© Ariwasabi - Fotolia.com

Do you spend at least a portion of your day mentally beating yourself up for not eating “healthy” or working out or drinking too much Coke? Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of being our own harshest critics from time to time.

However, instead of wasting time thinking about what you should do, make some adjustments in your lifestyle and say goodbye to guilt.

Below are five easy, small tweaks you can make to live a healthier life and set a better example for your children. They are easy to implement, but if you feel overwhelmed, just pick one or two to try out for a few weeks and see how it goes.

1. Change the way you drink: We all know pop is bad. It’s full of sugar, has no nutritional value, etc. Diet pop really isn’t much better. Artificial sweeteners aren’t great in big doses, so it’s time for an alternative. Of course, water is best. But if you need a little flavor to help your daily dose of water to go down, try adding sliced lemons, limes or oranges. Still not enough? Pour a splash of juice (I like cranberry) into your glass and then fill it up with water. You’ll be getting a subtle flavor without all the sugar of a full glass of juice.

2. Make exercise a PRIORITY: You do not need to exercise for an hour every day. Really, you don’t. But you do need to make it a part of your routine. This means it happens on a regular basis just like eating, sleeping and showering. Whether it’s a 20-minute walk in the morning four times a week or an hour-long sweat session at the gym twice a week, you need to make it happen. If it’s not a part of your routine, it’s too easy to brush it off for some other time. Look at your week and figure out what will work for YOU and schedule it in!

3. Portion control: I know you’ve had portion control preached to you a million times, but it really is important. So don’t eat Cheez-Its straight out of the box, and start eating dinner off your toddler’s little plastic plates—it will help you downsize a super-sized meal. If you are still hungry after you eat, have seconds. But try to start small and you may be surprised how much fills you up!

4. Snack control: The next time you reach for a snack ask yourself two things: “Am I actually hungry right now?” and “Is there a healthier alternative to this snack?” If you answer “no” to the first question, grab a piece of gum or hard candy to satisfy your need to nosh and keep yourself busy. But if you really are hungry, think twice before reaching for a convenient bag of chips or sugar-packed granola bar. Bananas are convenient, too. A pre-wrapped cheese stick will also satisfy a salty craving, without tempting you to eat your way to the bottom of a bag.

5. Make meals something to look forward to: Everyone gets bored with their same old meals every week. Give everyone in the family something to look forward to with “Meatless Monday” or “Taco Tuesday.” And take one day every week to throw in a new recipe to your rotation. A wide variety of recipes will make your kids and you have a greater appreciation for the food in front of them and the preparation that goes into each meal. Just remember to incorporate lots of veggies, fruits, whole grains and lean meats.

Try incorporating a few of these tips into your day-to-day routine. You’ll feel more energized and less guilty when you occasionally do make a bad choice because overall, you’re living a healthy lifestyle.