A Message from Dr. Van H. Dunn, Chief Medical Officer, Spring 2023

We all know that what we eat affects how we feel physically. But did you know that what we eat also impacts our mental and emotional health? In fact, studies have found that a diet consisting of mainly whole, unprocessed foods can help lower the risk of depression, anxiety and even attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Good food makes us feel good. Let’s face it. Eating the foods that we grew up with keeps us connected to who we are, our families and our heritage. We just need to make the foods that we love healthier. And we can. Not only am I a doctor, but I am a cook. I love to prepare meals for my family, especially around the holidays. Over the years, I have learned to introduce healthy swaps for certain ingredients in my traditional Haitian-Creole dishes, like substituting plant-based sausage for pork sausage or changing some of my preparation methods, like baking instead of frying. I have also tried new ingredients, like flaxseed, which can stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and improve our mood! It has a mild, nutty flavor with a crisp, crunchy consistency and can be added to almost any breakfast or baked good. I use it in smoothies, oatmeal, cereals and on occasion muffins that I like to bake with my daughter.

As your Benefit Fund doctor, I really encourage you to try new ingredients and learn simple, healthy food swaps, like replacing white rice with brown rice, quinoa or even a sweet potato.

Dr. Dunn’s Shrimp, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo from Mom

3 main ingredients plus everyday pantry items and veggies

Serves 6-8 people

Gumbo—5-7 points per serving, ½ cup of rice—3 points


  • ½ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound of plant-based Impossible Italian link sausage, cut in half-inch pieces
  • 1 pound of chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound of medium-size shrimp
  • 1 cup of diced onion
  • ½ cup of diced celery
  • ½ cup of diced green peppers
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of file powder (spicy herb) or corn starch
  • 6 cups of chicken broth (you can use fat-free)


  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Pour flour into a baking pan and bake for about 20 minutes. You will need to stir the flour every 5 minutes until it is dark brown in color.
  3. In large non-stick pan coated with vegetable cooking spray, cook the Impossible sausage until crispy brown.
  4. Use same non-stick pan and spray again with cooking spray. Add the chicken and cook, stirring until it begins to brown.
  5. Add the onion, garlic, green peppers, and celery to the same pan, cooking until tender.
  6. Stir in the browned flour.
  7. Add the chicken broth, thyme, cayenne, salt, pepper and bay leaves.
  8. Bring to boil, and then lower the heat and simmer until chicken is tender. This usually takes about 30 minutes.
  9. Add the sausage and shrimp and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes.
  10. Stir in file powder or corn starch in to thicken.
  11. Serve over rice. I like wild or brown rice, but you can also use red. The magic is not in the rice but in the flavors of the gumbo—enjoy!