If you worry about weight control or staying healthy, chances are you’ve made changes to your diet from time to time. Generally that means scrutinizing the foods on your shopping list and making adjustments.

But here’s something to consider: When it comes to weight loss and your overall health, what you drink may be more important than what you eat, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Researchers examined the relationship between beverage consumption among adults and weight change and found that weight loss was positively associated with a reduction in liquid calorie consumption and liquid calorie intake had a stronger impact on weight than solid calorie intake.

Is water your beverage of choice? Then you’re in the clear, so to speak. Otherwise, look to your liquids for clues as to where those extra 5 or 10 pounds may originate. Whether your beverage preference is for dairy products, fruit juices, coffee drinks, sugary soda or diet soda, there are pitfalls.

By now you know all about the dangers of excessive sugar – whether it’s the nine teaspoons of sugar in every can of Coke or the hidden carbs in that sweetly decadant mocha the corner coffee shop makes just the way you like. But as recent headlines indicate, even diet sodas are suspected of steering us toward weight gain, along with a host of health maladies including metabolic syndrome.

You don’t have to go cold turkey on your favorite beverages – indulging now and then is fine – but you may want to rethink them as part of your everyday routine. Here are some tips to help you break the habit and transition to more healthful choices.

  • Stuck on half-and-half for your coffee? Substitute nonfat condensed milk, which offers a similar texture and way fewer calories. Add the following to jazz up your morning java: a dash of vanilla or hazelnut extract, a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg. Experiment with soy, almond or coconut milk instead of dairy creamer.
  • Make your own healthy sodas: This can be fun. Pick up some no-sugar-added juices (blueberry, acai, pomegranate, cranberry) at your health food store and mix them with sparkling water and ice in a tall glass. Aside from fewer calories, you’ll get a bonus boost of antioxidants.
  • If you love chocolate beverages, experiment with creating them using cocoa powder and stevia rather than sugary chocolate syrups.
  • A twist of lemon or lime gives even a plain glass of ice water a festive touch. Pre-cut your favorite fruit and keep in a tightly sealed container, ready to pop into your ice water as a flavorful garnish. Go ahead and be creative. Star fruit, anyone?

Do you have a favorite healthy beverage?