Are Your Goals for Healthy Eating Vague - or SMART?

10784health-food.jpgDID YOU SET A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU EAT? Resolutions are a great way to kick-start change and work towards a healthier you. Most of us know from past experience that resolutions can be tough to keep over the long-term. This is not necessarily due to a lack of willpower or motivation. Instead, inability to follow-through may be due to the fact that we tend to make resolutions that are unrealistic or vague. Making resolutions that focus on specific small and sustainable changes may be the key to success. Here is a guide for making (or re-making!) smart resolutions for better health.

Make – or re-make – your resolutions to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

First, think about what you want to achieve and write down goals that will help you get there. Make sure each goal is specific, including the actions you need to take to accomplish your goal. It should be measurable so that you can evaluate your progress – and attainable for YOU given your current circumstances. It is important for the goal to be realistic; something that you are both willing and able to work towards. Lastly, your goal should be time-bound, meaning there is a deadline or a timeline attached to your goal.

For example, your ambiguous resolution to "eat healthier" or "eat more fruits and vegetables" could become a SMART goal: "Eat one piece of fruit at lunch and two servings of vegetables at dinner daily for the month of January." This goal is more detailed and more likely to lead to success.

Now that we're into mid-March, you could reflect on the challenges and successes you've had working toward your goal and change it as needed to make sure it remains a SMART goal moving forward.

Here are some ideas that could be included in your SMART goals to get your diet on the right track:

  • If you aren't already, start of the day with a healthy breakfast. This might help control hunger later in the day and help you eat less overall. Try oatmeal with berries and walnuts or low-fat plain Greek yogurt with fruit and granola.
  • Include more fiber. Focus more on all of the healthy, natural sources of fiber you can enjoy, like beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less on the foods that you feel you should avoid.
  • Enjoy healthy sources of fat. Substitute lean proteins for fatty meats and olive oil for butter. Include nuts, avocados and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.
  • Eat out less often. You will consume fewer calories, unhealthy fats and sodium and save money!
  • Visit Fletcher Allen's blog, HealthSource, for recipes. You can even subscribe to the blog's recipe channel to receive new recipes via email!

If you feel like you've already fallen off your specific – or vague – New Year's food resolutions, don't sweat it. Take a moment and revise them to be SMART goals. After all, it's still the New Year. And there's no reason to wait until 2015.

Bridget Shea, MS, RD is a clinical dietitian on the Community Health Team at Fletcher Allen Health Care.