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Setting SMART Health & Nutrition Goals

by Lauren Larson MS, RDN February 17, 2015

Setting SMART Health & Nutrition Goals

It’s probably been over a month since you’ve set some resolutions to ring in the New Year. Have you stuck with them? Or are you like the other 92% of Americans that set New Year’s resolutions and aren’t successful at achieving them? If that’s the case, then it’s time for some more motivation…

Instead of getting down on yourself for not achieving your resolution(s), take a step back, rethink your goals, and make them a little SMARTer...

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/ Relevant/ Results-focused, and Timely.

SMART goals help you focus on what you want to achieve, make a plan for success, create realistic and sustainable expectations, and clearly define what the goal is and how it will be measured. They can apply to all aspects of life including your professional career, relationships, finances, and of course health and fitness.


SMART goals are specific and simple. The goal is clearly defined, including who, what, where, when, and why. Think about who is involved, what you want to accomplish, where the action will take place, when you will achieve the goal, and why it is important.

For example, “cook more at home” can become more specific with “ I am going to plan at least three meals a week, make a grocery list and shop on Sunday, and schedule time to cook and eat dinner sitting down at a table with family/friends.”


Measurable goals include criteria for measuring when you have met the goal or made progress. Think about how much, how many, and how you will know when you have achieved the goal. Think small and short-term.

For example, “run a faster 5K” can become measurable with “I will run the Firecracker 5K in less than 30 minutes by running at least three days a week for 12 weeks, including one speed workout.” Your time at the Firecracker 5K will let you know whether or not you have achieved your goal.


Identify what’s important to you. Something that is doable, but slightly challenging. If it’s impossible, you might not even try. You must have the knowledge, skills, and ability to achieve the goal, and if you don’t, make it a goal to get the help you need. Plan your steps wisely, establishing a time frame to achieving each step, and avoid making lofty goals that are going to take you a long time to achieve.

For example, “get out of debt” can be made more doable with “I will pay off my credit card with the lowest balance in 6 months by paying $XX.XX each month with automatic bill pay. After that one is paid off, I will roll the payment into the next card with the lowest balance.” This is called debt snowballing, and it’s a great way to get out of debt.


Your goal must be something you are willing and able to work towards—this is something only you can decide. Have you achieved a similar goal in the past? Under what conditions were you able to achieve the goal? Do you trulybelieve you can accomplish the goal?  Include measurable outcomes or results in your goal.

For example, “get healthier” can become more results-focused with “I will lower my LDL cholesterol by XX points by exercising at least 150 minutes a week, eating less saturated fat and added sugar, and eating more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.” Adding a health related result to this goal gives it a different meaning.


Set a deadline to create a sense of urgency, this will help motivate you to start working towards your goal TODAY. Make the deadline appropriate for keeping focus without allowing room for procrastination.

For example, make “lose 10 pounds” more timely with “I will lose 10 pounds by April 30, 20XX by eating dessert only one time a week and walking more than 10,000 steps a day.”

And lastly, don’t wait until Monday to start working towards your goals. What can you do NOW to get closer to achieving your goal?

What SMART nutrition, health, or fitness related goals are you really going to achieve this year?

Lauren Larson MS, RDN
Lauren Larson MS, RDN

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