Written By: Nav Sharma, Registered Dietitian
When it comes to your nutrition goals, do you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere? Have you been on that same journey over and over again where things transition back to your old ways somewhere along the way?
We might be really good at setting and achieving goals in other areas of our lives but when it comes to nutrition we often struggle. In fact, many of my clients have told me that they feel like they’ve ‘nailed it’ when it comes to their personal/professional lives but they just can’t seem to get a grasp of their eating. When it comes to priorities, nutrition often takes a backseat, not only because we have other things on the go, but also because we don’t know where to start.
This is where SMART goals, a guided goal setting technique, comes in! Perhaps you’ve heard of SMART goal setting but if you haven’t, it is a method used for creating goals that give you a sense of direction and helps you define, organize and reach your goals. Setting SMART goals for your nutrition, in particular, means focusing on smaller, more achievable goals to increase your chances of reaching your goals and living a healthier lifestyle long-term. Evidence shows that when people set specific individual goals for fruits, vegetables, fat consumption or physical activity, they will have a higher likelihood of achieving their goals.
In this blog, we’ll explore what SMART stands for, why we should use SMART goals, how to set SMART goals with easy-to-follow examples, some tips and what to do if you don’t achieve your goal!
What Does SMART Stand For?
Okay, so just to recap, SMART goal setting is a method that can help you focus on specific skills or behaviours you’d like to improve. The acronym SMART stands for:
Why Should I Use SMART Goals For Nutrition?
Using the SMART goal framework sets boundaries and defines the steps you’ll need to take to get you to your goal. It also helps to identify milestones that highlight your progress along the way. With SMART goals, you’re more likely to achieve your nutrition goals efficiently and effectively!
Example SMART Goals For Nutrition
Before we get into how to set SMART goals, there are a few preliminary steps: We must: 1) recognize a need for change and 2) pick a few specific nutrition skills or behaviours we’d like to change. Here are a few examples that my clients have mentioned in the past:
- Start eating breakfast.
- Eat more vegetables.
- Drink more water.
- Stop skipping meals.
- Stop eating junk food late at night.
- Eat more home-cooked meals.
- Eat less sugar.
- Weight loss.
- Get healthier.
Okay, now that we’ve established a potential list of goals, let’s discuss the steps!
Be as clear and specific as possible with what you want to achieve. Your goal should clearly define what you want to accomplish when you will start, how you will start and/or where the action will take place. The more defined your goal, the more you’ll understand the steps necessary to achieve it.
- I am going to plan, cook and eat three dinners at home this week.
- I am going to have at least 1 cup of vegetables with lunch for the next 5 days.
Give yourself a way to measure when you’ve achieved your goal and don’t forget to track your progress along the way. Think: How will I know if I’ve achieved my goal? If you are really struggling with a goal, create small and short-term goals to start.
- I will drink 2L of water every day this week.
- Rather than having junk food seven nights this week, I will only consume it three nights.
Have you set an achievable goal? Setting goals you can reasonably accomplish within a certain time-frame will help keep you motivated and focused. Before you begin working toward a goal, decide if it’s something you can achieve now with all of your current skills and resources or are there some skills or tools you’ll need before starting.
- Do you need to learn how to cook before you can accomplish your goal of eating home-cooked meals?
- Do you have all of the cooking utensils you need to start making breakfast every morning?
When creating a goal for yourself, make sure you are realistic. A SMART goal is likely realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. If you set an unrealistic goal, it will discourage you from taking action and even taking the first step.
- I will lower my LDL cholesterol over the next 3 months by exercising at least 150 minutes a week, eating less saturated fat and added sugar, and eating more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
- I will lose 30 lbs by watching my portions at each meal and exercising for 30 minutes 5 times a week.
What is your time-frame for achieving your goal? Setting a target date will help motivate you to start working towards your goal today. Choose a reasonable date that will help you stay focused without creating too much room for procrastination.
- I will lose 5 pounds by June 30, 2020 by eating dessert only one time a week and walking more than 10,000 steps a day.
- I will eat 3 meals a day from Monday to Friday for the entire month of June.
7 Nutrition Goal Setting Secrets to Help You Along The Way:
- Only set 1-3 goals at a time! Setting too many goals can make it difficult to stay focused.
- Remember why you decided to set nutrition goals for yourself! Keeping this in mind can help motivate you to keep going.
- Track your progress! Tracking is an effective tool that can help you measure your improvements and identify/correct any issues along the way.
- Surround yourself with inspiration and share your goal with those who support you!
- Celebrate your successes along the way using rewards that are not food or alcohol!
- Don’t wait until Monday to start working towards your goals! What can you do NOW to get closer to achieving your goal?
- Take a look at our motivation blog for more ideas on how to stay motivated!
What Can You Do If You Haven’t Achieved Your Healthy Eating Goal(s)?
If you haven’t achieved your goal in the time frame you chose, take time to reflect and consider why. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Did I set too many goals?
- Was my goal too big?
- Did something unexpected interrupt my progress?
- Was my time frame unrealistic?
- Is there another nutrition skill or behaviour I should work on first?
- Am I committed to making a change?
- Should I ask for help from a professional?
Stay positive and know that setbacks are a normal part of change! Make sure you take some time to reflect on what was working and what made your journey challenging. Then, try again and apply what you learned! And don’t forget, if you need help, don’t be hesitate to ask us!
Download A Free Nutrition Goal Setting Worksheet!
“It’s never too early or too late to work towards being the healthiest you.”