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  • Brian Bender, PhD

Nutrition Goals: Set What Matters Most

It doesn’t matter if you are trying to lose weight, improve your athletic performance, or fend of chronic diseases. When it comes to your diet, they all should start with setting your nutrition goals.

Planning Nutrition Goals for Success

Setting nutrition goals is not just important for those headed to the Olympics.

It’s important for everyone.

Setting dietary goals is important because your diets shapes your health and wellbeing more than any other modifiable lifestyle factor in your life.

When ranked by deaths and disease risk factors in the U.S., the Burden of Disease report published by JAMA identified dietary risks as the #1 disease risk factor (Figure 2 shown below).

In addition to Dietary Risks, several other top risk factors such as high blood pressure, high BMI, high cholesterol, and impaired kidney function are also related to poor dietary practices.

To plan for success, your nutrition goals should be healthy, reasonable, and flexible.


Your nutrition goals should follow the most up-to-date guidelines on healthy eating from the leading research institutions from around the world.


Your nutrition goals should be reasonable. This means they shouldn’t be too extreme in any one direction.

This is important because you want to be able to have a decent shot of actually meeting your goals.

But more importantly, you’ll want to be able to meet these goals on more than one occasion!


Your goals should be flexible. (This should apply to most goals in life!)

This means you give yourself some slack on meeting them.

It’s okay to stray from time to time.

Life is about variety, and your dietary goals should be able to accommodate it.

Which leads us to the most important nutrition goal that matters above all else.

The One Thing That Matters the Most

Long-term, dietary trends.

Your regular diet over the long-term, and your ongoing nutritional intake patterns over time, are the most important metrics to monitor when setting your nutrition goals.

Day-to-day fluctuations are fine.

They’re normal.

Hell, if you don’t’ have fluctuations you may opt for a little more variety in your life!

The long-term trend matters most.

One day’s worth of binging on doughnuts won’t tip you into obesity, nor will one day’s fast put you into a pair of skinny jeans.

And short-term changes or fluctuations are a concern for other reasons, too.

Short-term diets for weight loss show time and time again to fail over the long-term because we go back to our original eating patterns.

The long-term trend matters most.

Short-term changes are also less relevant for your health.

Reducing your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, kidney disease, and even some cancers don’t go away overnight.

These diseases are called chronic diseases because they develop from poor habits that build over time.

But that should come as a relief.

That means, your risk for these diseases can be reversed!

By setting realistic and healthy nutrition goals now and sticking with them for life, you will be doing one of the best things you can for your long-term health.

The long-term trend matters most.

Enjoy Food. Enjoy Your Life. Enjoy the Trend.

On vacation? Go nuts.

Training for a marathon? Follow your trainer’s plan.

But these events should be the exception, not the rule.

Your default should be a healthy diet that sticks to your nutrition goals over a long-term trend.

If you keep meeting your nutrition goals, monthly average after monthly average, you know you’re on the right track!



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