The Science of Skinny Cookbook

175 Healthy Recipes to Help You Stop Dieting -- and Eat for Life!


By Dee McCaffrey

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In The Science of Skinny, organic chemist and nutritionist Dee McCaffrey shared the revolutionary eating plan she developed by applying what she’d learned in the lab to what she put on her plate. In the process, she lost more than 100 pounds — and has kept them off for twenty years. Her secret? Eating natural whole foods and avoiding artificial sweeteners and chemical additives. Now The Science of Skinny Cookbook offers 100 family-friendly recipes for a delicious, realistic way of eating — not dieting — for life.



The Science: Foods That Steal, Foods That Heal

                The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.

                ANN WIGMORE, author of Why Suffer? How I Overcame Illness & Pain Naturally

Ancient societies and our not-so-distant ancestors (our great-grandparents) were intimately connected with their food. They knew how to grow it, how to prepare it in order to retain its valuable nutrients, and how to harness its health restorative properties. Many of our common foods, herbs, and spices have long been considered sacred because they provide immediate therapeutic benefits. Foods such as cacao (from which all chocolate derives), quinoa, vanilla beans, purple potatoes, and even sugarcane have recognized value that goes far beyond their taste. Modern science has now accumulated an abundant harvest of research proving what the ancients knew all along—food is our best medicine. Nearly every common plant food, and many animal foods, offer one or more therapeutic benefits—from alleviating everyday aches and pains to providing powerful protection against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and many other chronic diseases.

But since the introduction of processed convenience foods, much of the traditional food wisdom has been lost along with the reverence for the very thing that sustains us. Within the last hundred years, we have gone from growing, harvesting, and preparing our own food with our own hands to consuming large quantities of mass-produced concoctions that are made in food laboratories. As a result, the Standard American Diet—appropriately acronymed SAD—is the worst diet humans have ever eaten. The consumption of nutrient-deficient, chemical-laden “foodstuffs” has created a rapid health crisis unlike anything seen in the annals of history.

Although the trend toward home and community gardening is resurging, far too many of us have no idea where our food comes from. We don’t grow our own produce, and we don’t know or care how our meat and dairy animals are raised (or tortured, depending on their source). Because of this disconnect, we have unwittingly allowed processed foods to become a dominant force in our culture and many of us have lost an important life skill—the ability to select, prepare, and cook real whole foods.

My ongoing passion, both personally and professionally, has been to cast new light on that age-old wisdom: Eating foods in their closest-to-natural form is the true path to sustained weight loss, and in fact the remedy for almost any health problem. I know this because I am living proof and because I have witnessed the remarkable health transformations many others have experienced simply by changing the types of foods they eat.

An Eye-Opening Box of Cake Mix

From the age of nine, and over the next twenty years, I was a compulsive eater who repeatedly failed at diets, yo-yoing my way into seemingly permanent obesity. By age thirty, I was carrying 210 pounds on my 4'10" petite body frame—that’s nearly twice the normal weight for someone my height.

During that time, I was working my way through college at an environmental testing laboratory. (I was a late bloomer for college, not seriously starting on my chemistry degree until I was twenty-six.) Like most people, I had nary an inkling that the chemicals I used in my laboratory had any connection to the food on my plate. One evening that all changed when I was at home whipping up one of my favorite (and very frequent) indulgences at the time: deluxe angel food cake mix. You know the one—the highly processed convenient kind that lets baking novices turn out a perfect cake by just adding water to the mix.

Back then, reading food ingredient lists was not a common practice for me, or anyone for that matter, but for whatever reason, my eyes were drawn to the side of the box that evening. As I read through the list, skimming past the sugar and flour, my eyes fell upon three words I never expected to see in my food: sodium lauryl sulfate. I did a double take. Sodium lauryl sulfate? Isn’t that the detergent-like chemical I use to test for water pollutants? Yes, it is. It is also used in cosmetics, shampoos, laundry detergents, and cleaning products. In high concentrations it’s used in garage floor cleaners. And it’s used as a whipping aid for powdered egg whites, so it’s in every bite of many cakes made from boxed mixes.

That revelation did not sit well with me. As someone who had continually struggled with my weight, I was forced to question what effect sodium lauryl sulfate was having on my body. Could it, and perhaps other chemical food additives, be a contributing factor to my seemingly endless hunger and obesity? Twenty years ago, the answers to those questions were not easy to find. All I had to go on was my chemist instinct, and that instinct told me it couldn’t be good.

The combination of the discovery of chemicals in my food and a strong desire to break free from the lifelong struggle with emotional eating and obesity was a perfect storm that shifted something inside me. From that point forward, I steadfastly removed processed foods from my life and replaced them with the real foods our bodies are designed to eat. Within thirteen months, I lost 100 pounds and gained a ton of health.

In the years that followed, I channeled my passions for food and health into a second career, returning to the classroom in 2000 to formally study nutrition at Bauman College. My chemistry background became extremely valuable in helping me to understand not only the inherent chemical nature of food itself, but also the many aspects of how foods and food additives interact with the body to create health or disease.

My experience and studies taught me a very important truth—in order to lose weight and gain health, we need do nothing more than approach eating as intelligently as the foods themselves have been designed by nature. Understanding how to properly care for and feed ourselves is one of our most important human responsibilities.

“Skinny” Is Not about a Diet

Webster’s dictionary defines skinny as “lean or thin.” Our current culture has adopted a more shallow definition, equating a “skinny” body with a “perfect” or “healthy” body. But this could not be farther from the truth—a large percentage of “lean or thin” people do not have bodies that are in perfect health. According to a 2012 report by the United Nations, up to 40 percent of normal weight (a.k.a. lean or thin) people have serious life-threatening health conditions brought on by a poor diet, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, fatty liver disease, and many others.1 Many other lean or thin people, especially women, endanger their bodies in other ways in pursuit of a “perfect” body.

The attainment of your natural body weight should be part of a plan for overall wellness, so I’ve elevated the status of the word skinny and given it a more appropriate meaning—optimal health. To get and stay “skinny” by my definition means that you mindfully choose and eat the whole natural foods that will nourish your body to function at its best. And when you are optimally healthy, that health will be reflected in a body size that is optimal for you.

Foods That Steal, Foods That Heal

Healthful eating is not just about adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate. It’s about respecting how your body is designed. At our core, we’re all designed to eat real food. By that, I mean foods that haven’t been highly processed, that aren’t foreign to our DNA. But what actually constitutes a real food? Is the coconut milk that comes in a carton a real food? What about organic fat-free chicken broth with “No Added MSG” splashed across the packaging? Is organic milk that has been ultra-high temperature pasteurized to give it a long shelf life that doesn’t require refrigeration a real food?

The answer is, it’s complicated. In today’s profit-driven food culture, there are many food “land mines” that we need to be aware of, whether we’re shopping in a mainstream grocery store or in a natural food market.

The discovery of sodium lauryl sulfate in my angel food cake mix back in 1989 set me on a path to find out what else is in the foods most Americans eat each day and the effect they have on our health. What I learned blew me away. It changed the course of my life and eventually became the basis for The Science of Skinny. In 2007, my husband Michael and I founded Processed-Free America (see Resources, page 283)—a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing a national awareness of the effect processed foods have on our health and the healing properties of natural whole foods. Our organization provides nutrition education and training to people of all ages and empowers them to take responsibility for their own health.

Our work is very important because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a list of over 3,000 ingredients in its database titled “Everything Added to Food in the United States (EAFUS).” Some of these items are recognizable ingredients such as vinegar, salt, baking soda, and spices, but the majority of them are synthetic chemical concoctions that don’t exist in nature. In addition to the thousands of chemicals on the EAFUS list, there are an unbelievable number of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and hormone residues found in our produce, poultry, dairy, meat, and seafood. Many of these chemicals are what we call “anti-nutrients,” so named because they inhibit the absorption of nutrients from foods, or they leach stored nutrients from our body, resulting in nutrient deficiencies. Some food additives have been linked to unforeseen and powerful chemical reactions in the body and the brain, leading to food addiction, chronic inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and many other serious diseases.

To help you become a more confident and in-the-know food shopper, here’s the lowdown on some of the most egregious foods that “steal”:

REFINED SUGARYou already know that white sugar is the bane of good health and weight loss. There’s just no place for it in a processed-free lifestyle. The problem is that it’s in practically every pre-prepared food. Sugar is added in one form or another to everything from bread, cereals, soups, ketchup, beverages, salad dressings, frozen foods, and more—and this also applies to many foods found in natural food markets. Many natural food manufacturers are just as guilty of adding way too much sugar to their products—in their case in the form of “natural” sugars such as agave and evaporated cane sugar. Both of these forms of sugar are very processed and not healthy or natural at all.

Refined forms of sugar are some of the most damaging anti-nutrients in our foods. First, they create an acidic body chemistry that forces the body to pull stored calcium from the bones to neutralize the acid (more on that a little later). This can lead to calcium deficiencies that have been linked to loss of bone density. But that seems to be the least of sugar’s ill effects.

According to a group of prominent doctors, nutritionists, and biologists, sugar is a toxin that harms our organs and disrupts the body’s usual hormonal cycles. The scientific evidence linking sugar to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease has been accumulating over the past few years. We now also have strong scientific proof that sugar is more addictive than heroin.

I recommend avoiding refined forms of sugar and opting for more natural sweeteners instead—those that provide your body with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

I’ve provided a detailed description of some of the best natural sweeteners on the market in chapter 3. However, these don’t give license to replacing the same amount of refined sugars with natural forms. You should be seriously cutting down on the amount of all sugar, but when you do occasionally splurge, use a sweetener that provides your body with nutrients, rather than one that steals nutrients from you.

Check ingredient lists and avoid these forms of sugar:

Agave    Barley malt    Beet sugar    Brown sugar    Cane sugar    Cornstarch    Corn syrup    Corn syrup solids    Crystalline fructose    Dextrose    Evaporated cane juice    Evaporated cane sugar    Fructose    Fruit juice concentrates    Glucose    Honey    High-fructose corn syrup    Invert sugar    Maltodextrin    Maltose    Modified food starch    Molasses    Organic cane sugar    Refiner’s syrup    Rice syrup    Rice syrup solids    Sorghum syrup    Sucrose    Sugar    Turbinado sugar

REFINED GRAINS (FLOURS AND STARCHES)—Like refined forms of sugar, refined grains like white flour and white rice lack the nutrients our bodies need to digest them. They break down quickly into simple sugars with many of the same ensuing health problems. They stimulate our hunger sensation but don’t satisfy us. As a result, even though we fill up our bellies with white bread, rice, and pastas, the rest of our body isn’t getting nourished, and even worse, we’re being depleted of important nutrients our bodies need.

In addition to vitamins and minerals and other important nutrients, whole grains contain two important fibers—bran and germ—necessary for their digestion. These health-giving fibers and nutrients are stripped away from grains during their refinement, leading to a substance that is so nutritionally depleted that manufacturers are required by federal law to add certain vitamins back in. That’s why we see the word enriched on our food labels.

But enrichment does not replace all that is taken away. For example, a whole wheat kernel contains over 100 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, in addition to essential oils, fibers, and enzymes, all of which act together, synergistically, to assist our body in digesting the wheat. Because those 100 vitamins, along with the fibers, are missing from white flour products, the body turns to its own bones and tissues in an effort to access the stored nutrients required to digest it.

The most common refined carbohydrates in the Standard American Diet (SAD) are wheat flour (i.e., enriched wheat flour), white rice, white rice flour, and degermed cornmeal. With the rise in the incidence of gluten intolerance (an adverse reaction to the protein portion of wheat, rye, and barley, called gluten), many people have simply switched from eating refined wheat flour products to products made from white rice flour, which doesn’t contain gluten but is also refined and lacking nutrients. Eating gluten-free products does not necessarily spare you from the ravages of refined carbohydrates.

CANOLA OIL, PROCESSED COOKING OILS, AND PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED OIL (TRANS FATS)—Fats can be categorized in one of three ways: good, bad, and ugly. Good fats are naturally occurring plant or animal fats that are unprocessed and vital for our health. Examples of good fats (which may surprise you) are avocados, virgin coconut oil, raw dairy and butter, raw nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil, eggs, fish, and grass-fed beef.

Bad fats are any oils that have been pressed from their sources and refined using heat, or those that have been heated to high temperatures for cooking. Heat changes the molecular structure of oils and renders them very unhealthy—so much so that they damage our cells and our DNA, leading to degenerative disease and cancer. Examples of bad fats (which may also surprise you) are canola oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, “vegetable oil,” and the fats from animals that have been fed grains and sugars instead of their natural diet of green grass.

Ugly fats are trans fats, otherwise known as partially hydrogenated or fully hydrogenated oils. Trans fats are made through a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation turns a liquid oil (usually one of the bad oils) into a fat that is more solid and stable at room temperature. The result is a man-made fat that looks, tastes, and behaves like butter and coconut oil—two fats that have always been healthy but just got a bad rap because of some bad science back in the 1950s. Today, trans fat is out, and healthy forms of saturated fat are taking their rightful place back in the diets of clean eaters everywhere. But read ingredient lists carefully, because hydrogenated oils are still being used in some foods.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODSIf you’ve ever wondered why so many people suffer from food sensitivities and allergies, it’s because our food supply has undergone a recent radical change. In the mid-1990s, new food proteins were engineered and introduced into our food supply, unannounced and untested on humans and animals. These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have had their genetic code (DNA) altered to give them characteristics they don’t have naturally. In an effort to increase production and profits for food manufacturers, scientists artificially insert bacteria, viruses, and other genes into the DNA of common food crops such as corn, soybeans, canola (rapeseed), cottonseed, and sugar beets, which are then used to make over 80 percent of the foods most Americans eat. The genetically engineered growth hormone rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is used on dairy cows.

Corn, for instance, has been genetically modified to make its own pesticide within the plant itself, so that when an insect eats the corn, it explodes their stomachs and kills them from the inside out. Is that happening to people too? Some experts believe it is. The scary thing is that GMOs have never been tested for human safety, and food manufacturers are not required to inform consumers whether their food products contain GMOs.

These unlabeled genetically modified foods carry a high risk of triggering life-threatening allergic reactions, and evidence collected over the past decade now suggests that they are contributing to higher allergy rates. Milk is the number one food allergen in the United States. Soy and corn allergies rank right behind it. GMOs have been linked to the alarming increases in allergies, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cancer, asthma, and obesity.

It is estimated that genetically modified ingredients are found in 80 percent of processed foods. That’s just one more reason to stop eating processed foods and begin following a “processed-free” lifestyle.

How else can you avoid GMOs? The USDA National Organic Program strictly prohibits the use of GMOs in any food carrying the USDA Organic seal. So if your food carries the organic seal, you know it’s not made with GMOs. Also, organic growers and many other food companies are voluntarily labeling their products with a Non-GMO Project seal verifying that their foods do not contain genetically modified ingredients.

The best way to avoid GMOs is to avoid any food that contains ingredients made from the five major GMO crops (also called “at risk” ingredients): soybeans, canola (rapeseed), corn, cottonseed, and sugar made from sugar beets, all of which are typically used in processed foods. Unless these foods are grown organically, a large percentage of them are GMO.

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERSAlthough the FDA has deemed them safe, consumer advocacy groups and many nutrition and health experts beg to differ, claiming research on the safety of artificial sweeteners is flawed and doesn’t account for how long-term use of these additives affects our health.

One hard fact that no one can dispute is that the sweet white powders that come packaged in pink, blue, and yellow packets don’t exist anywhere in nature. Some of them are made from chemicals that are known to be not only harmful but truly toxic. All of them are wrought with documented negative health effects.

Here’s a list of the most dangerous artificial sweeteners:

Saccharin (Sweet’N Low): Since being brought to market, saccharin has faced two bans and for a time it carried a cancer warning on its packaging due to evidence that it caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals. In 2000 saccharin was removed from the list of cancer-causing chemicals, no longer requiring a warning on its label because the evidence for bladder cancer was only seen in rats and not humans. However, in other rodent studies, saccharin has caused cancer of the uterus, ovaries, skin, blood vessels, and other organs. Also, it has been demonstrated that saccharin increases the potency of other cancer-causing chemicals. Despite the removal of the cancer warning, the carcinogenic nature of this man-made sweetener is still highly controversial.

Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet): Early testing of aspartame was fraught with results showing that it was not safe, particularly that it induced brain tumors in mice. Even though the evidence mounted against the safety of aspartame, its use was approved in 1981.

By 1992, over 10,000 complaints had been filed with the FDA about food reactions pertaining to aspartame. Reported effects of what is now known to be aspartame poisoning include headaches, fibromyalgia, anxiety, memory loss, arthritis, abdominal pain, nausea, depression, heart palpitations, irritable bowel syndrome, seizures, neurological disorders, vision problems, brain tumors, and weight gain.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) places aspartame on its list of food additives to avoid, citing three independent studies conducted by researchers at the Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy, in 2005, 2007, and 2010 showing that rats and mice exposed to aspartame throughout their lifetime developed lymphomas, leukemias, kidney tumors, and breast, liver, and lung cancers.

Today, derivatives of aspartame are found in products like Neotame, AminoSweet, and the newest kid on the block, Advantame, which gained FDA approval in May 2014.


  • Praise for The Science of Skinny Cookbook

    Today's Dietician, December 2015
    “Includes a wealth of recipes that celebrate a healthful way of eating for life…Help[s] users ditch the junk food and incorporate natural whole foods into their diet.”

On Sale
Dec 23, 2014
Page Count
336 pages

Dee McCaffrey

About the Author

Dee McCaffrey‘s first career was in analytical organic chemistry. Since earning her certification in nutrition and diet counseling in 2001, Dee has become a trailblazer in the world of nutrition education and whole foods cooking. She is the author of three books, including The Science of Skinny.

Dee and her husband Michael McCaffrey are the founders of the Center for Processed-Free Living, (DBA Processed-Free America), an organization dedicated to providing healthful education in nutrition, cooking, and implementing lifestyle changes for weight loss and optimal health. Dee is a member of the American Association of Nutrition Consultants. She appears regularly on network and cable television, has been featured several times in local and national print, and has been a guest on over 20 radio shows throughout the United States and Canada. She lives in Tempe, Arizona.

Learn more about this author