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LET'S EAT: It's time to get back to routine, healthy eating included

Newmarket’s HealthyNow founder Christine Hickson-Rooney talks eating clean and delicious, and feeling healthy 

In Newmarket resident Christine Hickson-Rooney’s experience, there are two times of year when people are thinking about getting healthy – in January, as part of a New Year’s resolution, and in September, when the kids go back to school and people are trying to get back into a routine, healthy eating included.

"During the summer it’s loose and free, barbecues at the cottage, eating chips,” said Hickson-Rooney, the founder, owner and operator of HealthyNow, a Newmarket-based company that provides prepared meals and catering to families, individuals and athletes to help them meet their fitness and wellness goals.

“In September, people are looking to lose weight, feel healthier, or get back in their routine,” said Hickson-Rooney, whose personal goal has always been about helping people feel healthy, partly because she remembers a time when she was not.

Growing up in the ‘80s, Hickson-Rooney didn’t know about whole wheat pasta and everything she ate came out of a can. When she was in her early 20s, she worked a call centre and connected with a personal trainer through her workplace. 

“I utilized her,” Hickson-Rooney said. The personal trainer taught her what to eat, and what not to eat, the right type of exercise and the importance of both for a healthy lifestyle.

"It was trial and error,” Hickson-Rooney said of her health and wellness journey. “I wanted to share that with other people.”

Hickson-Rooney took a bootcamp course, which she loved, and decided to bring it back to her women’s network in Peterborough where she was living at the time. Her camps were a hit, but after time, a couple of the women came to her because while they were getting stronger, they were still not losing weight. 

Hickson-Rooney offered to do an experiment: she would cook all their meals for six days a week for a set period of time to see if they reached their weight-loss goals. The experiment was a success with the woman losing the weight they desired. Word spread and soon Hickson-Rooney was cooking for more women.

“Eighty per cent of what you eat makes all the difference,” said Hickson-Rooney, who reminds people of the 80-20 rule: “80 per cent of the time you eat clean,” the other 20 per cent is about the right exercise. 

As she was now cooking for more women, Hickson-Rooney decided to go back to school to become a chef. But chef school “is heavy cream, heavy sugar, which is anti what I wanted to do.” So Hickson-Rooney also took a nutrition management course. She is now a chef and nutritionist.

Now living in Newmarket, Hickson-Rooney started to prepare meals for the local girls’ rep hockey league to help the athletes eat better – and perform better. HealthyNow still provides meals to the Panthers. The company is also doing catering, including pre- and post-games for the Raptors 905; Professional Women Hockey Players Association; and Toronto Six among others, Hickson-Rooney said.

HealthyNow provides two types of meals: balanced and a low-carb option, depending on people’s preference, Hickson-Rooney said. 

Their shepard’s pie, for example, uses a baked mashed sweet potato for the balanced meal, while the low-carb version offers a garlic cauliflower mash.

“The key to our success is we make those really healthy choices really delicious, too,” said Jamie Rooney, who met his now wife, Hickson-Rooney, at chef school. Consistency in the quality of the food and the recipes as well as the ease of ordering and receiving the meals are the other reasons, Hickson-Rooney said. 

While HealthyNow is “always looking for ways to evolve and pivot, depending on what the market is doing,” their goal is to make eating as healthy as possible.

“We try to do it as naturally as possible. Our chef is very health conscious. We constantly make a healthier version of unhealthy foods.” 

Rooney agreed.

“We want people to eat healthy, not boring.”

While the HealthyNow still provides the once-popular juice cleansing, its popularity has “petered out.” What they are noticing, however, is that people aren’t afraid to go vegetarian. While “they aren’t going full vegetarian,” Rooney said, they are choosing several vegetarian dishes each week. 

“We need a balance of everything,” Hickson-Rooney said. “Everything in moderation.”