Tips for setting nutrition goals you’ll love

Sep 22, 2010 at 1:28 p.m. ET

We have more nutrition information available to us than ever before, but eating right still can seem daunting and complicated. How can you make changes to your diet without it being too overwhelming? If you want to improve your eating habits, here are some tips for setting nutrition goals you’ll love.

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First, find reputable sources of nutrition information such as the American Dietetic Association's website, or After reading about nutrition, evaluate your diet to see where it falls short.

Smart goals

Set smart goals—that is, goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. First, decide what your overall goal is, for example, to eat more vegetables. Break that goal down into a specific action: "I will eat a salad with my dinner three times this week." This goal also is measurable—you can review your food choices at the end of the week to see if it has been achieved.

Attainable goal

An attainable goal is also a realistic goal. Know yourself and what you are capable of doing. Instead of saying, "I'll never eat sweets again," decide that you will limit yourself to a treat on specific days. Unattainable and unrealistic goals set you up for discouragement and failure.

Timely goals

Make your goal timely—give it a specific time frame—whether it's a day, a week, or a month.

Add, don't subtract

Focus on adding, not subtracting. Look for fruits and veggies you like and add them to your diet. Experiment with whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals until you find ones that taste good to you. Improve the nutrition levels of what you already eat by adding vegetables to your pizza, sandwiches, or omelets. If you keep adding healthy things to your diet, you may push out the unhealthy choices in a painless fashion.

Make small changes

Don't try to change too much at once. Make small changes, one or two at a time, to give yourself a better chance of sticking to them. For example, if you want to eat more whole grain foods, follow the American Dietetic Association's suggestion to "make half your grains whole." If you want to eat more vegetables, try eating crunchy ones with your favorite dip instead of snacking on chips.

Reward yourself

Once you've met your nutrition goals, give yourself a nonfood reward. Some possibilities include new clothes or accessories, a book, a movie, or even a kitchen tool that will make eating healthy easier.

Nutrition goals don't have to be about deprivation. Set realistic goals, look for ways to add healthy foods to your diet, and don't try to change too much at one time, and you'll soon find that healthy eating can be simple and delicious.

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