The Daily Gamecock

Columbia's Cooking! teaches students and Columbia residents to eat healthy


Twenty people gathered in the kitchen of the Discovery building for a cooking class hosted by Columbia’s Cooking! and Patricia Moore-Pastides on Monday night.

The women who gathered for the class prepared several Mediterranean-styled dishes made primarily with vegetables.

Columbia’s Cooking! works with the Cancer Prevention and Control Program to promote healthy living and eating.

While Monday’s class was open to the public, other classes are limited to USC students. Columbia’s Cooking! also hosts classes specifically for Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, University 101 students and sororities.

The student classes cost $10 and teach college students how to eat healthy while on a budget.

“I’ve always eaten pretty healthy, but it’s helped me focus on vegetables, fresh produce, buying in season,” said Thomas Tafel, the head graduate assistant for Columbia’s Cooking!

He continued to explain that the meals that Columbia’s Cooking! teaches people how to make are the result of research conducted by cancer researchers in the School of Public Health.

“They’ve run a literature review of over 6,000 articles around the world on articles based on chronic inflammation in the body from food and diets,” Tafel said. “They’ve accumulated these results and scored them. What they’ve got from these 6,000 articles is a list of foods that they think are anti-inflammatory.”

Beyond compiling a list of healthier foods to eat, they are in the process of creating a phone app that will tell users their dietary inflammatory index. Using the information on foods that the user eats, the app will help get users in contact with a physician or a dietitian.

Chronic inflammation, as Tafel explained, leads to problems like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Eating healthy is one way to help prevent the onset of disease.

Moore-Pastides said that her passion for healthy eating and cooking began in 1987 when she and her husband went on a sabbatical to Greece. While she was there, she discovered that traditional Mediterranean meals were easy to cook and were an easy step towards a healthier lifestyle.

“There are so many hidden calories and hidden fats and so much sodium in prepared foods,” she said. “To me, [healthy living] is the whole package of not smoking, waking up in the morning and exercising, eating well during the day and enjoying my food. I really do mean it when I say it’s not a lifestyle of deprivation in any way.”

Many of the women who attended the class already loved to cook, and were looking for a new type of dish for their families’ meals.

For Katherine Patterson, a mother from Orangeburg, the class taught her several useful recipes. Her husband has dietary restrictions because of his age, which made making tasty meals difficult.

“I’m really excited to have some new ways to add some variety because you get tired of the same three vegetables over and over and over again,” she said.

Columbia’s Cooking! will be returning Feb. 27 for a “Date Night” class and on March 1 for a monthlong Indian culinary series of classes.