Shelly Marie Redmond, also known as the Queen of Healthy Cajun Cuisine, knew she wanted to be in the culinary world when she won her first cooking competition at the age of 12.
“When I won [Reserve Champion for Lafourche Parish for a dessert recipe] I kind of told myself way back then, ‘I think the food industry is something I want to be in,’” the Houma native said. “Now, of course, I didn't say it in those words. But I liked this food thing. So, I thought, ‘Let me see where this takes us.’”
From there, Redmond said she began cooking more and more, but saw the need to include more healthy alternatives for Cajun cuisine once she came across a demand in the South Louisiana community.
“How a lot of Cajuns are, a lot of our family members become sick. When folks would get sick, they would say, ‘You need to be on these low-sodium diets,” and they would give these terrible chicken recipes,” Redmond said. “So, I said, ‘Well, what if we replace this chicken with seafood and the foods we like?’ And that's kind of where everything started falling into place.”
After earning a bachelor’s in food and nutrition from Nicholls State University and a master’s in nutrition from Louisiana Tech University and taking on a job at the VA Medical Center in Shreveport, Redmond’s husband, Greg, came to her with the idea to buy an outpatient clinic, which launched her brand and community, Skinny Louisiana.
Since she opened her private practice in 2013, Redmond’s popularity and community has grown. Her recipes have been featured in national publications such as Men’s Fitness and Cosmopolitan and the news outlet Buzzfeed. Her Facebook page has over 11,000 followers and her YouTube channel has over 750 subscribers. She has also been featured in segments for CBS, ABC, NBC and FOX Affiliate stations
By working with her clients, Redmond was able to create her Skinny Louisiana cookbook series.
“Most people know what to eat for health. People are very intelligent. And I'll always tell my clients, ‘Most of you all are smarter than I am; you can sit in this chair,” she said. “It's just how we put it together. I have this awesome dish from my mawmaw or this great dish that my kids like, how can I make it better? That's where the book came about.”
“We love our clients; they bring us recipes. That's one of our big sessions; we just don't do counseling. They bring us a recipe, and I literally sit there and modify it with them. We then test them in the kitchen,” Redmond continued. “The book came from my favorite kind of Cajun style recipes. Some of them were brought in from clients, and we just made them over and did the first book.”
“Skinny Louisiana…in the Kitchen” was published in 2017, and “Skinny Louisiana…in the Slow Cooker with Bonus Instant Pot Chapter” was published earlier this year. Both cookbooks have been well received, currently having 5-star ratings on Amazon. Redmond said she sold out of the latest book at most of her book signings. She said the photography, simple ingredients and low-priced recipes are making her second book resonate with people.
“It's just been super positive, but we're a positive organization as well,” she said. “We don't go out there and try to start a revolution. We just go out there, do what we do good, have a lot of fun and really respect our community.”
Redmond discusses staying healthy during the holidays
In the midst of holiday season, it’s a challenge to eat right.
But Redmond offers a few tips to help anyone not veer too far off the healthy track.
“Number one, eat breakfast; everyone's skips it,” she said. “Have your traditional high-fiber, lean protein, low-carb breakfast. Don't skip it.”
Redmond said to make sure to hydrate, too. Eating breakfast and drinking water during to morning of Christmas celebrations are usually inoffensive to loved ones, Redmond explained, as most families don’t celebrate a holiday during the morning. “Breakfast is a very uninvolved thing,” she said. “So, keep to your regular schedule.”
Redmond also suggested eating as much lean meat as possible.
“The good news is with the holidays, it’s turkey, it’s pork and for me, it's seafood. Most of it's going to be lean, so you’ll be okay there,” she said. “But when we start to skip meals and we mess up on our water, that's where we start seeing problems happen. They are three very weird tips, but they're definitely doable. And that's what matters.”
“I would say if we had a fourth tip, it is to get back on your plan as soon as possible. If you celebrate by having Christmas supper, restart your plan the next day,” Redmond continued. “It allows you to kind of go in and pick something to have without feeling guilty. That’s how we survive the holiday.”