A New Year’s resolution or health goal is only effective if it sticks. But how do you change behaviors for lasting success? This year, it’s time to get SMART. SMART is a clever acronym designed to help people achieve their goals. It was originally created to achieve business goals, but it is now being used in healthcare and it stands for Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Timed.1 Here’s an example of how you and your family can use the SMART plan to eat healthy in the coming new year.
Have a Specific Goal
If one of your family goals for the new year is to eat a healthier diet, the goal shouldn’t be “to eat healthy,” it should be more specific. For example, if you are falling short of eating fruits and vegetables, you will want the goal to be “eat at least two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day.” That’s Specific.
Once the goal is set, it’s important to have a plan that considers challenges and barriers that could get in the way of you achieving your specific goal.1 Eating more fruits and vegetables requires proactive grocery shopping and menu planning. Consider doing this on the weekend so that when your busy week begins, you won’t get derailed because of a lack of planning.
Measure and Time Your Success
Eating two servings each of fruit and vegetables daily is easy to measure and track. At the end of the day, take a moment to evaluate your success. Did you and your family meet your measured goal?
It’s also important that your goal is time-bound. For example, you could aim for one month of eating more fruits and vegetables and then after the month is up, evaluate your progress. Did you consistently meet your goal for the month? If you did, consider increasing your goal to three servings of each or perhaps adding a new diet goal. If you didn’t, consider extending your existing goal for another month.
Is Your Goal Achievable and Realistic?
Setting a goal that is realistic and has a higher likelihood of success is important. Ask yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how realistic is your goal. If your answer is less than a seven, you may want to adjust your goal. If you originally wanted to eat four servings each of fruit and vegetables a day and thought that was unrealistic, changing it to two servings of each is a step in the right direction. Research demonstrates that setting realistic health goals are more achievable and sustainable.2
Does Your Goal Make Sense?
The example of eating more fruits and vegetables is a great health-promoting goal because research clearly shows that fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet.3 Other dietary goals for you and your family could be:
- Eat less processed foods.
- Cut back on sugar.
- Eat a Mediterranean diet.
- Have meat be more of a side dish.
Whatever your New Year’s resolution is, consider applying the SMART strategy to help ensure success for the long haul. It can help give you new life in the new year.
- Bailey RR. Goal Setting and Action Planning for Health Behavior Change. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2017;13(6):615-618. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6796229/?report=reader
- Lorig K, Laurent DD, Plant K, et al. The components of action planning and their associations with behavior and health outcomes. Chronic Illness. 2014;10(1):50-59. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23838837/
- Wallace TC, Bailey RL, Blumberg JB, et al. Fruits, vegetables, and health: a comprehensive narrative, umbrella review of the science and recommendations for enhanced public policy to improve intake. Food Science and Nutrition. 2020;60. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2019.1632258