Eating Out In Greenville: Why We Need Healthier + More Creative Options

Eating Out In Greenville: Why We Need Healthier + More Creative Options

I wrote this op-ed for a local paper, but could not find any publishers who wanted to put it in print. And that is OK, because this problem applies to burgeoning foodie cities all across the US, not just Greenville, SC. So please read this article as it applies to my city, but also see if applies to your local city. Are the dining out options healthy? Are your local chefs taking into account the growing problems of diabetes, obesity and hypertension when designing their menus?

Let me know what you think and if you think it applies to your town.

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 and host of The Cooking Doc, an online cooking show, the health and eating habits of my patients is always on my mind. Moreover, as food takes center stage in our city, 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 the 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. Greenville chefs and restaurateurs, we need your help as well. Without your attention to this problem, we often find ourselves drawn to the unhealthy options. And can you blame us? Sure, we can get the healthy grilled chicken sprinkled with salt and pepper, or we can get the crispy fried chicken on a brioche bun with homemade siracha mayo, freshly cut fries sprinkled with Maldon salts and house-made pickles. Given that choice, most of us will order the item that you have perfected, rather than the grilled chicken we could have made at home. If you show us the same culinary creativity in the healthier dishes as in the unhealthy ones, would we be more apt to order those? I just think we might.

This problem applies to high-end restaurants, less expensive diners and fast food joints, and we need to address it at every stop. Not only do we need the upscale restaurants to create healthy choices, but we also need the corner restaurants to provide a variety of affordable and healthier dining options.

As a frequent diner in the Greenville food scene, I know you are out there to create fresh foods and inspire us to eat them.  However, I also know that you won’t create healthy food items if we won’t order them. Moreover, many of us will not order them because they appear boring, too “weird” because we are not willing to venture outside of our comfort zone or we are just not looking out for our health when we are eating out. Greenville is elevating into a foodie city. Let’s elevate it into a healthy eating city as well, 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 don’t expect all chefs to take an interest in healthier cooking, but if we can encourage a few of our best chefs to keep health in mind, maybe we can start a healthy restaurant craze right here in South Carolina where no one expects it.

I’m ready. My patients are ready. Are you?

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