TRAVERSE CITY - Kris Rockwood's life changed when she received a diagnosis of immobilizing rheumatoid arthritis at 43.
The disorder led Rockwood to a new lifestyle, when she discovered a plant-based diet reduced her symptoms enough to require the lowest dose of medication.
It also led to a new career when she saw the need for convenient, healthy food.
"There are no good grab-and-go alternatives to junk food and this is my goal, to have a grab-and-go that is plant-based, healthy and meets my requirements as a person who is trying to prevent all these diseases and take care of my rheumatoid arthritis," Rockwood said.
Rockwood launched Press On Juice, a line of unpasteurized, cold-pressed juices. A bottle of juice is around $10. Each is made with about two pounds of produce.
The business idea sparked last fall as Rockwood made juice for herself and looked over her messy kitchen and fridge full of aging produce.
"It took me an hour every morning to make those juices and clean them up," she said. "It's a nightmare."
Rockwood decided to trade her career as director of sales for Chicago-based customer satisfaction company to work in a kitchen surrounded by 50-pound bags of carrots, crates of pineapple and piles of parsley. Owning a business allows her to spend more time with her daughters, employ other people and promote healthy eating.
Rockwood designs juice recipes for nutrition - the Radiance made with carrot, cucumber, grapefruit and pineapple is good for your skin, while the Ah-Green-Zing! with pineapple, cucumber, celery, kale, spinach and parsley helps reduce inflammation.
Finding good flavors is part of the process, too.
Press On Juice employee Linda Starner discovered a taste for beets while in the kitchen. She grew up hating the purple root vegetable, but working at Press On Juice requires tasting every batch and some of those batches contain beets. One taste of Rejeuvenation, made with beet, apple, carrot, ginger and lime, changed Starner's mind.
"I tasted it and it was fabulous," she said. "I drink the stuff."
Rockwood sells her juices at farmers markets, from her store on Garfield Avenue, and delivers them to customers. She hopes to get the juices into local businesses, use more local produce and someday expand to offer more food products.
"I don't think juicing is the end-all, be-all," Rockwood said. "I think it's the start of having really healthy choices that are available to us in raw form with no preservatives and no pasteurization."
Hand-making a product with a five-day shelf life makes planning tough. Rockwood donates juice close to its expiration date to people with medical problems who can't afford the juices.
Eating raw fruits and vegetables while avoiding meat, dairy and processed foods keeps Rockwood healthy, and she believes a plant-based diet would promote health for anyone. Her diet encouraged her children and parents to eat more fruits and vegetables, and many of them pitch in with the business. Even her 81-year-old father drops by to help chop produce.
Educating her customers about healthy eating is a tenet of her business.
"I like Doritos as much as the next person; the problem is you shouldn't be eating all this processed food all the time," Rockwood said. "We need to get back to a plant-based diet, then having Doritos or even the breads or cheeses as a luxury, but it's so easy to grab all these things that are bad for you."
Source: Carol Thompson, Traverse City Record-Eagle