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How to Set the Best Nutrition SMART Goals (That You’ll Actually Stick To)

What is a SMART Goal?

If you’ve been in the world of education and counseling for any length of time, you already know what SMART goals are. You may even be able to come up with a few good nutrition SMART goals. But if you’re unfamiliar, let’s start by breaking down what SMART goals are and why you may be interested in them!

The word “SMART” is actually an acronym coined by business consultant George T. Doran in 1981 (1).

  • S is for Specific (identifies a specific area to improve)
  • M is for Measurable (shows quantifiable progress over time)
  • A is for Achievable (attainable, possible to achieve)
  • R is for Realistic (similar to achievable, but possible with current resources)
  • T is for Time-Related (specifies a deadline or end-date)

An example of a SMART Goal can be as simple as “I will go to my local gym’s Zumba class for 30 minutes per day, 4 days a week for the next 6 months.”

There are some other variations of the acronym (SMARTER, i-SMART, etc.) that are similar and enhance the meaning, but I won’t focus on all of these. You can get a great start with just these 5 letters and still see great results in the end!

Why Set Nutrition SMART Goals?

Now that we’ve defined SMART goals, let’s talk about how to create nutrition SMART goals! But first, let’s address the elephant in the room.

If you’re not a fan of goal setting, I get it. We’ve all set goals with good intentions and hopes of seeing results. But we often end up being too busy/tired/unmotivated/uninspired to see them through.

James Clear, author of the New York Times Bestseller entitled Atomic Habits, would argue that goals are overrated and that our focus should be more on creating effective systems rather than setting goals (2). He states “goals are good for planning progress, while systems are good for actually making progress.”

And to be honest, I’d agree with him. So, you might be wondering why I’ve written a blog on goal setting in the first place. Well, I have 2 reasons:

  1. Goal setting is still an important step toward seeing positive change in areas of your life that you want to improve (i.e. health, fitness, career).
  2. There is already an amazing system you can adopt to make progress toward improving your nutrition. It’s called Intuitive Eating!

You can learn to make real, impactful, and meaningful progress with nutrition SMART goals when those goals are based on a system that works. Intuitive Eating REALLY WORKS, y’all! I share more about the benefits of Intuitive Eating in this blog post.

Julia in green polka dot shirt next to caption "intuitive eating is a holistic approach to authentic health"

Setting Nutrition SMART Goals with Intuitive Eating in Mind

Yes, as an anti-diet dietitian, I’m a little biased in thinking that Intuitive Eating is the “best” way to develop nutrition SMART goals.

However, if you’ve been on the neverending dieting hamster wheel before, you know how futile diet-based goal setting can feel. You achieve your weight loss goal, go off the diet, then regain all the weight back…and some extra to go along with it. And the cycle restarts. Ugh!

Intuitive Eating is about rejecting the diet mentality while learning how to nourish, respect, and honor your unique body for better physical and mental health (3). That takes some intentional goal setting to achieve and sustain.

Here are some helpful tips to get you started on your way to setting the BEST nutrition SMART goals!

1. Think more about who you want to BE rather than what you want to DO.

In Atomic Habits, Clear talks about the importance of establishing an identity that aligns with your values, which gives you a frame of reference for the types of goals you set in life.

For example, if you wanted to identify as someone who has a healthy relationship with food and her body, consider how this person might behave and think. Would they restrict themselves from eating certain foods? Or would they constantly worry about their weight and how others see them?

If you’re struggling with your identity and have difficulty acknowledging your true worth and beauty, check out this blog post!

2. Focus on ADDING foods instead of RESTRICTING them.

Honoring your Health with Gentle Nutrition is a principle of Intuitive Eating that can help you prioritize adding foods to your diet rather than restricting foods. In my recent blog post on Gentle Nutrition, I explain that having a basic understanding of human nutrition is one of the keys to mastering this principle.

Your body needs a balance of carbs, proteins, fats, fiber, and hydration to function well. Do you have enough varieties from each of these groups? If not, look for options you can add to your diet and focus your attention there.

3. Consider both your PHYSICAL and MENTAL health in the type of nutrition goals you set.

Let’s be realistic (yes, as in the “R” in “SMART” goal setting). You already know what kind of nutrition goals put a strain on your physical or mental health. If you’ve set a goal to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day and it has caused you to feel like a failure because it wasn’t sustainable for you, don’t choose that goal!

Instead, find goals that put both your physical and mental health at the forefront. For example, choosing to honor your hunger and fullness by waiting to eat dinner when you’re at a 3 or 4 on the hunger scale and stopping at a 6 or 7 may help accomplish this.

You don’t get overly hungry or full physically, and you’re mentally able to trust your body more each time. If you want to try this goal out, here’s your free copy of the JNL Hunger Scale!

Setting the Best Nutrition SMART Goals You’ll Actually Stick To

Let’s crush some goals this year by focusing on how you can use Intuitive Eating for authentic health!

What types of nutrition SMART goals will you set on your Joyfully Nourished Life journey? Which of the tips shared in this post was most helpful to you? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Much love, friends! <3

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Hey there!

Have you heard about The Joyfully Nourished Life 10-week Program Guide?

In this exclusive wellness program, you’ll receive original course content outlining the principles of Intuitive Eating, the revolutionary anti-dieting approach to healthy living, all with a Christ-centered, faith-based focus for everyday life. Visit the JNL Shop here to learn more!

With your purchase, your friendly neighborhood nutrition expert (that’s me!) will then reach out via email to learn more about your specific health-related interests, challenges, and goals!

Oh, and don’t forget to check out my latest JNL freebies here and here!

Much love, friends! 


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