Missy Schaaphok, RDN
Interview by Nadine Bradley
As the world places more emphasis and focus on public health, registered dietitians everywhere are becoming valuable assets in the food and beverage industry. With the growth of the nutrition profession comes new opportunities and roles to consider for aspiring dietitians as they begin their career. My interest in product development was piqued during my recent interview with Missy Schaaphok, RDN, an experienced registered dietitian nutritionist and product developer at Taco Bell.
Missy has always loved food, which has served as her foundation and driving passion that led to her career in the food industry and current position as Manager of Global Nutrition Sustainability at Taco Bell. She believes much of her success came from her vast work experience in the field, starting as a line cook for the Olympic Training Center in San Diego and later as a food science intern at Rubio’s Restaurants. After graduation, Missy continued to gain experience in new areas of food and nutrition before becoming a registered dietitian, including a role in nutraceuticals as a Research & Development Scientist. It was after this point, she quit her job to complete a dietetic internship to earn her credentials as a registered dietitian. Out of school and ready to work, she landed a job at Women Infants and Children (WIC) teaching hands-on cooking classes and published a cookbook titled, WIC Tested, Dietitian Approved. It wasn’t long after she was hired at Taco Bell as a product developer before Missy saw a need for a more formalized nutrition position within the company. With her background and expertise, she knew she was a perfect fit and championed a new role – becoming the first dietitian to work for Taco Bell as the Senior Nutrition Strategist and now Manager of Global Nutrition Sustainability.
Her responsibilities include sensible menu development, regulatory compliance, stakeholder engagement, animal welfare, and sustainability working closely with executive, legal, brand marketing, and public relations teams to communicate Taco Bell’s commitment to quality and affordable food experiences.
Over the past six years at Taco Bell, some of Missy’s biggest accomplishments include leading the development of the Power Menu, which features high-protein meals under 510 calories, as well as simplifying ingredients, reducing sodium across the menu and removing artificial flavors and colors, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil and unsustainable palm oil. As result of her efforts, customers can enjoy vegetarian and vegan options at Taco Bell, the first fast food company to offer vegetarian and vegan menus certified by the American Vegetarian Association. She has also led the switch to cage-free eggs and serving chicken that is raised without antibiotics important to human medicine in all Taco Bell restaurants in the United States.
When asked what advice she has for new dietitians interested in the food industry, Missy emphasizes the need for not only gaining experience in different areas in the field, but also networking and making connections. She highly recommends getting involved with the Academy of Nutrition Dietetic Practice Groups, like Dietitians in Business and Communications, and keeping in touch with dietitians that are working in areas of interest. Her advice to new grads is to stay in touch with mentors and classmates. Meeting up for coffee, dinner or even going to a nutrition event together is a great way to build relationships. She also shares the importance of volunteering. If a company you would like to work for doesn’t have an opportunity now, they might in the future and if you show your talents beforehand, they may think of you later.
Lastly, her favorite dishes at Taco Bell: a grilled bean burrito with fresh pico de gallo and diablo sauce and the Power Bowl with shredded chicken (She developed it!). On the weekends, it’s homemade pizza on a home fire grill. You can find her on @workoutswithally or on LinkedIn. I am pleased to have gained such valuable insight from Missy Schaaphok, RDN. I wish all current and future RDs the best of luck in finding their path in the field and landing that dream job.