If you're trying to manage your calorie intake, eating out can be extremely challenging.

Research in the past has shown that those who eat out regularly have higher intakes of fat, salt and calories. This makes sense given the choices available in most restaurants these days.

Ted's post, Do You Spend too Much on Food? stated, Americans spent on average 37% of their food budget on eating out in 2009. That's a lot of eating out!

A recent survey, carried out by the CDC, looked at which aspects of eating in restaurants people find most difficult, and the coping strategies they use to avoid piling on the pounds.

The CDC's report lists some of the tips people use to manage their weight when eating away from home. It's pretty standard advice, but I think useful to remind ourselves of.

Here are some of the strategies people find helpful:

  • Avoid high calorie or high fat appetizers
  • Have the bread basket removed from the table
  • Substitute an appetizer for a main meal
  • Have a salad as a main meal
  • Drink water
  • Share food with your partner
  • Have a portion of the meal wrapped to take home
  • Stop eating when you feel full
  • Reduce the frequency of eating out

As for the barriers listed by participants in the survey, I think a number of them could be solved pretty easily. The problem for most of us when we eat away from home is arriving overly hungry at the restaurant.

And I know, the aim is to go out to eat, but I think if overeating is a major problem, you should think about having a small snack before leaving home. A piece of fruit, some raw vegetables, or a small handful of nuts, would be enough to take the edge off your hunger, and allow you to make better choices from the menu.

Planning ahead is the key to eating out sensibly -- choose your calories wisely earlier in the day, perhaps take some exercise, drink plenty of water, have a healthy snack before you leave, and don't order more than you need from the menu -- this will help you keep things in check.

What works for you? Perhaps you don't bother worrying about calories. Share your thoughts below...