Healthy Food in Spoons and Bowls

This is the third post of a four-part series on “Building Your Own Nutritional Plan” by Kristen Smith, RD. Follow along as she continues to further discuss how to implement healthier nutrition habits into your life to reach your long-term goals.

Setting Goals for Nutrition Improvement

Deciding to embark on a journey towards a healthier lifestyle and adopting an eating plan can be challenging without creating solid goals.

Goals will help keep you accountable and on track with your new meal plan in a time where so many distractions exist.

Fortunately, if your goals are based on the idea of a healthy lifestyle, and not just another diet, this will be the last eating plan you will have to ever begin.

Setting realistic goals is essential to long-term success. One of the biggest mistakes I see clients make is creating unrealistic goals they struggle to achieve from the start.

I have had clients who aren’t eating any vegetables, immediately make a goal to include one with every meal, when in reality adding one serving per day would have been more realistic.

After a few weeks or days when the goal is not met, they start to feel like you have failed and often give up on their healthier interventions altogether.

Goals should also be specific and measurable. You may decide to set a goal of reducing your intake of sweets, but lack to define exactly how much you want to reduce the intake.

Vague or generalized goals are not helpful because they lack sufficient direction. Make it as easy as you can to reach your goals by accurately defining where you want to end up.

Short-term vs. Long-term Goal

When implementing a new meal plan, it is important to split some of your goals between short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are typically more attainable and can be met within days or weeks, while long-term goals may take months to yours to complete.

If goals are created without considering the essential completion time it can disable your motivation and productivity.

If goals are created without considering the essential completion time it can disable your motivation and productivity.

At any given time it may be helpful to have at least one short-term and one long-term goal. Remember it will take time to achieve long-term goals and you should allow the necessary time to complete.

If you want to improve your meal and snack timing, start by eating breakfast and gradually add in more snacks or meals. Once you start to achieve some of your short-term goals, you will gain a sense of accomplishment and confidence that will help meet your long-term goals.

Now that we have discussed how to set overall realistic goals, let’s dive into more specific goals to include in your meal plan.

Reducing Intake

When people typically set out to implement a new meal plan, one of the first goals they try and achieve is reducing their total food intake.
Vegetables and Plate
Many people will often tell me they feel hungry and frustrated with the current amount of food they perceive to be acceptable as part of a lower calorie meal plan.

While reducing your total food intake through calorie reduction is a way to promote weight loss, understanding how to do this without still feeling deprived is important.

Instead of focusing on the more calorie dense foods that should be consumed in moderation like fried foods or refined carbohydrates, focus more on the lower calorie nutrition-packed foods you can eat greater portions of.

Food groups such as fruits, vegetables or lean-protein will not only keep your calorie intake in check, but they will also help to keep you full for the long haul. These foods will take longer for your body to digest, thus keeping you feeling satiated longer.

For optimal balance and realistic portion control aim to follow the My Plate Method. With this method, your plate is divided into several food groups.

One-half of your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter is filled with lean protein sources, and another one-quarter is filled with whole grains (like brown rice, wheat pasta, whole grain bread).

The My Plate Method can still allow you to enjoy some of your favorite foods but will help you to do this through a balanced and more measurable approach.

Improving Meal Timing

The timing of when you eat meals and snacks may be as important as the types of food you consume. One of the most common phrases I hear from my patients is “I don’t understand why I am overweight, I only eat one or two meals per day”.

Through my experiences, people who eat balanced meals more and don’t skip meals tend to be more successful with achieving a healthier weight.

As you create your meal plan think about the timing and frequency of your meals and what would be realistic for your schedule. The long-term goal is to eat every three to four hours while awake starting within one to two hours of waking.

For some people, this type of eating plan is not realistic for their schedule or is not part of their typical habits. Approach this gradually and work on one meal or snack at a time.

Use meal replacement in the form of shakes or bars if you struggle to achieve a consistent meal schedule. My clients who work in high demand jobs find eating a quick meal replacement bar a tool for success in achieving improved snack and meal timing.

Also for people who aren’t accustomed to eating a certain meal like breakfast, they often find it easier to incorporate a protein shake rather than a whole new solid meal.

Weight Loss Goals with Cautions

Most people set out to follow a healthier meal plan in efforts to promote weight loss. When setting your weight loss goals consider both the short- and long-term weight loss goals.

Break your goals up into weeks and then months or quarters. These segmented baby steps will help you not to feel overwhelmed and gain the confidence you can reach your goal.

Like with most goals, if you set an unrealistic weight loss goal, you will probably be left feeling frustrated when the goal is not achieved.

A realistic weight loss goal is typically one to two pounds per week. While this slow paced weight loss may not sound like much, over the course of several months these pounds can start to add up.

You can lose more than one to two pounds per week. However, the likelihood of keeping the weight off for a long period is more difficult.

What’s Coming up Next

Over the first three posts, we have discussed the importance of tracking your nutrition, and setting goals. In our final part, I am going to put it all together, and show you how to take what you have learned, and put a nutrition plan in action.

Find out next week how to use your knowledge to create your very own plan. Sign up with your email below to be the first to know when part 4 of Building your Own Nutrition Plan is available.

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