What happens when that unopened bag of potato chips beckons to you from the cupboard? How do you handle the lure of your favorite ice cream flavor in the freezer?
You may be satisfied temporarily if you eat the chips or ice cream, but nutrition experts say it's wise to pause and examine your motivation before reaching for those foods.
That advice may be easy to comprehend -- but challenging to adhere to -- in reality.
Even local dieticians who help clients understand how their eating patterns are affected by emotions and behavior sometimes consume too much of foods they know aren't good for them.
"The last time I went on a family camping trip, I ate way too much of things I don't normally eat. I ate all the snack food like cookies, chips, dip and beef jerky," said Kathy Nichols, a Healdsburg registered dietician and life coach.
"Before the next camping trip, I'm going to make a conscious effort to have a planned strategy," she said.
She and other dieticians believe that having awareness about why and when you pick certain foods, and devising a strategy in advance, are keys to healthy eating.
While people may consciously plan to eat well on a holiday, such as Thanksgiving, they may not have a plan for healthy eating the day after Thanksgiving, when all of the tempting leftovers such as stuffing, gravy and pie are crammed into the refrigerator.
Some people overeat when they're tired. Instead of reaching for a sugary or salty food for a boost, they would be better off taking a walk, doing deep breathing or some form of exercise instead of automatically grabbing an unhealthy snack, Nichols said.
It's helpful to reflect on whether you're physically or emotionally hungry, and Nichols found the book "Eating By The Light of the Moon" by Anita Johnston effectively examined this topic.
"Johnston talks about two different hunger tanks -- physical and emotional -- and that we tend to intertwine them. We could fill the emotional tank with food all day, but it's not truly satisfying because it's the wrong type of fuel. You get brief satisfaction, but it doesn't last," she said.
It's important to realize it takes 15 to 20 minutes from the time you've eaten something until you have a physical feeling of fullness.
A common pattern is to come home after a long day of work, commuting, school or driving children to activities and automatically reach for whatever food is available. This is a transition period, and Nichols suggests slowing down and shifting gears before settling down with chips and salsa.
"It's not a conscious thing; you're shifting out of the fast into the slow lane," she said. "Whether it's a habit, or you feel like you deserve something, I recommend creating a different routine, like playing with your dog or taking a tour of your garden."
Some people are prompted to eat a particular food because of an emotional reaction they get from certain people, whether it's a feeling of anger, stress or even happiness, and social situations can trigger different reactions to food, Nichols said.
"I generally make really good food choices, but if I'm with other people, I lose myself and stop paying attention," she said. "I'm excited, swept away in the energy, and my brain turns off."