Everywhere we turn, we’re faced with get-healthy guidelines. Exercise an hour daily! Eat tons of vegetables! Meditate! But who has the time (or money or energy) to do all this? Fortunately, it turns out that perfection is overrated and there is a way to strike a smart yet realistic balance. Here’s how.


don’t leave home without slathering yourself in sunscreen

good enough – Make sure your face is covered, then assess your daytime plan.

If you’re just driving to work or taking a short walk (20 minutes or less) outside where there’s some shade, it’s fine to skip the sunscreen except on your face, says Eric Schweiger, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. The skin on your face is more sensitive and exposed to more direct sunlight than other body parts. It’s also worth nothing that some rays can penetrate windows and your car’s windshield, but again, those are most apt to reach only your face.

When you’re heading outdoors for the day, however, all-over sunscreen is a must, says Dr. Schweiger. He recommends sunscreens with Helioplex since they last longer (you can reapply about every 4 hours instead of every 2 hours).


You need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night

Good Enough – If you’re alert and well-rested (without coffee), you’re doing fine.

We all need different amounts of sleep, and some people really do feel rested on just 6 hours, says Alice Domar, PhD, coauthor of Live a Little! Breaking the Rules Won’t Break Your Health. However, studies show that if you’re averaging 5 hours of fewer, you may be putting yourself at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and other problems.

Not sure how much snooze time is ideal for you? On the days you’re feeling great, note how much sleep you averaged for the past three nights. Over time, this will give you a good idea of what to shoot for. And if you’re always exhausted, start going to bed 10 minutes earlier each night until you start feeling better.


Stress will make you sick if you don’t meditate or do yoga

Good Enough – Do something-anything-that relaxes you for a few minutes every day.

Yoga and meditation are both great stress relievers, but all you really need is a little daily downtime, says Birgitta Schmidt, MD, an instructor at Children’s Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School. A recent Columbia University study found that doing just a few minutes of slow, deep breathing anywhere can reduce stress and, if practiced over time, increase longevity. Listening to soothing music, walking outside or simply finding quiet time alone have also been associated with significantly lower stress levels.

If you are interested in yoga or meditation' remember that a class is just one way to go; DVDs and podcasts work just as well.


avoid fat-it’ll clog your arteries and make you gain weight

Good Enough – Choose the right kinds of fat.

Eating fat does not directly translate to getting fat, says Middleberg. (And a little fat helps you absorb nutrients.) Calories matter most-though fat does contain more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates. That said, some fats are better than others. Healthy monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats (like fish oil, avocados, nuts and olive oil) are good for your
heart and can increase metabolism, as well as reduce symptoms of hyper tension, depression and arthritis.

Saturated fats from animal products aren't so healthy, but it's fine to include a small amount of these in your diet. Going meatless one day a week is an easy way to make sure you're not getting too much (doing this can cut your weekly saturated fat intake by 15 percent).

The one type of fat to avoid completely: trans fats (a.k.a. partially hydrogenated oil), which are processed fats. Try to eliminate them from your diet-but understand that they're far from poison. If you happen to eat a little here and there and
the rest of your diet is healthy, you'll be absolutely fine.


brush after every meal

Good Enough – Brush once in the morning and once before bed.

It's fine to brush after meals, but it's not essential for good oral health. Instead, simply chew on some sugar-free gum or drink water (sparkling works best) and swish it around a bit to rinse away residual food and bacteria. Or finish your meal with a crunchy fruit or vegetable, like an apple or celery sticks, which are high in cellulose, a compound that helps scrub away food and bacteria.

The real problem is that many of us aren't flossing. According to a recent American Dental Association survey, fewer than 50 percent of people floss daily and 10 percent never floss at all. "Because cavities often happen between teeth, not on the surfaces, flossing is really the most important step," says Jeffrey Golub-Evans, DDS, a New York dentist and past president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. (Twice a day is ideal, but if that just isn't going to happen, at least do it at night before bed.) Finishing up with mouthwash can provide extra protection against cavity- and
odor-causing bacteria (go for the alcohol-free variety, since alcohol can dry out your mouth).


eat 9 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday

Good Enough – Stop counting and just eat fruits as veggies as often as possible.

More is better when it comes to produce, but don't obsess over the numbers: The bare minimum advised by the Centers for Disease Control is actually only four servings a day. And a serving isn't as much as you'd think it's just half a cup. (A medium apple is actually two servings, or one cup.) But the smartest (and easiest) plan is simply to eat fruits and vegetables as often as possible.

"There's no research proving that we need to eat a set number of servings per day," says Dr. Domar. "What has been shown is that the people who eat the most tend to be healthier than those who eat the least."

She also recommends variety. A good rule of thumb is to aim to fill your plate with a range of colors, since each hue is associated with unique benefits. "The deeper the color, the greater the benefit," Dr. Domar says. Dark fruits like blueberries, pomegranates and cherries tend to have especially high levels of antioxidants. As for veggies, dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale pack the strongest punch. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower are also powerful picks.