Ep. 091 – How to Make Low Key Healthy Fast Food, with Missy Schaaphok (RDN), Senior Nutrition Strategist at Taco Bell

This title was inspired by this article

If you’re a fan of this podcast, I talk about taco bell a lot and I finally got a chance to talk to the registered dietitian from Taco Bell, Missy Schaaphok.

And I did not hold back. I talk about pretty much everything from the Naked Chicken Chalupa to the Power Bowl and praised every single item on Taco Bell’s menu. But of course, there’s some takeaways.

One huge thing I want you to notice is how Missy carves her path. After working in 6 months in Taco Bell, she said “I want to own Nutrition in Taco Bell”. Not only that, but she continues to learn how to become a better and better employee by finding mentors in different departments.

Other than that, we’ll talk about how being a dietitian in the fast food industry works, how to customize your taco bell order, and we share our experiences eating Guinea Pig in Peru

About Missy

Missy Schaaphok is the Senior Nutrition Strategist for Taco Bell Corp. spearheading the strategic global efforts for nutrition and product development. Within this role, she is responsible for sensible menu development, regulatory compliance, stakeholder engagement, animal welfare, and sustainability. She works closely with executive, legal, brand marketing, and public relations teams to communicate Taco Bell’s commitment to quality and affordable food experiences.

Missy plays a big role in how Taco Bell creates food that is fun, innovative and craveable, food you want to eat again, and food that fits customers’ evolving lifestyles. She has been the voice in telling Taco Bell’s “food for all” journey while also leading efforts behind the scenes. Most recently, Missy led the development of the Power Menu, a menu featuring high-protein bowls and burritos under 510 calories. She is also the driving force behind the brand’s commitment to simplify its ingredients, reducing sodium across the menu and removing artificial flavors and colors, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil and unsustainable palm oil; bringing customers a vegetarian menu certified by the American Vegetarian Association – the first of its kind in the Quick Service Restaurant industry, and leading the switch to cage-free eggs and serving chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine, in all U.S. restaurants.

Missy has been recognized for her leadership serving on expert panels and presenting at key industry events like World of Healthy Flavors, Healthy Menu Collaborative, Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, National Restaurant Association and California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. While working at WIC, she wrote and published her first cookbook titled, WIC Tested, Dietitian Approved. Since then she has contributed to the book on Recipe Nutrient Analysis: Best Practices for Calculations for Chemical Analysis and co-authored, “Uniform National Menu Labeling: Review of the Regulation and the RDN’s Role in Effective Implementation” for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food & Culinary Practice Group.

Missy is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, currently serving as the Chair-Elect for the Dietitians in Business and Communications Dietetic Practice Group. She also holds volunteer positions within the National Restaurant Association’s Nutrition Executive Study Group and The Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Menu Collaborative Protein Working Group.

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Episode Highlights

  • How Missy developed the Power Menu
  • 70% of Taco Bell’s business is through the drive-thru
  • The challenges to super innovative things like chicken chalupa
  • Important skills you need to be an amazing product developer
  • Missy and Adam compare notes on how Peruvian Guinea Pig tastes like

Question Summary

When someone asks what you do for a living, what do you tell them?: I’m a Dietitian….from Taco Bell
Best thing about your job: Eating Taco Bell every day
Soup’d Up Bean Burrito Custom Recipe: Bean Burrito+ Cheese + Pico De Gallo + Grill it + Diablo Sauce
Feed Articles on the taco bell website: How to hack Taco Bell. Vegan, healthy, etc
Dietetic Internship: super competitive and grueling
How did you get to Taco Bell?: Once was a Food Science Product Development Intern at Rubio’s Restaurant. Past co-worker from Rubio’s told me to apply
6 months into the job: “I want to own Nutrition at Taco Bell”
How do you deliver amazing taste but in a healthy and balanced way?: Taco Bell is always striving towards this goal
What is the most important skill you need?: A science foundation and how to  influence people with all levels of scientific backgrounds that what you’re doing is the right thing to do
Do you feel stigmatized by other dietitians for working in the fast food industry?: Some other people might not agree, but she stands for her company. Taco Bell is doing great things/ For example, they serve 46 million people a week, so reducing sodium means they are reducing millions of pounds of salt from consumers diet each year
My Food Job Rocks: I’m a dietitian at Taco Bell
What type of food trends and technologies are you really excited about?: The plant forward trend
Do your beans have lard?: No! They are actually certified vegan
Mobile Ordering, online ordering, menu boards: You can showcase individual ingredients
You can sub black beans and romaine lettuce
Make it Fresco
Taco Bell needs to be broadly appealing and Mexican-inspired and they use beans a plant forward options
The biggest challenge the food industry needs to face?: There are a lot of challenges
Reducing sodium but sodium is very functional (taste and preservation)
Animal welfare and sustainability
In terms of corporate decisions, what makes a company decide to commit to health?: Always putting the consumer first. Our goal is to continue to reduce sodium amounts
Taco Bell will reduce sodium by another 10% by 2025
They eliminated the 40 oz soda (800 million grams of sugar removed from consumer’s diets each year)
Hidden Skills: Quantifying your impact
What’s one thing in the food industry you’d like to know more about?: Finance and numbers. How commodity prices change and how big investments affect financial decisions
On mentors: Missy meets monthly with a finance mentor
Who inspired you to get into food?: Missy’s mom inspired her. Her mother had her brother and her to make dinner once a week.
Favorite Quote: Eat Well, Travel Often
First solo travel adventure in Europe – she found France to have the best food experience. She dug clams and then prepared to eat them.
Weirdest food I’ve eaten: Guinea Pig in Peru
Any advice in getting into the food industry?: Dietitians ask me this. It’s networking and who you know. If you’re just starting out, tryvolunteering at anything food related
What is one thing you’d like to dispel about the food industry?: There is a dietitian working for every food company so there is always someone fighting for nutrition.
Where can we find you?: There aren’t many Schaaphok’s around. Also my public Instagram: @workoutswithally

Other Links

The power menu bowl
RDN – Registered Dietician
San Diego State University – Food and Nutritional Science
Glanbia Foods
Jessica Gavin Episode
Article about Suddenly becoming the Healthiest Fast Food Chain
Naked Chicken Chalupa
Chick-Fil-Le – Free breakfast when they download the app
Clean Meat – Lab Grown Meat
Taco Bell Cantina

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