The Cooking Doc

As Greenville basks in its growing foodie culture and salivates with each new restaurant opening, this food lover is watching with cautious anticipation. Why? As a kidney doctor at Carolina Nephrology and host of an online healthy cooking show, “The Cooking Doc” (, the condition of my patients is always on my mind. As food takes center stage in Greenville, we would be mistaken if we did not recognize how dining out, without healthy options, can be hazardous to the well-being of Greenville and all Upstate residents.

The perils of dining out reach all of us, whether we are eating fast-food hamburgers or buttery shrimp and grits at one of our local restaurants. That’s because when we eat out, we tend to consume larger portions and less healthy food than we would at home. And, as a state, we don’t need any extra hazards. South Carolina has a 32% obesity rate, a 38% high blood pressure rate and a 12% rate of adults with Type 2 diabetes, the eighth highest percentage in the nation.

Do not be discouraged though. As someone who loves to cook and eat a variety of tasty food, I’m not here to tell you to avoid eating out. I am writing as a call to action.  A plea to each of you from a local doctor to order not only to benefit your taste buds, but also to benefit your health. If that means low-sodium meals, ask the restaurant to leave off the sauce. If that means you need smaller portions, ask the server to split the order. If that means you cannot keep your hands off the pre-meal bread, ask the server to keep the bread in the kitchen.

There are many ways to eat out while still keeping your health in mind but we, as customers, cannot do it alone. We need the cooperation of the Greenville chefs and restaurateurs. I’d like to ask that we encourage our beloved Greenville chefs in our budding foodie town to not only make their mouthwatering menu staples, but to also create healthy dishes that taste just as delicious. I am confident in their incredible ability to do so.

Sure, you can get the healthy grilled chicken sprinkled with salt and pepper, or you can get the crispy fried chicken on a brioche bun with homemade sriracha mayo,freshly cut fries sprinkled with Maldon salts and house-made pickles. Given that choice, most of us will order the item the chef has perfected, rather than the grilled chicken we could have made at home. If the same culinary creativity is shown in the healthier dishes as is in the higher calorie ones, would we be more apt to order those? I just think we might.

The Cooking Doc
Photo by Will Crooks

There are top-notch chefs out there to create fresh foods and inspire us to eat them. But, they won’t create healthy food items if we won’t order them. Moreover, many of us will not order them because either they appear boring, too “weird” or we are not looking out for our health when we are eating out.

Greenville is elevating into a foodie city. Let’s also elevate it into a healthy eating city, a place where our signature dishes are also the tastiest.

There are foods that will surprise our taste buds in new and delicious ways if we are ready to try them and if our chefs are ready to make them. I’m ready. My patients are ready. Are you?

The Cooking Doc
Blake Shusterman, M.D.

The Cooking Doc is an online cooking series featuring Dr. Blake Shusterman, practicing nephrologist at Carolina Nephrology, where he combines his knowledge of nephrol-ogy with his passion for cooking.

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