst. Also, recall when you last ate. If your meal was less than three hours before, it’s a safe bet you’re probably not hungry.

But when you’re really starved, you’ll know. Your stomach and brain will team up to signal it’s time to eat. That means in addition to a grumbling stomach you may develop a headache, irritability, fatigue or brain fog. These are hunger cues that demand your attention. And don’t put off eating until you’re dizzy, cranky or weak from a lack of energy; you may overeat.

Once you know those hunger pangs are for real, take the time to make a smart and balanced choice.