Goal setting for nutrition

Steph Weekes Steph Weekes Registered Nutritional Therapist
When considering our nutrition there may be a temptation to jump into a ‘new’ diet or revamp our eating habits all at once. Studies continue to show that although this might show success in the short term, this doesn’t provide sustainable change. Steph Weekes, Registered Nutritional Therapist, outlines six key points to take on board when setting goals and making changes to your nutrition.

1. KISS: keep it simple stupid!

This is an old acronym but it’s a good starting place to resist wanting to change everything at once. Create your overall goal and then create smaller goals – perhaps weekly goals so you address one thing at a time. Concentrate on it and once it has started to embed start on your next small goal.

For example, if you want to increase your veg intake, add one extra veg to lunch and dinner. This might be adding grated carrot to your salad or wrap at lunch or having a piece of fruit mid-afternoon instead of a biscuit. At dinner you might serve your dish on a bed of spinach or rocket.

This is a great start rather than trying to eat 8 or 10 pieces of fruit and veg when you are currently only having 3 a day.

2. Make a plan

If you have established your overall goal, then you can start to create smaller goals.

Write them down and create some kind of plan. If you have committed them to paper and worked out a timeframe, this is going to help focus and maintain momentum.

3. Accountability

It may also help to share your plan with someone - it could simply be telling someone about your intentions. Perhaps you can buddy up with a friend or your fellow gym-goer and share your goals with each other. Creating some accountability will help you achieve your goals.

For example, keeping a food diary in any format, it doesn’t have to be into an app, can help us keep on track. Keeping a food diary is a great learning tool and can support ‘mindful’ eating.

Personal trainers, health coaches and nutritionists are also excellent ways to help us feel accountable and provide an objective point of view, which is often needed when we are working on ourselves.

4. Attach it to another habit

When we are trying to introduce something new it helps to attach it to an existing habit. For example, if you want to improve your hydration and you always have a coffee mid-morning or sit down to have a cup of tea in the afternoon, pour yourself a glass of water to have shortly afterwards.

If you do something religiously then use that habit to your benefit by attaching the new behaviour you want to become a habit.

5. Ask for help

Perhaps you are trying to reduce your sugary or salty snacks? Don’t be shy about asking your family, friends and flatmates for their support otherwise it will be hard to resist if they are offering or insisting a food on you.

You may put the kids’ treats in a box further out of reach or perhaps buy individual bags of crisps rather than a large sharing bag. Another trick would be to decant the portion you want to eat into your bowl/container so you aren’t mindlessly eating from a large bag or communal bowl.

Studies have shown if we can’t see the snacks and they are out of the way we are less likely to reach for them, so don’t keep snacks you want to avoid in glass jars or to hand!

6. Be prepared

Being prepared can help you achieve your goals. Making a shopping list, shopping online and getting the foods in that you want to eat can all help, but make sure you include some store cupboard and freezer items for those times when you might not be so prepared. If you have healthy options available, then it will be easier to avoid takeaways or unhealthier options.

For example, have frozen veggies in stock including frozen edamame beans, which are a good source of protein, have vacuum packed beetroot in the fridge and some prepared green lentils in the cupboard as well as tins of soup. If you are short of time and/or energy, you will have some ingredients that are quick to put together.

Last updated Monday 25 April 2022

First published on Tuesday 22 June 2021