Drinking water has always been the healthy alternative to carbonated sodas or juices full of sugar but it may be more than a better beverage alternative. Water may affect what foods you choose to eat.

In two new studies, what you drink affects what you eat. Early exposure to healthy choices, like vegetables and water, can lead to better diet decisions throughout one’s life. Serving up a side of water can improve quality of life while reducing risks like obesity and diabetes.

In a new study, led by Bettina Cornwell, PhD, from the University of Oregon and Dr. Anna R. McAlister from Michigan State University, highlighted how our simple decision on what to drink with what we eat can create bad eating habits.

The first study, involving 60 adults between the ages of 19 and 23, focused on drink and meal decision making and pairings. In this study, the decision to drink soda often led to eating salty foods that were high in calories. Soda and French fries went together like peas and carrots according to the study whereas soda and veggies were not appetizing.

The second study focused on 75 preschoolers, aged between 3 and 5, to see what drink choice plays into their eating habits. On average, these children ate more vegetable when drinking water than when drinking juice or a sweetened beverage. Focusing on healthy drink choices early can improve lifelong health.

Soda and juices high in sugar can lead to diabetes and obesity. Forming habits like a sugary drink with salty food during childhood will be reinforced as adults, leading to a life full of unhealthy decisions. Vegetables are at a disadvantage according to Dr. Cornwell. Sweet and salty options, such as the numerous fast food options, are usually presented as easy solutions that are also cheap.

Dr. Cornwell and Dr. McAlister also note that brand awareness plays a large role in what we decide to eat or drink. A child may find it easy to name soda manufacturers and fast food places but may have difficulty coming up with some vegetable providers.

The study suggests promoting water as a way to healthy living. Restaurants and fast food places can make water the de facto drink of choice for kids’ meals. Drinks like juice or soda could be alternatives that cost extra. Families can make the effort to include water as the beverage of choice in the household, minimizing the amount of soda or juices that are available to children.

The study will be published in an upcoming edition of Appetite.