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USC First Lady Patricia Moore-Pastides Shares Healthy Holiday Eating Secrets


Next summer, Columbia will lose one of its finest hosts when Patricia Moore-Pastides leaves her post at the University of South Carolina, where she’s been the first lady since 2008 while husband Harris Pastides has served as its president. During that time, Moore-Pastides has published two cookbooks as well as a book about the president’s house, where she has established a carefully cultivated garden. She’s been a constant champion for healthy food grown right here in South Carolina, including the produce from that garden behind the home on the Horseshoe where she’s lived and entertained for 10 years.

During her tenure at the university, Moore-Pastides has hosted countless parties, large and small, almost always featuring locally grown food and delightfully sneaky healthy alternatives to typical cocktail party fare. (Anyone else more than a little concerned about their pants shrinking since Thanksgiving? We blame party food.) 


Patricia Moore-Pastides

Courtesy photo

Greek Revival and Moore-Pastides’ second cookbook, Greek Revival from the Garden: Growing and Cooking for Life are full of easy recipes featuring whole foods. Eating whole foods, contrary to what some people will tell you, doesn’t mean spending your whole paycheck at the fancy mart. It just means eating ingredients you recognize.

This holiday season, as you scan the buffet for whole foods, remember you have 42 more parties and approach with care. Free Times went to the expert and asked Moore-Pastides to share tips for a healthier holiday. You need energy to enjoy yourself, so step away from the nachos and look at healthier options. (Don’t worry. It’s still fun. But you won’t need all new pants in January.)

Your Guide to Holiday Health

1. Actually, have a few nachos. This is a time to indulge and enjoy! Just hit the crudité tray afterward.

2. Hosting? Start with protein and build your menu from there. Moore-Pastides loves to put South Carolina seafood on the menu, usually in the form of a seafood station or raw bar. She’s also a fan of poached salmon, as heart-healthy as it is delicious.

3. Make it a spritzer. If you’re boozing it up more than usual, cut your wine with seltzer. Or just drink the seltzer by itself. Gone are the days when the only option on the bar for a non-alcoholic drink was store-brand club soda or room temperature cranberry cocktail. The immense popularity of flavored seltzer means more non-alcoholic choices than ever. Just say no to boozy, sweet drinks, the emptiest of empty calories.

4. Share the wealth. Just like us, Moore-Pastides gets a ton of food gifts in December. She eats the fruit, samples the sweets, and shares the leftovers. Unlike her, you probably don’t live on the grounds of a major university, with a ready group of students to eat all the sweets. But you have neighbors with kids, right? Invite them over. Feed them all the cookies.

5. Look to the Mediterranean diet for healthy, flavorful inspiration. Moore-Pastides’ books are based on her knowledge of Greek cooking, and her menus are often inspired by her travels. She chooses olive oil over butter, serves a variety of plant-based dishes, and believes a meal is as much about the food as it is the people sharing it. Science agrees. In 2017, researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada found that teenagers and young adults who ate with their families made healthier choices than when they were left to graze or feed themselves. You do have to feed yourself, but you’re an adult, right? Focus on sharing time with friends instead of eating as many cheese puffs as you can fit in your face.

When Free Times visited her at home, Moore-Pastides shared some delicious arugula from her garden, and we were going to make these sandwiches. However, that arugula was so tempting, our teenager made a salad and ate it before we knew what was happening. The sandwiches with store-bought arugula are also darn good! And you can cut them in quarters to add to the party buffet.

Chef’s Lunch: Grilled Gruyère and Arugula Sandwich

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 thin slices whole-grain bread

Spicy Dijon mustard

1 slice Gruyère cheese

4 large arugula leaves

Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Make a sandwich with the bread, mustard, cheese and arugula. Toast it in the warm pan until the cheese is melted, turning once. A heavy plate placed on the sandwich speeds the melting. (Or if you have a sandwich press, this is a perfect sandwich for it.)

Grilled gruyère and arugula is also delicious with a slice of tomato.

Serves 1.

Reprinted with permission from Greek Revival: Cooking for Life by Patricia Moore-Pastides.

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