Dr. John Whyte

What’s the harm in having one sugary soda a day? Well, according to a new study published in Diabetologia, that habit over time can significantly increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The study, which tracked the sipping habits of more than 20,000 Europeans over 15 years, reinforced something everybody already knows: Drinking your calories is a bad idea.

“Even though people are aware of it, they don’t do anything about it,” says Dr. John Whyte, chief medical expert at the Discovery Channel and author of “AARP New American Diet: Lose Weight, Live Longer” ($20, Wiley).

The first thing he recommends is to drink water — and only water. For people who regularly consume high-calorie beverages, that switch alone can result in weight loss.

When patients make excuses for why they can’t drink six to eight glasses a day, Whyte suggests they carry a water bottle. The bottle serves as a reminder to drink, he says, and is a good way to keep tabs on how much they’ve had.

Whyte understands the appeal of fizz. The former soft-drinker now gets his fix with carbonated water, which he and his wife often make at home. Instead of buying, say, sugary lime soda from Trader Joe’s, they’ve developed their own version with just a little lime juice.

Craving something other than water? Whyte suggests a cup of coffee — “just plain brewed coffee,” he notes. It has no calories and comes with a slew of health benefits, he says.

The same can’t be said of diet sodas, which Whyte also puts off-limits. When we consume artificial sweeteners, he says, the brain is tricked into thinking it’s about to get a sugar boost. If it doesn’t come, we seek it out.

“That’s why people drink a diet soda and then crave a cupcake,” Whyte says. And that ends up being a whole lot more calories than a glass of water.