Image of chalkboard - 13 Examples of SMART Goals for Dietitians

13 Examples of SMART Goals for Dietitians

Are you looking for examples of SMART Goals for Dietitians in practice? You have come to the right place!

Goal setting is such an important part of patient care in any dietitian appointment.  It guides the conversation and supports the monitoring and evaluation process in follow-up appointments.

Before we jump into the 13 examples of SMART goals, let’s first dive into some definitions.

Goal Setting

Goal setting splits big aspirations into smaller steps.  It allows your patients to find a process for their success, which helps make things more “doable.”

The most important part of goal setting is helping your patients find what is most important to them – what is their priority for their health?

This can be specific to the topic of their appointment with you or it can be a big picture dream.

Once they have identified their highest priority, you can help them decide what direction to take.

This will include breaking things down into smaller, more manageable goals.

Once a plan is in place, your patient can begin moving towards their goals.

Image of someone drawing a mountain - A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Define SMART Goals

SMART is an acronym for a specific type of goal setting.  SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Action oriented
  • Realistic
  • Time based

Let’s break down each of these elements.


Getting specific with goals means your patients understand exactly what actions they need to take to achieve their goals. 

The process should be clear and well defined.

This can include the specifics of:

  • Who will be involved?
  • What is the outcome?
  • When does it need to happen?
  • Where will the action(s) take place?
  • Why am I doing this?


For the measurable aspect of the goal, your patient will understand how much they need to do to achieve their goals.

For example, this could be:

  • Quantitative – numbers based
  • Descriptive – based on a specific outcome

Your patient should be able to track their progress based on the actions they take.

Action Oriented

The action-based portion of the goal ensures your patient understands they must move towards their goals by completing a task.

This is the how.

  • How will your patient achieve this goal?
  • What action steps will occur?

Attainable or Achievable

There are two additional ways to define “A” in the SMART goal acronym. 

  • Attainable
  • Achievable

For the sake of this article, we will review the attainability of your patient’s goals using the Importance and Confidence Rulers discussed later.


A realistic goal is motivating in the short-term, but also creates a vision for the long-term possibilities.

Realistic goals can increase your patient’s confidence in multiple areas of their life & health because realistic goals allow for greater success.

The goal must be doable based on available resources and in the time-frame discussed by your patient.

  • Does this goal get them to where they want to be?
  • Is this goal doable with the time and resources they have available?

Time based

All goals need a time limit. 

This helps the patient understand the goal has a deadline, which create a sense of urgency to get things done.

  • When will the goal be done?
  • “I will complete this by…”

Actions steps should be completed within a certain time frame (ex. between appointments).

Image of someone on top of a mountain - A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step

What May Get in the Way of Reaching the SMART Goal?

To be fully supportive of your patient’s SMART goals, it is extremely important to dig into the possible barriers or struggles they may face when working on their goals.

Once a goal is stated, ask them what are a few things that might get in the way of achieving their goal.

Examples of barriers may include:

  • Weather
  • Pain
  • Limited time
  • Other priorities

What are Possible Solutions to these Barriers?

This is a great time for your patients to brain storm solutions to the problems that may get in the way of achieving their SMART Goals.

At this point, you may need to refine the SMART goal to reflect these realizations.

Importance and Confidence Rulers

Great! Now you have a SMART Goal established.  Your patient has identified what might get in the way of their success and the solutions to overcome those barriers.

The next step is helping them identify how important the goal is to them and their confidence in their ability to achieve the goal in the specified time.

Importance Ruler

The Importance Ruler helps your patient pinpoint how important the specific goal is to them. 

Ask your patient, “On a scale of 0-10 (0 = not important, 10 = extremely important), how important is (insert goal here) to you?”

Image of Importance Ruler - On a scale of 0-10, how important is this goal to you?

If your patient does not feel the goal is at least a 7 on the scale of 0-10, you may help them identify a more important goal.

If a goal is not important to your patient, they are less likely to act and succeed.

Confidence Ruler

The Confidence Ruler also uses the 0-10 point scale to help identify how confident a patient is in achieving their goals. 

Ask your patient, “On a scale of 0-10 (0 = low confidence, 10 = extremely confident), how confident are you that you can (insert goal here)?”

Confidence Ruler - On a scale of 0-10, how confident are you that you can achieve your goal?

If your patient states they are not at least a 7 on a scale of 0-10, it may be beneficial to make the goal smaller to increase their confidence and improve the likelihood of their success.

Examples of SMART Goals for Dietitians

Let’s say your patient comes to you saying they want to eat better. Obviously, “eating better” is not a SMART goal.  Let’s walk through how to create SMART goals from this health priority.

You patient says they want to eat more non-starchy vegetables, and you begin asking more specific questions to clarify their goal and potential barriers.

  • Specific: Your patient says they want to eat more non-starchy vegetables.
  • Measurable: Your patient says they want to eat 2-3 servings of non-starchy vegetables every day.
  • Action oriented: Your patient says they will add specific vegetables to their shopping list and prep them so they are ready for eating.
  • Realistic: Currently, your patient is eating 1 serving of non-starchy vegetables per day, and feels they can easily increase their intake to at least 2-3 servings per day.
  • Time based: Your patient is agreeable to try eating 2-3 servings of non-starchy vegetables every day for the next 2 weeks. 

Potential barriers identified by patient:

  • Don’t have enough vegetables in the house.
  • Need to prep the vegetables.
  • When will the extra vegetables be eaten?

Patient’s SMART goals:

  1. I will increase my non-starchy vegetable intake from 1 serving per day to 2-3 servings per day for the next 2 weeks.
  2. I will add carrots, cauliflower, and cucumber to my shopping list for the next 2 weeks.
  3. I will cut up these vegetables on Sunday and place them in individual containers to take them with me to work for lunch.

Additional Examples of SMART Goals for Dietitians

Below are a 10 examples of SMART goals:

  1. I will replace my soda with water 3x/week at dinner for 3 weeks.
  2. I will assess how reducing soda 3x/week at dinner impacts my blood sugar.
  3. I will walk for 5 minutes on Wednesday morning @ 830am.
  4. I will walk for 45 minutes 3x/week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) after work. 
  5. On days I walk, I will assess my sleep quality.
  6. I will dine out 2-3 times per week instead of 5 times per week for one month.
  7. I will track how much money I save by preparing more meals at home.
  8. I will set an alarm on my phone as a reminder to take my high calorie supplement @8am, @12pm, and @4pm after my meals.
  9. I will weigh myself on Friday mornings and document weights on my home calendar (goal of ½-2# weight gain per week).
  10. For the next month, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I will do something to calm/relax myself like count to 10 or do some breathing relaxation techniques.
Image of someone writing in a book.

Tracking Success

You can help your patient find ways to track their progress over time.

They may consider using a calendar, tracking log, phone apps, a journal, etc. to track how they feel, what actions worked well, and possible next steps.

When your patient returns to their follow-up appointment, discussing how they feel about their progress and identifying next steps is a great place to start.

Final Thoughts on the 13 Examples of SMART Goals for Dietitians

The more focused your patients are on their goals (higher priority) the more likely they are to succeed.

Start with identifying your patient’s priorities for the appointment.

Together, find what may get in the way of achieving the goals and seek solutions to those barriers.

Then, refine the SMART goals to overcome the gap.

Here’s to great success!

For more information about The Dietitian Resource, visit our site or check out the blog.  Thanks for visiting!

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More About Rochelle

Rochelle Inwood MS, RDN, ACSM EP-C

Hello there! I’m Rochelle Inwood, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Exercise Physiologist (ACSM EP-C). With over 14 years of experience, I have sharpened my expertise through diverse roles, including weight management program co-coordinator, patient/employee gym supervisor, outpatient dietitian, program manager, dietetic internship preceptor, and more. I am passionate about learning, creating, teaching, and supporting personal growth and development.