The new year always presents an opportunity for reflection and a look ahead, particularly when it comes to behaviors and patterns related to our health and nutrition. In fact, according to IFIC’s 2021 COVID-19 and the Holidays Survey, 44% of Americans intended to make a New Year’s resolution in 2022 related to what they ate and drank. Among those who intended to make this type of change, the most popular resolutions were “eating less sugar” (with 45% saying so), “losing weight” (44%), and “improving the healthfulness of my diet” (38%).
Whether your upcoming resolutions reflect those listed above, or whether you intend to make food-related changes in other areas, one of the most important parts of creating any resolution is making sure that you are setting yourself up for success.
Here are some SMART-goals-inspired tips that can help you feel more confident in making a nutrition-related resolution—and sticking to it.
- Be Specific: Striving to eat healthier in the New Year is a great ambition to have. But, in reality, “eating healthier” can take on a lot of different meanings. Ask yourself: “What exactly does eating healthier look like or mean to me?” For example, it may look like eating a fruit or vegetable with every meal. Having a specific, focused resolution like this can help you start off the year knowing exactly what you want to accomplish.
- Make It Measurable: Add some numbers to your resolution. For example, setting a resolution to eat 2–3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is easier to measure and track than just saying “I’ll eat more fruits and vegetables this year.” If you’re able to track (and achieve) a measurable goal, you’re more likely to continue feeling empowered—and to stick to your resolution throughout the year.
- Ensure It’s Attainable: Set goals for yourself that are within your reach. Keep in mind that smaller goals can serve as stepping stones to bigger accomplishments. If your resolution is to completely eliminate the food waste your family produces, that might not be the most attainable resolution, since it could be very challenging to keep track of every single food item that gets tossed out or goes unfinished by a family member. Instead, a more attainable goal might be to buy a mix of fresh and frozen produce when grocery shopping to help your family reduce its chances of food spoilage.
- Be Realistic: Be honest with yourself about your values and lifestyle. If your resolution is to save money by bringing your lunch to work more often, but you currently get takeout for lunch four days a week, it will most likely take some time to get used to regularly preparing those meals in advance. Instead of going into the new year aiming to never get takeout for lunch, try planning on bringing your lunch twice a week first. If that is manageable, you can work your way up to more homemade lunches from there.
- Make It Time-Bound: Make a deadline for your goals, or divide them into time increments to make them easier to manage. For example, if your resolution is to ensure you’re eating the five food groups every day, you could say that by March 31st you will be eating at least three of the food groups each day; by May 31st you will be eating at least four of the food groups every day; and by July 31st you will be eating all five food groups on a daily basis.
By implementing some SMART-goal-inspired tips, you can help set up yourself for success in meeting your New Year’s resolution. And remember, you should feel excited about your resolutions! – they should challenge you, but they shouldn’t be a huge additional stressor, either.