For most of us, there’s always that time of day when you think; “I’m hungry, it’s time I look for something to eat.” Without even really thinking about it, we open the fridge to scour for ready-to-eat foods at home or if at work race to the nearest  pre-packaged snacks we can find.

But the next time you get the same hunger signal again, it’s better to pause and ask yourself first. Are you really hungry or could you just be thirsty?

The truth is, most people confuse thirst and hunger, often mistaking the former for the latter. Clinical studies have shown that 37% of people mistake hunger for thirst because the thirst mechanism is so weak. By doing so, the body is led to think that it needs food when what it’s really asking for is water. Moreover, the fact that the symptoms of dehydration (i.e. feeling weak, dizzy and cranky) mimic those of hunger contribute to people’s confusion between the two signals.

Not a lot of people know that you don’t necessarily have to wait until you’re thirsty to grab a drink. Generally, the thirst mechanism kicks in when you’re around 1 to 2 percent dehydrated, which is measured by body weight change due to sweat loss. Real dehydration occurs by the time at least 2 percent of your body weight is reduced, causing you to suffer side effects like headaches and nausea sooner. Stock up on water all day long to avoid this.

Apart from avoiding those unhealthy symptoms, having enough water in your daily diet fills you up, helping you avoid overeating. When you lack consumption of water, your body is quicker to experience dehydration. Aside from water assisting in the flushing out of toxins in the body, it also eases digestion and blood circulation. Drinking enough water will help ensure that you are not mistaking thirst for hunger, which can help keep a healthy weight  in check.

Listen to what your body signals you to do. Do not be tempted to reach for whatever snack is in sight at the first sign of “hunger”. Your best bet to identify whether that feeling is hunger or thirst is to drink water, approximately 8 ounces, upon the first time you’re brain tells you that you’re hungry. Wait 15 minutes before you decide. If you were truly hungry, that feeling of wanting to eat something won’t leave while if you were actually thirsty, then you’ll feel satisfied.

The moment you establish that you are, in fact, hungry, do stay away from foods that are full of empty calories. Opt for fiber-rich snacks, which are low in fat and high in antioxidants. Oatmeal, bran flakes and apples are excellent, easily available sources. Berries, red and purple-skinned grapes, which coincidentally contain resveratrol, a compound known to facilitate caloric restriction, are also some of the high-fiber foods you can guiltlessly munch on.

And with that…. I think I’ll grab a glass of water.