Meet the "Wellness Professional" - Lisa Johnson

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Amy Fortier

Creator of Yummy Yammy Sweet Potato Salsa - Delicious AND Nutritious!

Every week or so I will be highlighting someone in the Upper Valley who falls under the title of "Wellness Professional" - trainers, nutritionists, therapists of all kinds (physical, psychological, massage), and creators of healthy products, to name just a few. I'll give them a list of the same 20 questions and they can choose to answer as many of them however they'd like. 

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This week I'd like to introduce you to Lisa Johnson - owner of specialty food company Yummy Yammy

Lisa Johnson - Owner of Yummy Yammy

A brief biography: I was born in the Upper Valley, have lived in Canaan, Houston, Connecticut, Thetford, Mexico, Charlottesville, Daytona Beach, Juneau, San Diego, and now Norwich where I share a house with my fabulous husband Greg Norman, two smart, kind, and funny daughters Hope & Bella, our dog Bo Diddley, and our new puppy rescued from Puerto Rico, Stella. I spent 5 years traveling, and spent a decade at both Upper Valley Food Coop and Vital Communities. Now I run my own specialty food business, Yummy Yammy. We transform the humble sweet potato into delicious, nutritious, fun & sophisticated foods you can devour every day without consequences. If you're driving on Route 5 in Norwich and see me tending to blueberry bushes and elderberries in the back yard, please stop and say hi! 

What is your fitness/wellness philosophy?

Eat real food, move for fun, laugh more, look for inspiration and beauty everywhere. And, the healthiest and cleanest food can absolutely be the best tasting - there's no reason to give up flavor to get nutrition.

How did you get to where you are now?

I started working on farms and orchards when I was young, and have ended up doing just about every job possible in food: cooking, baking, natural foods retail management, nonprofit work connecting people to farmers. Over the years, I found that I get kind of sick from a lot of foods, so I cook most everything from scratch because it's hard to get food out that doesn't cause me some kind of problem. That background plus the busy-ness of raising two daughters has led me to becoming a specialty food producer of a veggie-based, nutrient-dense, 100% delicious line of products that make great 15-minute meals with no consequences.

Did you ever have any setbacks and how did you get past them?

Oh, goodness, every day! Running a food business is always a circus: either the beans are back ordered, or the freezer cost went up, or the labeler is down, or you get shipped the wrong lids! Laughter, and learning to plan better helps that. But I'd say the biggest killer of all dreams is doubt. So, since I work alone mostly, I surround myself with as many entrepreneurs as possible, because we buoy each other up when the struggles are taking us down. Honest, informed, lovingly critical feedback is key to success for me.

What makes you unique in your field?

Yummy Yammy is the first company to make a line of purely sweet potato salsas; and we're the first to make salsas that aren't just Mexican, but also Tuscan & Moroccan, adding sophistication to the ways to use salsa. I've been studying the use of sweet potato for years now, and have dozens of future products waiting in the wings. Because of that, our salsas have pretty amazing nutrition, naturally. And, because we use really high quality ingredients, like balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice, the taste is amazingly fresh. Also, a lot of healthier people don't even walk down the chip aisle, because who expects to find a delicious-vegan-superfood-meal-in-a-jar waiting for them there? But there we are, shelf-stable instead of in the cooler, so this summer you can take some on your hike and not worry about it getting warm and going bad.

What's your favorite:

  • Breakfast: Salmon and veggies sautéed in Vermont grass-fed butter
  • Snacks/sweets: Juicy pear or peach; dark chocolate covered ginger
  • Lunch: Vermont Tortilla Company's organic corn tortillas, my Mexican Sweet Potato Salsa, and some fabulous Vermont cheese, in the toaster oven, for a 5-minute lunch prep and back to cranking out the work while my girls are still at school
  • Dinner: a great greens salad with grilled veggies, hot grilled meat, rice or quinoa, grapes, chopped red peppers, olive oil & balsamic, and some real sauerkraut
  • Beverage: Vermont Switchel made by my friend Susan Alexander in Cabot - a heritage drink from hay-making families, made from apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup & ginger. So refreshing!


What is your favorite place to eat out in the Upper Valley? What do you usually get?

I love Base Camp because I always get to try something I've never had before. Boloco's harvest kale salad with grass-fed beef is my go-to when I'm out in town and need food, though. Where else are you going to get a hot meal with quinoa in 5 minutes?

You're trapped on 12A in West Lebanon starving and you only have $8. What do you buy to get your through your errands?

Maybe a salad at Panera, but usually I just eat the nuts I keep in my car.

What's your guilty pleasure (food or otherwise)?

Binge-watching something on Netflix in a hot bathtub after a long day's work.

What's something health and wellness related that you wish you'd known years ago?

Run while you can, even if you think you don't have time, because that year is going to come when your mom will die, you'll get Lyme disease and poison parsnip, you'll tear a tendon and need surgery and not be able to even walk without crutches for months ... and when that year springs itself on you, it will feel impossible to deal, unless your body has a lot of strength to fall back on.

What's the best health/wellness/fitness advice you've ever received?

Commit to one minute of any movement you love every morning; because even one minute of something is better than none of anything. And you can always end up doing more, but following through on a short commitment still makes you a person who follows through on your commitments, and that's a great way to start any day.

Who or what gives you inspiration?

Watching my daughters play sports - they are so much more athletic than I am, and they totally inspire me. Also, I'm in a business accelerator program right now, which just means 36 of us entrepreneurs get together with great leadership and instruction and learn so much together, and my colleagues have come up with amazing products: a breathalyzer for diabetics so they don't have to stick themselves any more; safety jewelry that alerts family, friends, and key community people if a woman is being hurt; a studio-quality recording device for any musician at home; fair-trade wedding dresses, and so many other really exciting breakthroughs!

What's something you wish your clients/class participants knew? Or did? Or didn't do?

Common knowledge says the freshest food is around the perimeter of the store. But that's only true if you've read the ingredients and there's not preservatives in there that keeps the food safe to sell for 2-3 months. Sometimes, despite what we all "know" to be true, there are more chemicals in the hummus cooler than in the salsa aisle. If you care about that, read each package's ingredients to find out the truth.

If you could only have one piece of fitness/wellness equipment what would it be?

My yoga mat

What's your favorite non-gym physical activity?

Gardening, laughing with my daughters, or swimming in a cool lake, ocean, or river

What's your least/most favorite exercise?

Least favorite: Anything done indoors on a piece of expensive machinery, like walking on a treadmill, or vacuuming

Most favorite: Anything that either is outdoors or involves music - preferably both, like dancing, hiking, swimming, gardening, pruning trees, or naked outdoor moonlight ocean Zumba

What are your passions outside of your field?

A great campfire in the backyard, friends to talk with, and making music out of household junk. 

Where can people learn more about you?

Moroccan Deviled Eggs

Enjoyed this interview? You might also enjoy:

Last Week's Interview - Me! Amy Fortier - Author of Better Bad Decisions and Personal Trainer/Instructor at The River Valley Club

Next Week's Interview - Erin McCabe - BeWell Department Manager/Athletic Trainer at The River Valley Club

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