Food is the fuel that powers our lives. Full of energy and nourishment, it’s the building block of a healthy body. It’s also a source of connection and comfort.

Family recipes keep our traditions alive. Meals shared with loved ones help us bond and connect. So it’s no surprise that when the going gets tough, we often turn to food to make us feel better. But that choice comes with some risks.

When we lean on food to make us feel good, it can lead to unhealthy eating which deprives our bodies of the nutrients we need and can lead to weight gain. So, how do we find a health balance? How do we get the benefits of healthy eating without using food as a crutch during stressful times or enjoying celebrations without over doing it on those calorie-filled foods? Try these four tips to build healthy eating habits and support a positive relationship with food.

1. Play the Name Game

When you’re feeling anxious, see if you can identify which emotion you are experiencing. Are you stressed, bored, sad or lonely? Label your emotion with a specific name, and brainstorm ways you can handle it without food. Try these idea starters:

  1. Taking a walk.
  2. Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity.
  3. Playing with your kids.

2. Stick to Plan A (or B… or C)

Jot down ways to deal with uncomfortable feelings, like calling a close friend, taking a hot bath or doing some deep breathing. You can meditate, take a family walk, explore feelings in your journal or grab an adult coloring book. Make a list of healthy plans and keep it nearby for when things get tough. Put these healthy activities on your list:

  1. Talking to a friend.
  2. Making plans to go outdoors or to a park with your kids. Try this list to help you come up with a few ideas in your community.
  3. If you really need a snack, try these healthy snack recipes instead of unhealthy alternatives.

3. Read Your Own Mind

The mind is tricky, and sometimes we mistake emotions for hunger. Learn to tell the difference between hunger and emotions. Pay attention to physical signals, like a rumbling stomach or foggy mind, to help know when you’re actually hungry. If you crave something specific and unhealthy, like cheesecake right this second, it’s probably your emotions talking. If you’re truly hungry, a healthy snack or meal will satisfy you. When genuine hunger strikes, put these helpful hints to work:

  1. Get your daily dose of fruits and veggies with a healthy, delicious salad.
  2. Craving crisp flavors? Stay satisfied – and hydrated – with infused water recipes.
  3. When you need something sweet, these healthy dessert recipes are perfect.

4. Put Some Prep in Your Step

If you’re feeling genuine hunger, eat a nutritious meal or snack. It’s easier to make healthy choices if you plan ahead and prep options that are easy to make. It’s always easier to turn down tempting foods on a full stomach. These helpful tips will put you on the path to success:

  1. Save time, money and effort by meal prepping healthy meals at once.
  2. Take advantage of super-fast recipes that are ready in 20 minutes or less.
  3. Use your Crock Pot to cut down on prep time – and have a hot meal ready when you get home.

Handling tough emotions? It’s not easy. If you’ve used food to blow off steam in the past, don’t beat yourself up. Just remember there are healthier ways to get your emotions back on track. With practice, you can keep tension and stress from driving you to unhealthy eating.

Want more healthy hints, tips and tricks? Visit ShapeYourFutureOK.com for inspiration.