By Connie Evers, MS, RD, LD
(Click here to learn more about Connie Evers and Nutrition for Kids)
T.R.U.T.H. Principle 1: Target Your Goals
I once asked a group of fifth graders to “play” a game where they would set and track weekly nutrition goals for an entire month. To be honest, I worried they would get bored and lose interest. Happily, they surprised me! After a month, they wanted to keep playing. I learned that if you want kids to set and meet healthy eating goals, you need to make it personal and keep it fun! Call it a goal-setting game and provide fun rewards like silly straws, fruit and veggie stickers, bracelets or extra outdoor play time.
Based on this experience, I came up with a goal setting calendar as a way to encourage kids to develop their own personal healthy eating habits. Here’s how it works:
First, I ask kids to reflect on their eating and drinking habits. It’s helpful if they keep a food record for three days, including one weekend day and two weekdays. I ask them to compare their food record to the www.mypyramid.gov food group guidelines.
Next, I challenge them to identify problem areas and set small goals to improve. This is when we learn about the S.N.A.C.K. system for setting goals.
S = Small
Is this goal small enough so that I can meet it in a short period of time?
N = Needed
Is this a change that I need to make for better health?
A = Achievable
Can I achieve this goal? Will I need the help of others to meet this goal? Is it a goal that I can really accomplish?
C = Can I Count it?
Is this goal written in a way that I can count and measure my progress?
K = Know-How
Do I know enough to set this health goal? Where would I find more information on this topic?
We then brainstorm examples of S.N.A.C.K. goals. Kids always have lots of great ideas! Here are some examples:
Finally, I ask them to set a personal goal for the week and keep track on the calendar. Each day they meet their goal, they mark an “X” in the box. They are also encouraged to write notes about their progress. At the end of the week, they check off whether they met their goal or if they still need to work on it. I offer rewards to all the kids who kept track all week, even if they came up a little short of reaching their goal.
By making small changes, step by step and week by week, kids will soon be on their way to improved eating habits, more energy, and better health. Because they are personal and kid-driven, they are also more likely to “stick.” And that’s the truth!