Staying Healthy and Giving Back In The Time of COVID-19: A Conversation With Karen Malkin

Karen Malkin Chicago

Coveted health coach and Glencoe local, Karen Malkin, has been meeting the needs of those in her community for over 11 years. With her breadth of knowledge and innovative approach to nutrition counseling, she has helped countless clients look – and more importantly feel – their best. Karen also makes and sells her own protein bars, protein powders and more – which have become a huge hit amongst her clients. Her latest (and maybe greatest) creation, the Protein Brownie Bar, was repurposed into the “Thank You” bar to celebrate our healthcare workers and reiterate how deeply they are appreciated. Karen is donating 15,000 bars to healthcare workers, so that those on the frontlines working tirelessly to keep us healthy, can stay healthy, too.

We talked to Karen about the “Thank You” Bars and her top wellness tips during COVID-19:

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

I am a National Board Certified Integrative Health Coach, with certifications in eating psychology, brain health and environmental health. I am currently enrolled in a fellowship to train in precision medicine and genomics with Wild Health. I am always learning!

How and why did you become interested in nutrition and nutrition counseling?

As a young teenager, I became passionate about the way certain foods and exercises impacted how I felt in my body and mind. I felt so good when I ate clean and moved my body in ways I love. I also felt very inspired as I cared for my mother during her battle with lung cancer. We changed her diet and discovered integrative medicine modalities that helped to extend her life. I became interested in brain health as I cared for my father during his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I believe many of these diseases can be prevented with healthy habits.

When did you start making your own products, and why?

I opened my health counseling practice in 2009 and provided homemade healthy snacks for my clients at every visit. My clients became so attached to these snacks and wanted to purchase them for travel or to take to the office or to school. So, I created a packaged version of some the client favorites. I personally enjoy protein shakes and couldn’t find a brand that was healthy and clean and  tasted good, so I created by own vegan protein blends in chocolate and vanilla. My clients love them!

Karen Malkin’s new “Thank You” Bar.

Tell us about your newest product: the Protein Brownie Bar! What makes it so special?

This could be my best creation yet!  This bar tastes like a chewy brownie. It contains muscle building whey protein, cocoa powder, 100% cacao chips, coconut oil and sweetened with dates. They are certified gluten-free, Paleo and grain-free.

What inspired you to donate the first batch of “Thank You” bars? Can you tell us about the donation?

I felt so grateful and privileged that we have the opportunity to shelter-at-home while health care professionals work tirelessly hours on our behalf. So, I decided to show my love and appreciation by giving a gift of health to hospitals and healthcare workers, and those working on the frontlines. I reached out to Nuun Hydration because I felt their hydration tablets would be a great fit along with my protein bars.  They will help the workers stay hydrated during long shifts.  They were very excited and the Northwestern Memorial Hospital donation was their biggest donation yet. I then reached out to Asutra wellness products to partner with me at Rush Hospital to show love and support with their stress relieving products to go along with my superfood bars.

The next hospitals on my list are Swedish Covenant, Advocate Trinity Hospital, Highland Park Hospital and Glenbrook Hospital.

Marie, a healthcare worker at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, with her “Thank You” Bars.

Can you talk a bit about the role of nutrition in our current public health crisis? What is your top recommendation for clients during this time?

It’s so important that we support a healthy immune system by eating five to nine servings of vegetables and fruits each day. These plants are loaded with immune supporting phytochemicals. Each color of the plant has a different health benefit, so I encourage people to eat a variety of colors. For instance, you can get Vitamin C from foods such as strawberries, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. You can get immune supporting zinc from beef, turkey, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews and lentils.

Anything else you would like to share?

We tend to underestimate the power of sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours each night and try to manage stress with deep breathing and meditation strategies. Try to create boundaries around work and family time, since they tend to blend together when your home is also your office. Try to embrace these opportunities to shelter at home and enjoy quality time with family and those living in your home.

About Karen Malkin Health Counseling (KMHC)

On a mission to change the way healthcare is practiced and transform lives through the power of healthy eating and positive lifestyle change, Karen Malkin is the founder of private health coaching practice, Karen Malkin Health Counseling​. National Board Certified as an Integrative Health Coach and Lifestyle Practitioner from the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (AzCIM), The Institute for the Psychology of Eating, The Institute for Functional Medicine and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Karen specializes in the science of nutrition, brain health, corporate wellness, weight loss and more.

The Protein Brownie Bar​ ​is available for purchase on Karen’s website ​for $36 per box. The “Thank You” bar is available upon request for those interested in furthering Karen’s “Thank You” initiative for essential workers. Email Karen directly for inquiries.


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Madison Muller is the Assistant Digital Editor at Better. A recent graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, she approaches our contemporary media environment with compassion and candor. She is interested in writing about the intersectionality of social justice issues in marginalized communities and environmentalism. Madison proudly supports Action Now, a community organization that empowers and uplifts residents on Chicago’s West Side.

She also encourages reading and supporting The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.