Nutritional Goal Setting

Written by Laura DeWitt, RD

As we ring in a New Year, many of us will resolve to eat healthier.

This fresh start of the new year often motivates us to make changes to our lifestyle for improved health and wellness.  However, motivation can come and go.  For a change to occur and to stick requires a commitment.  Commitment is the state of being dedicated to an action or cause.  When considering a change, I like to stop and ask myself: On a scale of 1-10, how dedicated am I to making the change I have in mind?  If you rate yourself at a 9 or a 10 you will be able to fully devote time and effort towards being successful in making a change.

Goal setting sets us on course to make the desired change.  SMART is an acronym to help us remember what to keep in mind while setting goals.






SMART goals help us to focus on a particular behavior, track our progress and increase our chances of success.

Let’s revisit a popular New Year’s resolution, “to eat healthier.”  Would this be considered a SMART goal?  Well, no.  It’s vague!  If I told someone to eat healthier, they’d probably ask me:  Eat healthier how?  When?  To make a goal like this SMART, I’ve got to think about what specifically I want to do, how much or how often. is a good place to start if you need specific ideas on healthy eating.  For example, MyPlate reminds us to make half our plate fruits and vegetables.  Most days I fall short here, and I’d like to change that.  My one-year-old daughter eats meals with us now, and she sees what I do.  I want to be a good example for her, plus I want my entire family to be healthy.  I rate myself a 9 in commitment to this change.

So, to make the goal Specific and Measurable I will:  Serve at least one type of vegetable at dinner each day of the week and personally fill at least ¼ of my plate with vegetables each time.

Then I ask myself two things:

1) Can I do this with some effort?  Yes, it will require some planning, but it can be done.  So, it’s Attainable.

2) Do I want to do this?  Yes, I really do!  So, it’s Relevant.

Then, I can decide how much time I’ll give myself to work on the change.  One week’s time works well for many goals.  After the week is up, I will then review how I did on the goal.  This Time-Bound quality helps make my goal SMART.  I will set a start and end date for the goal (this coming Monday and the following Sunday) and put it on my calendar.  Scheduling it in shows that it is important to follow-through, and helps me remember to do it.

On Sunday, I’ll ask myself and my family what went well and what didn’t.  Together we can find solutions to what prevented us from being successful, or brainstorm ways to keep going, like selecting a new recipe that everyone can agree on. Below you’ll find a recipe that we love at our house, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples.

I might change, add to, or start a new goal depending on what is accomplished the first time through.  In order to turn a new behavior into a habit, research says that we may need more than 21 days.  So give yourself time to incorporate the change into your life and keep it going for a while before taking on a new change.  So I may focus on making ¼ of my plate vegetables for several weeks before I set a new SMART goal to make half my plate vegetables and fruits.

Once you’ve set your own SMART goal:

  • Write it down
  • Tell someone – support is essential to stay accountable and motivated.

To maintain motivation and commitment as you work on your goal, you might also think about the reason you want to make this change in the first place.  Who or what is most important to you?  My family’s health, especially my daughter’s, is very important to me.  Visualize your reason(s) when the going gets tough, or carry a photo to look at when you need a reminder.

Here are some more tips:

  • Put up prompts such as a note on the fridge that reminds you – “eat your veggies!”, post your goal in a noticeable place, and use technology to track your choices.
  • Be mindful of your choices. Then own your decisions.
  • Try to view slip-ups without criticism. They are a given.  Identify the circumstances that led to the choice you don’t want to repeat, and make a plan to do something different next time.
  • If you consistently do not meet your SMART goals, revisit your commitment and adjust what you will do next time based on your readiness.

The journey of lifestyle change is made of the sum of our everyday choices.  In the New Year, set SMART goals to help guide you.  And resolve to re-commit to yourself time and again to make those changes last.

Sending you encouragement and wishing you a happy and healthy 2016!

 roasted sweet potato apple

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Source: The Cook’s Helper 2nd Edition

4 servings

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 Fuji apple or other baking apple
  • 1/2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
  2. Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise.  Slice the sweet potato halves creating ½-inch thick pieces.IMG_1067
  3. Wash and core the apple. Cut into bite-sized chunks.
  4. In a 2-quart baking dish, add the sweet potatoes and apple. Drizzle vegetable oil over the mixture stirring to coat.IMG_1074
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and stir mixture. Bake 10 minutes longer, or until tender.
  7. Stir again. Stick a fork into a piece of potato.  If it is still hard, stir and return to oven.  Check every 5 minutes until tender.
  8. When the potatoes are tender, place mixture in a serving dish. Drizzle with maple syrup and stir.IMG_1077


Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 140, Total Fat 2 g (3% DV), Saturated Fat 0 g (0% DV), Cholesterol 0 mg (0% DV), Sodium 5 mg (0% DV), Total Carbohydrate 29 g (10% DV), Dietary Fiber 3 g (11% DV), Sugars 7 g, Protein 2 g, Vitamin A 290%, Vitamin C 15%, Calcium 4%, Iron 4%.

This post was reviewed by Carrie Miller, MS, RD, Extension Educator and Audra Losey, MS, RD, Extension Educator with pictures by Morgan Hartline, MS, RD, LMNT SNAP-Ed Program Coordinator.


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