LOCAL WOMAN START BUSINESS PROVIDING WHOLESOME MEALS
TAYLORVILLE - Local businesswoman Stephanie Johnson is in the business of improving the wellness of Central Illinois residents one meal at a time. Out of a Taylorville storefront, Johnson co-owns and operates Just Right Eating, a business centered on pairing the convenience of quick and delivered meals with the health benefits of nutritionally balanced, low-fat foods, along with Alice Millhon, and Nick Podeschi.
Johnson's current business grew out of a long history in the area as a gym owner and personal trainer. About six years ago, Johnson was offering workshops out of her own home, teaching people how to shop for and prepare healthy recipes ahead of time.
"All their food was prepared for the whole entire week in an hour and a half," she said. "It ran like a well-oiled machine."
Johnson enjoys tweaking recipes for unhealthy favorites to produce healthy versions. One is a healthy hot wing with protein ranch.
"I love Buffalo wings, and they're not a good option," she said. "There's just too much fat in the wings."
Johnson serves a lower-fat, lower-sodium, lower-carbohydrate version served with carrot, celery and a ranch dipping sauce made from low-fat cottage cheese. The serving of wings has only two fat grams and fewer than 200 calories.
"That's where it kind of started," Johnson said. "I was taking unhealthy recipes and making them healthy and getting familiar with the different ingredients that are out there that can make them healthy."
Her clients urged her to compile her recipes into a book, and she came up with the spiral-bound "Just Right Eating," which offers healthy recipes and tips as well as discussing the concepts, principles and science behind healthy eating.
Johnson took the business further in early 2011 with the addition of a certified kitchen that would allow her to prepare, portion and package the meals for clients.
"Some of the big problems with people eating - they don't know what to eat, how much to eat, or when to eat," she said, adding that her storefront and delivery service aim to take the guesswork, effort and temptation out of finding and preparing healthy foods.
The program offers a full meal delivery service to the Taylorville, Springfield and Decatur areas. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for the week are prepared in the shop's kitchen and delivered three times each week.
Depending on a person's goals and activity level, Johnson said, that adds up to about four, five or six meals a day.
The business also offers a lunch delivery service in Taylorville. Customers can also stop by the store and grab a few items from a rotating selection of sandwiches, soups and other offerings all packaged in to-go containers.
Preparation is the key to avoiding pitfalls in food choices, meal timing and portion size, Johnson said. Weak areas differ from person to person, and changing one's lifestyle is not always an easy task.
"With any change in the lifestyle, it's going to take some time to adjust and accept it into your life," she said.
Oftentimes, people are just too busy, she said.
"They're not prepared," Johnson said. "I'm a huge advocate of being prepared."
It's essential to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and the right kind of small snacks throughout the day. Not having a plan can lead to overeating and eating the wrong foods, she said.
"It's just finding balance," Johnson said of her program. "It's educating people. Once they get it and they think about it, it's kind of easy to pull in."
Vicki Howard, a former client, now serves as the program's marketing director.
"I've been on every weight loss program imaginable," she said, citing meal plans, pills and exercise fads.
One of her best friends brought her Johnson's book. Recently retired from another position, Howard wasn't able to commit to the full meal plan, as her job required a lot of travel.
"I've really been committed to it since August," she said, adding that she has lost close to 40 pounds.
Howard no longer shops for groceries, an experience that used to result in temptation from cookies, candy bars and other sweet snacks. She now views eating as a way to fuel her body.
"Food is not a source of entertainment any more," Howard said.
An exercise physiologist, Johnson still trains clients through SJFitnesstraining & Performance, but her area of focus for helping people develop healthier lives continues to evolve. She has multiple certifications in exercise and nutrition.
"My focus is more than just working out and dropping calories," she said. "It's about fixing also dysfunctions in the body, helping people understand the food and how it relates to your body. I wanted to go further."
Johnson takes special enjoyment in working with athletes, as their nutrition needs related to training and competition are very specific. The program maintains several clients who are involved with various sports and activities.
"Everything just drastically changes depending on what they eat," she said.
The business has attracted 25 clients in its first year.
"We started with two clients," Johnson said. "Our goal was to maintain 10 people for the first year.
Currently, the highest concentration of clients is in Springfield, but hopes for the future include expanding to new locations and clients.
Johnson said the business is able to tailor each person's individual plan to his or her needs, likes and dislikes. She lives with celiac disease and said she understands the importance of nutrition in chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension and makes every effort to focus her program to a variety of specific dietary needs.
The business also employs a storefront manager, Howard, a delivery person and an assistant cook.
Johnson serves as the business' nutrition consultant and maintains contact throughout the program, personally answering questions and dealing with client concerns.
"It's me (on the phone)," she said. "It's not somebody with a headset on with a set of instructions."
For more information, visit www.stephaniejohnsoninc.com.