Welcome back to our series of in-depth interviews with our Bob's Red Mill's employee-owners! Today, we introduce you to Sophia Malek, MSN, our Culinary Nutritionist. Sophia originally taught classes at our Cooking School, before transitioning to our Research and Development team. In addition to testing and developing products and spearheading Bob's Nutrition Resource, a community of practitioners, educators and demonstrators, she's created dozens of scrumptious recipes on our site, many of which are vegan and gluten free.
Read on about her philosophy on food and nutrition, and get a tip about improving your overall wellness today!
Bob's Red Mill: How did you become interested in nutrition?
Sophia Malek: My interest in nutrition came from my love for food! I’ve always loved cooking—specifically the eating part—but I also loved science. Oddly enough, I was in school for my English degree and became really interested in food and nutrition in my personal life. A few years later, I realized nutrition was where my passion truly was, so I returned to school to pursue it!
BRM: What’s your background in this field?
SM: I have a Bachelors of Art in English (shoutout to my other poetry specialties out there!), as well as a Master’s of Science in Nutrition.
BRM: Where did you work before Bob’s Red Mill?
SM: Previous to Bob’s Red Mill I worked at a few marketing firms, one of which specifically dealt with dentists and orthodontists (did nothing for my dental anxiety), a handful of restaurant jobs in LA and Portland, and I taught at a few cooking schools.
BRM: What brought you to Bob’s?
SM: When I saw the position for cooking school coordinator at Bob’s, I basically hounded them to hire me! The kitchen at the university I studied nutrition at was donated by Bob’s Red Mill—Charlee’s Kitchen—so it felt like a dream to be hired! I ran the cooking school at the Whole Grain Store before transitioning to the Research and Development team as the Culinary Nutritionist.
BRM: What’s your personal philosophy for creating an achievable, balanced diet?
SM: I try to focus on all the wholesome foods there are in the world and try to eat as much of them as possible, rather than focus on what I "can’t/shouldn’t" eat. I tend to focus less on calories and more on quality sources of fiber, protein and healthy fats. I personally feel like it’s easier to aim for a healthy balance of those macronutrients rather than a rigid diet.
BRM: What are the common mistakes people make when choosing what they eat?
SM: I think a big mistake is not coming from a place of appreciation and love for your body! It’s a lot easier to make healthier food choices when you try to nourish and honor your body rather than deprive it.
BRM: What is something anyone could do right now to improve their diet?
SM: Drink more water! As a rule of thumb, try to drink half your body weight in ounces. This is a really general equation, but works pretty well to give people an idea of how much water you should be drinking. This number can go up if you’re exercising or working in the heat. Have a hard time drinking water? Try a water bottle with a reusable straw, you might be surprised how much more water you drink in a day!
BRM: What’s your favorite part of your job?
SM: I love creating recipes for specific diet restrictions. While it’s still fun to make regular pasta from scratch, try making a gluten free, dairy free and egg free pasta dough work . . . and taste good! It combines science, nutrition, problem solving and—of course—eating!
BRM: What’s your favorite BRM product, and why?
BRM: What do you like to do for fun?
SM: I love to eat and drink around the town with my husband, go on runs with my wolf pack (two Miniature Schnauzers, Neville and Billie Jean, plus one tiny Newfoundland, Jedi.) but mostly you can find us working on our fixer-upper house most days. Shoutout to Mao, our blind cat. It didn’t make sense to add him to any of the stories, but he’s a big part of our crazy family!
Our thanks to Sophia for the fantastic interview. Make sure to check out her latest recipes, including Crispy Farro with Wild Mushrooms, Smoky Eggplant Ravioli in a Creamy Garlic Cashew Sauce, Salted Chocolate & Banana Buckwheat Scones and Vegan Paleo Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.