Your co-worker Sally has asked you to lunch again--at the fast-food place down the street. Your cube neighbor wants you to come out and take a cigarette break--even though you're trying to quit smoking for good. The whole gang is heading out to happy hour--for the third time this week. You know that tempted feeling you get when faced with tough workplace choices.

You most likely spend more time with your colleagues than you do with your own family, so it's easy to slide into bad habits if you're not careful. It's challenging to just say no and stick to healthier routines when it seems like everyone else is indulging and having fun. While there may be comfort in numbers, following the crowd may come back to haunt you--in the form of an expanding waistline, decreased productivity, and poor health.

Instead of monkey-see, monkey-do, why not try something different? You can help set a positive example for others and improve your health at the same time by making smarter choices. Here are some typical workplace temptations and tips to help overcome them:

Unhealthy Food Choices
It can be tough to stick to healthy eating when you're on the job. Between the occasional lunch meeting, the daily vending machine temptation, candy bowls at the front desk, and a constant parade of homemade holiday goodies, even the most disciplined dieter may find restraint difficult. To combat the urge the splurge on fattening treats, try to:

  • Pack your own lunch so that you can control what and when you eat.
  • Stock your desk drawer with healthy snacks like nuts, cereal, trail mix, and rice cakes to avoid vending machines and candy.
  • Keep a list of healthy restaurants nearby at your desk and encourage co-workers to join you at these establishments instead of unhealthy fast-food chains.
  • Suggest a "good eats" potluck where participants bring healthy foods such as salads, fruits, and low-fat appetizers instead of the usual cupcakes and cookies.

After Work Drinks
Happy hour has become a workplace institution, claiming beleaguered colleagues in the early evening. Though such gatherings foster camaraderie, they also encourage high caloric intake and may leave you feeling groggy at work the next day. To avoid these pitfalls, try to:

  • Limit your attendance at happy hour to once a month.
  • Use after-work time to exercise or spend time with family rather than rack up a high tab at the bar.
  • When you do attend happy hour, consider sticking to non-alcoholic drinks and avoid high-fat snacks that are usually part of happy hour deals like nachos, fries, and pizza.

Excessive Chatting
For some, social temptations at work are stronger than the food and drink temptations. With people to talk to just a few rows away, you may feel more compelled to catch up on office gossip than to start on that spreadsheet. However, too much talking takes too much time. To cut down:

  • If you find yourself tempted to stop and chat every time you walk by your co-worker's office, choose a different hallway to walk down.
  • If others are using your work space as a debriefing zone, let them know you have to meet your deadlines before you can take a break.
  • Save the chit chat for a healthy lunch break with a co-worker.

Smoking Breaks
There's nothing good about a smoking break. Though you may feel that you're giving yourself a breath of fresh air by stepping outside for a cigarette, in reality, you're polluting your lungs as well as the lungs of bystanders. Instead of tagging along the next time your co-worker suggests a smoke break:

  • Give a nice but firm answer: "No, thanks. But I'll go for a walk with you instead."
  • Follow your smoking friend's smoking schedule as a reminder to step away from your work--just not for the same reasons.
  • Offer a healthy alternative and become the leader instead of a follower.