Apr 7, 2014

SMART Goals and Healthy Children Setting SMART goals encourages children to consider what they want to accomplish and what it will take for them to achieve their goals.

Nearly one in three children and teenagers in the U.S. is overweight or obese, which unfortunately can lead to serious, long-term consequences that affect them for the rest of their lives.

But, it doesn't have to be that way. As parents and guardians, you have a unique opportunity to help your children create and maintain lifelong habits of good nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

What are SMART Goals?

What can you do if you think your child may need to change their eating or lifestyle habits?SMART Goals List

According to Alicia Farhat, MPH, RD, LD, a Clinical Dietician in the Children's Medical Center COACH (Center for Obesity and its Consequences in Health) Program, it all starts with acting “SMART.”

"We often set ourselves and our children up for failure because we set goals that are unrealistic and that we are unable to measure," Farhat says. "Parents can help their kids stay motivated with their weight loss and fitness goals by setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely."

Setting SMART goals encourages children to think through the process to consider what they want to accomplish and what it will take for them to achieve their goals.

SMART Goals in Action

For example, Jose, a middle school student, is overweight and has been told by his doctor he needs to exercise for at least 60 minutes a day to lose weight. He currently does not exercise, but is motivated to start a fitness plan. And, like most kids his age, Jose loves to listen to music.

Broad goal: “I will exercise for 60 minutes every day.” This goal may be measurable, but since Jose currently does no daily exercise, it is not very attainable, nor is it specific because it does not address what type of exercise he will do.

SMART goal: “I will download five songs to my phone or MP3 player and walk briskly for the duration of those five songs. Each week, I will increase the number of songs on my playlist by one song until I reach 15 songs.” This goal sets a specific plan to reach a relevant, measurable goal in an attainable manner within a set period of time.

Setting SMART goals allow children (and adults) to more easily track their progress over a set period of time, which helps motivate them to keep going as they work towards what they have set out to achieve.

The Importance of Modeling Healthy Behavior

SMART Goals FamilyIn addition to setting SMART goals, you can support your child's journey toward a healthier lifestyle by modeling good behavior, keeping the pantry stocked with healthy food choices and holding each other accountable for the wise food and activity decisions made each day.

By making living healthy a family affair, you can serve as a support system for each other and might just grow a bit closer while you're at it.   Are you and your family trying to become healthier in 2014?