Shhhh! Let’s keep this post just between us gals. It could get me into a bit of trouble with my brother and sister-in-law. They’re both chefs whose livelihood relies on folks like us plunking down our cold hard cash to dine out. But recently I heard a few sobering tidbits that has me wanting to do anything but.

The researchers of a study published in the journal Appetite found people of normal weight took in about 30 percent more calories when eating meals in a restaurant versus at home. Another study published in Public Health Nutrition analyzed the calories of more than 30,0000 dishes served at 245 of the nation’s top chain restaurants. Here’s how the calories stacked up there:

A typical appetizer weighed in at 700 calories
A typical entree had 590 calories
A quarter of entrees had more than 890 calories.
Salads with dressing averaged 560 calories.

Yikes.

The takeaway? Eat at home more, out less.

Don’t tell my brother I said so.

When you do dine out, consider these five tips for keeping calories in check:

1. Share. Find a like-minded buddy at the table and split something, or share it with yourself (bringing half home for another meal). Ditto for dessert: make it a communal affair. Pick a favorite for the table and ask for extra spoons.

2. Keep the Lid on Liquids. Opt for water more often than not. When your kids order a special drink, ask your server to bring a reasonable size — eight ounces, not 16.

3. Know that Kids Menus aren’t so Kid Friendly Children’s menus are often lacking much in the way of food value. Explore the regular menu for healthier options and ask if the kitchen will prepare a child’s-size portion.

4. Limit the Bread Basket. The calories in rolls, tortilla chips, and other pre-dinner nibbles add up quickly, and fill you up without much nourishment, all before dinner arrives. Keep it to a single visit to the basket and then wait for your meal.

5. Fill up on Healthy Sides. Restaurant meals may be abundant in calories, but are often scarce in fruits and vegetables. Scan the menu for fruit and veggie options and ask for a side as either an appetizer or to accompany your main course. Sorry guys, creamed spinach, “loaded” potato skins, and garlic fries don’t count.

What are your tips for eating healthy when eating out?