First Lady's cookbook a guidebook for a healthy life
Patricia Moore-Pastides had long believed there were two risk factors to disease: lifestyle and genes.
She doesn’t believe that so much anymore.
“Some people may be genetically predisposed to certain illnesses, but lifestyle can turn those on or turn those off,” said USC’s first lady. “I believe now we can modify the course of a disease through nutrition and exercise. Lifestyle can change the course of illness.”
Her campaign to educate the public about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle led her to teach cooking classes, to support the on-campus farmers market and to make green adjustments at the President’s House. Now she’s taking a big step toward proving a healthy diet can be a delicious one.
Moore-Pastides’ new book, “Greek Revival: Cooking for Life,” contains 87 easy-to-follow Mediterranean recipes with color photographs. But she stresses her work, published this fall by the University of South Carolina Press, is more than a simple cookbook. It’s a guidebook for a healthier life.
“It wasn’t like the Greeks set out to find a healthy diet. They used indigenous ingredients. We eat so many processed foods. Nothing comes out of a box in a traditional Mediterranean diet,” she said. “Just fresh foods you don’t have to feel guilty about.” Helping others lead healthier lives is something of a passion for Moore-Pastides, who has a master’s degree in public health from Yale University and has worked as a director and planner for several healthcare and wellness organizations. She said she hopes the book can help change some ideas and some cooking styles in South Carolina.
The Mediterranean diet, heavy on fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans, seafood, nuts and olive oil, with some dairy and meat, is known for its health benefits. It’s a diet that could be a natural for South Carolinians, with so much fresh produce available nearly year-round.
The big difference is how the food is prepared.
“We take the same vegetables and teach people to prepare them in the Mediterranean way,” she said. “If it tastes good, they will eat it.”
Moore-Pastides also has advice for those who think Mediterranean cooking is too difficult, with more ingredients and steps than the average cook can master. Her suggestion for an easy side dish of vegetables? Roast them in the oven.
“You can take practically every vegetable, slice it, put it on a cookie sheet, add olive oil and maybe some herbs,” she said. “Even tomatoes are good like that.”
The secret is in changing a bad fat (butter or fatback) for a good fat (olive oil).
“If you did nothing but change to olive oil and walk every day, you would lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure,” she said.
And she is thrilled to be at USC, where her husband, Harris Pastides, has been president since 2008, and where researchers in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program are using their findings for planning, monitoring and evaluating cancer prevention and detection activities throughout the state.
“Our researchers right here at USC are discovering that a good diet is essential,” said Moore-Pastides, adding that proceeds from the book will support health and sustainability initiatives on campus.