Sima’s plan for HEALTHFUL EATING

The key to Cohen’s healthy eating program is to compose menus using what she calls 'PCF: power proteins, complex carbs, and friendly fats.'

Full-filling butternut squash soup (photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
Full-filling butternut squash soup
(photo credit: YAKIR LEVY)
‘Eat protein, carbs and fat at every meal except dinner,” recommended nutritionist Sima Cohen at her recent cooking demonstration. At dinner, substitute vegetables for the carbs, she suggested. Cohen, who was promoting her new cookbook Sima’s Healthy Indulgence: 100 Revamped, Guilt-Free Recipes to Transform your Life, emphasized that her plan “is not a weight-loss program; it’s a healthy living plan.... Changing your lifestyle will bring weight loss with it.”
The key to Cohen’s healthy eating program is to compose menus using what she calls “PCF: power proteins, complex carbs, and friendly fats.”
According to Cohen, a wholesome PCF combination throughout the day fuels your body optimally and helps you to avoid food cravings and to “keep up an energy level that sustains you for long periods of time.”
Cohen’s examples of power proteins are lean steak, lean ground beef, nitrate-free deli meat, boneless skinless chicken breast, turkey breast, eggs, wild salmon, ahi tuna, lox, canned tuna, edamame, tofu, beans, lentils, chickpeas and low-lactose dairy foods such as Greek yogurt, feta cheese and Swiss cheese.
Some complex carbs that Cohen recommends are oats, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro, millet, buckwheat, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Friendly fats include raw, unsalted nuts and nut butters, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, avocado, olives, unsweetened coconut, extra-virgin coconut oil, coldpressed olive oil, sesame oil, grapeseed oil and safflower oil.
The plan’s goal, wrote Cohen, is to teach how to craft “healthy, delicious meals for yourself and your family.”
Cohen grew up in Israel, and her love of Mediterranean flavors was evident. Some of the tasty dishes we sampled at her presentation were creamy butternut squash soup; chicken wrap with spinach and harissa; and grilled steak with pumpkin seed sauce. (See recipes.)
How much should you eat? Here are Cohen’s rules of thumb:
• Protein: 110 to 170 grams per meal (about the size of your palm) and about 55 grams per snack
• Carbs: ½ to ¾ cup cooked carbs per meal (about the size of your fist) and about ¼ cup per snack
• Fats: 1 to 2 tablespoons per meal and ½ tablespoon per snack
Protein is more effective at satisfying hunger than carbohydrates or fat, wrote Cohen. “So, by having protein with every meal, your body will get to a point where it is completely satisfied until your next meal.”
Cohen advocated complementing meals with superfoods “because they are packed with an ample amount of nutrients... even a small amount will make a big difference.” Some examples of superfoods are coconut, dates, pomegranate arils, tehina, harissa, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, wheat germ and green tea.
To begin following her plan, Cohen advised:
• Remove junk food and overly processed food from your kitchen.
• Have sweet potatoes, eggs and cooked chicken in your fridge, ready to go.
• Give produce center stage in your meals – use fruits and vegetables in the form of juices, smoothies, salads and soups.
• Drink enough water. It curbs hunger, keeps you hydrated and helps regulate digestion.
• Exercise daily – cardio and weight training are important for good health.
Cohen recommended that you eat every three hours, “so make sure you grab that morning and night snack in between your three main meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
Some of her examples of snacks are banana and almond milk smoothie; trail mix of sunflower seeds, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried berries and chocolate chips; fava beans with tehina; black bean dip on whole-wheat pita; a small chicken taco with cabbage, cilantro and avocado; egg salad in cucumber cups (see recipe); and So Berry Coco-licious (see recipe), which also makes a tasty dessert.
Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.
If you like, add one of these superfoods, recommends Sima Cohen: pumpkin seeds, harissa or grated fresh turmeric.
Serves 4
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5-10 fresh thyme sprigs, with extra thyme sprigs for garnish
4-4½ cups chopped butternut squash
A 225-gr. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), preferably low sodium
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
¾ tsp. cumin
4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
In a large saucepan combine olive oil, onion and thyme and cook for about 5 minutes or until onion begins to brown. Add butternut squash, chickpeas, salt, pepper, cumin and stock. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Remove the thyme sprigs and de-leaf them, discarding stems; return leaves to soup.
Pour soup into a blender and blend to desired consistency. Serve warm in bowls, garnishing each with a small sprig of fresh thyme.
These little cups are wonderful as hors d’oeuvres, after-school snacks, or as your post-workout bite, wrote Cohen.
Serves 6 (makes 24 pieces, 4 per serving)
4 whole hard-boiled eggs + 2 whites of hard-boiled eggs, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise (see note below), or more if needed
2-4 Tbsp. chopped tarragon
2 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped dill
Pinch sea salt Pinch black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)
3 very long or 6 small cucumbers
In a bowl, mix chopped eggs, mayonnaise, tarragon, green onions and dill, and season to taste with salt, black pepper and cayenne. If mixture is too dry, add a little more mayonnaise.
Peel cucumbers, if desired. Either slice in thick rounds, about 5 cm. each; or halve cucumbers and cut each half in 5-cm. lengths. With a spoon, scoop out the inside of each cucumber slice or piece and arrange on a plate, facing up. Fill each cucumber slice or piece with about 1 tablespoon egg salad.
Cohen’s homemade no-egg mayonnaise: In a tall jar, combine 4 tablespoons liquid from a 400-gr. can of low-sodium chickpeas, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Place an immersion blender in the tall jar and slowly start adding the oil, while blending. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes or until liquid thickens and becomes white. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
The highlight in this wrap, wrote Cohen, is harissa – Tunisian hot chili pepper paste made of roasted red peppers, hot peppers and spices – but you can omit it for a milder taste. Cayenne and cinnamon, which season the chicken, are superfoods, noted Cohen. If you don’t have tortillas, use other thin whole-grain flatbreads or whole-wheat pita.
Serves 2
2 tsp. harissa
Pinch cayenne pepper
¹⁄8 tsp. cinnamon Pinch sea salt
¹⁄8 tsp. allspice
2 chicken breasts of 110 gr. each, cooked, chopped and warmed
½ cup spinach leaves
2 whole-wheat tortillas
4 Tbsp. sliced almonds
2-3 Tbsp. prepared tehina sauce (or see note below)
1-2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
In a medium bowl, whisk together the harissa, cayenne, cinnamon, sea salt and allspice. Add the chopped chicken and mix well, to coat.
Arrange ¼ cup spinach leaves in the center of each tortilla, leaving room around the edges. Place half the chicken breast mixture over the spinach and sprinkle half the almonds on top. Mix the tehina sauce and lemon juice. Drizzle half the sauce over each wrap and then roll up tightly. To serve, slice each wrap in half or diagonally.
Quick tehina sauce: Spoon 2 tablespoons pure tehina into a bowl. Slowly stir in 2 tablespoons water and a pinch of salt. Add ½ teaspoon minced garlic, if desired.
Chicken wrap with a kick.Chicken wrap with a kick.
“Steak is one of the best protein-packed meats you can consume,” wrote Cohen.
“It contains iron, B vitamins, and a host of other minerals that just cannot be found in any other protein. Pair your steak with a bed of spinach, and you’ll feel powered up!” Reserve any extra cilantro dressing for salads.
Serves 4
Cilantro dressing:
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup packed cilantro (fresh coriander), chopped
½ tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
½ Tbsp. coconut nectar or maple syrup
1 clove garlic
Steak and vegetables:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
680 gr. skirt steak (Hebrew: steak hatza’it) or other steak for grilling
1 Tbsp. sea salt or to taste
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 bunch spinach
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds
Dressing: Combine olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, salt, orange juice, coconut nectar and garlic in a high-speed blender. Blend on high until smooth.
In a grill pan add olive oil and heat thoroughly. Add steak and grill for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Flip steak over, sprinkle with more salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 5 more minutes or to desired doneness. Cut in thin slices diagonally.
Put spinach and chopped tomatoes on a large platter and top with the steak. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and drizzle with cilantro dressing; serve warm.
This is parfait on a whole new level, wrote Cohen. It is composed of layers of coconut yogurt, berry compote and homemade granola. Cohen uses the coconut meat and the water from a young Thai coconut to make the yogurt; you can substitute commercial coconut yogurt or any yogurt you like. You will have extra berry compote; save it for other meals.
Serves 2
Berry compote:
2 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. coconut nectar or maple syrup
1 Tbsp. rosewater
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
Coconut yogurt:
2 cups fresh young Thai coconut meat
½ cup coconut water Pinch of sea salt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. probiotic powder (optional)
2 Tbsp. coconut nectar or sweetener of choice
1 cup granola, purchased or homemade (see note below)
4 Tbsp. berry compote
2 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut
Berry compote:  In a medium saucepan, combine berries, water, lemon juice, coconut nectar and rosewater over medium heat. If berries were frozen, cook until they begin to thaw. Add chia seeds and cook over low heat until mixture softens. Mash berries slightly with a fork. Remove from heat. Let stand for 15 minutes or until mixture has cooled and thickened.
Coconut yogurt: Combine coconut meat, coconut water, sea salt, lemon juice, probiotic powder and sweetener in a high-speed blender. Blend for a few minutes until silky smooth.
For parfait: In two tall martini glasses or mason jars, layer the parfait: Put ½ cup granola in each cup, and top with ¼ cup yogurt, then 1 tablespoon berry compote, and repeat. Top each with 1 tablespoon shredded coconut.
Note: Homemade granola: Spread 1 cup rolled oats, ½ cup raw quinoa and 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds on a large baking sheet and bake in a preheated 175° oven for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon sesame seeds and 2 tablespoons dried cherries or other dried fruit.
In a medium saucepan, combine ¹⁄3 cup unsweetened almond butter, pinch of sea salt, ¼ cup pure maple syrup, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Stir until mixture becomes creamy. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Add to oat mixture and stir well.