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Turning food into a guilt-free pleasure

Heather Reynolds (left) of Watertown and Melanie Thurston of Framingham teamed up to create Bearco Bites.
Heather Reynolds (left) of Watertown and Melanie Thurston of Framingham teamed up to create Bearco Bites. (Nick Cosky Photography)

For Framingham resident Melanie Thurston, implementing a regular CrossFit exercise regimen and Paleo diet in early 2011 didn’t prove to be as daunting as managing her sweet tooth cravings.

“You can call me a sugar addict,” she lamented. “I can walk by a bag of chips all day, but if there’s a cookie in front of me, I cannot say no.”

She began experimenting with a simple recipe of dates, cocoa powder, and walnuts. The result proved such a delicious way to curb her sugar cravings that Thurston founded her own snack company —joining the ranks of entrepreneurs who aim to combine healthy eating with a solid business plan.

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Last June, Thurston partnered with Watertown resident Heather Reynolds, who had regularly purchased Primal Treats at the gym where they both work out before realizing her friend was making them.

Under the new name Bearco Bites, Thurston and Reynolds hand-roll the gluten-free, bite-size snacks and sell them in packages of four for $6. Flavors include Cinnamon Chocolate Fudgies and Blueberry Coconut Bites.

“Knowing we’re making people happy with a simple, all-natural treat makes us feel really good,” Reynolds said. “It gives us the drive to keep going and reach as many people as we can.”

In the coming year, Thurston and Reynolds are looking to create a nut-free version and add sale locations beyond local gyms, the Belmont Farmers Market, and online, where the treats are promoted with the hashtag #highlyaddicting.

Co-owners Sheree Nigro and her brother, Shawn McCormick, offer juices, smoothies, and seasonal soups at The Green Light in Hingham.
Co-owners Sheree Nigro and her brother, Shawn McCormick, offer juices, smoothies, and seasonal soups at The Green Light in Hingham. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)

For Shawn McCormick, co-owner of The Green Light Hingham, the decision to adopt a plant-based, vegan diet — and then to share his knowledge professionally — stemmed from his research eight years ago into the best possible nutrition for his newborn daughter.

“I was basically blown away by how much of an impact our diet and food choices have on our bodies, the environment, and the animals we share the earth with,” said the Marshfield resident, who worked in the mortgage business for 15 years before purchasing the company with his sister, Hingham resident Sheree Nigro, in 2016. Their mother, Val McCormick of Marshfield, also works with them.

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“I went through a lot of discomfort before accepting that everything I thought I knew about nutrition was wrong,” he added, “but once I did, I had to be part of the solution.”

In addition to offering juices, smoothies (including kid-approved colors of pink and purple), and seasonal soups, expansion plans are underway to add grab-and-go salads, rice and quinoa bowls, and more. Another signature product is the Green Light cleanse, which McCormick recommends as a five-day regimen to eliminate toxins and reset taste buds compromised by steady intakes of fat, sugar, and salt.

“I encourage people to do their own homework,” McCormick said, “but it really lights me up to empower clients to make informed decisions that will help them live a healthy and vibrant life.”

Aiming to make a similar impact, Mike Speights of East Boston and John Bauer of Cambridge left their respective finance careers six years ago to launch The Foodery, a Malden-based operation delivering fully cooked, healthy meals to residences throughout Greater Boston.

Clients choose from a weekly selection of 18 recipes, several of which are gluten-free and dairy-optional, representing a range of ethnic cuisines. Many dishes include locally sourced ingredients, such as roasted garlic pesto chicken, asparagus, and tomatoes served atop fresh lemon fettuccine from Capone Foods in Somerville.

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The subscription-free service, which requires a $49 minimum purchase, offers deliveries on Wednesdays and Sundays, a one-hour delivery window, and text updates provided en route. Because there is no ice pack to discard later, clients are encouraged to leave a cooler outside if they aren’t home to immediately refrigerate their food. All packaging is recyclable.

In one given week, prices ranged from $25.50 for a two-serving chopped chicken “power bowl” to $45.50 for four servings of marinated steak tips and smashed potatoes.

“A question we hear a lot is, ‘Is it diet food?’ Definitely not. It’s nourishing, tasty food without additives that you can enjoy in minutes with minimal cleanup afterward, and feel good about feeding to your family,” said Speights.

“We’re working toward becoming a household brand with a focus on the quality of our food and customer service, but we’re also having fun doing something that has a lot of meaning behind it.”

Mike Speights (left) and John Bauer left their finance careers six years ago to launch The Foodery, a Malden-based operation delivering fully cooked, healthy meals to residences throughout Greater Boston.
Mike Speights (left) and John Bauer left their finance careers six years ago to launch The Foodery, a Malden-based operation delivering fully cooked, healthy meals to residences throughout Greater Boston. (Elisabeth Stapleton)

Cindy Cantrell can be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.