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Wellness of Emergency Medicine: the importance of healthy eating during times of stress


Coauthored by Drs. Kari Lemme and Julie Welch

Healthy eating is a key contributor to overall wellness and stamina, especially during times of extreme stress, like we find ourselves during COVID-19. Stress is a natural reaction to challenging situations. Small amounts of stress can be helpful in responding to situations, like meeting work deadlines, avoiding danger, or dealing with a significant life event. But effects of stress can subtly build and result in poor physical and mental health. We might recognize the feelings of stress but often don’t realize it manifests in sleep disruption, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, and sometimes poor eating habits.

Grocery shopping is not as easy as it used to be. While you may get out for an "essential" trip and see what kind of homemade mask your neighbor is sporting, trips to the store may be met with depleted or empty shelves, long lines, and a laborious wipe down process with your new goods once you return home. Consider ordering groceries for home delivery, or curb-side pick up to save yourself time and exposure risk. Healthy food options usually live in the periphery of your grocery store, rather than up and down the aisles of packaged foods. Shop for color. A meal full of a variety of colors (gummy bears don't count) is usually nutritionally rich. An example of a colorful nutritious meal, if you can envision it, may include chicken stir-fry with green beans and carrots, brown rice, and a side of fresh strawberries with a glass of milk. Don't you feel healthier just thinking about it?

How often does dinnertime roll around and you don't know what to make to eat? Last minute efforts to "figure out dinner" can result in snacking though dinner, often times munching on high salt/high fat options that are satiating, but non-nutritious. The scramble for dinner can often be met with quick, unhealthy carry-out food, or fast food.

At IUSM Department of Emergency Medicine, we recognize the stress our front-line healthcare heroes are under as they combat the COVID-19 crisis and look for new ways to support them as they work to keep us safe and healthy. We started a new initiative to collect favorite recipes from members of the department in an “EM COVID-19 Cookbook.” This recipe exchange highlights creative, tasty meals and showcases some of our colleagues’ culinary talents in the kitchen during the pandemic. You may be surprised to learn who not only knows how to cardiovert, but can also cook!

Recipes exchanges can be a fun way to connect with each other. If you make a recipe given to you by a colleague, let them know how you enjoyed it. The cookbook may also help alleviate stress if used for meal planning. Consider planning meals for the next 3-5 days. You can make your grocery list to include all the needed items. Once your shopping is complete, the guesswork is done and you can relax and enjoy what you are going to cook for dinner for the week.

It's important to be mindful of eating habits, as you try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink plenty of water, get your rest, and avoid alcohol and excessive caffeine. Whether it’s a creative recipe that uses ingredients already in the pantry or food substitutions to consider when groceries are out of a key ingredient, we hope the recipes in this blog and in the cookbook will help promote the habit of healthy, mindful eating and also serve to boost morale in such an uncertain and stressful time.

Continue reading to check out healthy recipes submitted to the “EM COVID-19 Cookbook” by Emergency Medicine residents and faculty!

From the kitchen of Dr. JT Finnell, Associate Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine

Recipe By: Milk Street 


Piri Piri Chicken


  • 3 tbsp Chili Powder (New Mexico or California)
  • 1 tbsp Cumin, ground
  • 1 tbsp Coriander, ground
  • 1 tbsp paprika (sweet)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 4-4 1/2 pound Whole Chicken, spatchcocked
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 8 medium Fresno Chili, stemmed and quartered
  • 3 medium garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice, 2-3 lemons
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup cilantro, fresh, finely chopped


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and salt. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the mixture to a small bowl, setting the rest aside. Loosen the skin over the chickens breast and thighs by gently working your fingers between the skin and the flesh. Using a small spoon, evenly distribute the 2 tablespoons of spice mixture under the skin, then rub it into the flesh. Set the chicken on a baking sheet.
  2. In a food processor combine the remaining spice mixture, the sugar, chilies and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the bowl as needed. With the machine running, pour in the lemon juice and vinegar, process until smooth, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Measure out 1/4 cup of the sauce, reserving the rest. Brush 1/4 cup evenly over the chicken, including the bone side. Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the grill for indirect high heat cooking.
  4. Set the chicken Skin side up on the grill. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Continue to cook until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160° and the thighs reach 175° another 25 to 35 minutes.
  5. Brush the chicken With 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce, then use the tongs to flip it skin side down onto the grill. Cook until the skin is lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer, skin side up, to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Stir the cilantro into the remaining sauce, then baste the chicken once more.

 From the kitchen of Dr. Jaclyn Jansen Yi, Emergency Medicine Resident


Pickled Red Onions with Avocado Toast



  • ½ red onion julienned
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar


  1. Heat apple cider vinegar, water, salt and sugar on the stove. Bring to simmer for 2-3 minutes and stir.
  2. Add thinly sliced onions to separate jar.
  3. Pour heated mixture over julienned onions in jar and seal.
  4. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Avocado Toast:


  • Pickled red onions
  • 1 large Haas avocado, ripe
  • 2 slices of sour dough bread
  • Cracked pepper, to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste


  1. Slice and toast bread to desired crisp. 
  2. Mash avocado on toast. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper to taste.
  3. Garnish with pickled red onions and enjoy!

Methodist Hospital Hack: Pack your own ripe avocado and pickled onions. Order a side of toast at Au Bon Pain. Create your own avocado toast bar in the ED for a food upgrade on shift.

From the kitchen of Dr. Kari Lemme, Assistant Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine


Shrimp and Quinoa Enchilada Casserole


  • 1 cup quinoa (I like the Costco kind you don't need to rinse before cooking)
  • 1 (10-ounce) can mild enchilada sauce
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilis
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels, frozen
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
  • 1 large tomato, sliced in circular rounds
  • 1 lb frozen shrimp, de-veined- you can thaw overnight in the fridge, or quick thaw by placing in colander and running under cold water for 5-10 minutes.
  • 1 pkg Frontera Key Lime Cilantro Taco Skillet sauce


  1. In a large saucepan of 2 cups water, cook quinoa according to package instructions; set aside.
  2. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to skillet. Add shrimp and saute for 3-5 min til pink. May cover with lid to help cook thoroughly. Once shrimp are cooked, add Frontera Key Lime Cilantro Taco sauce and coat/mix thoroughly and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8×8 or 2 quart baking dish or coat with nonstick spray.
  4. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, enchilada sauce, green chilies, corn, black beans, cilantro, cumin and chili powder; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.
  5. Spread quinoa mixture into the prepared baking dish. Top with cooked shrimp mixture. Then top with remaining cheeses. Top with sliced tomatoes. Place into oven and bake until bubbly and cheeses have melted, about 15 minutes.
  6. Serve immediately. If you like, you may garnish with avocado.
  7. Enjoy!

 From the kitchen of Dr. Alex Ulintz, Emergency Medicine Resident


(Fancy) Ramen

A note from Alex:
I started making this during med school -it's (relatively) healthy, easy to meal prep, and tastes great. It also turns out that continuing to buy 25 cent ramen after college keeps you humble!


  • 2 packages of Ramen -any flavor & throw away the spice pack!
  • 2 eggs
  • Green beans
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 6 tsp rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Seasoning of your choice (sesame seeds, red pepper or chili flakes recommended)


  1. Cut the cucumber into round slices & marinate in bowl with 2 tsp vinegar and 1 tbsp sesame oil.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and season with salt/pepper.
  3. Cut green beans in half, boil for 2-3 minutes, then shock in ice water.
  4. Boil eggs for 6 minutes and shock in ice water; peel and halve the eggs, add salt and pepper on top.
  5. Boil ramen for 3-4 minutes and rinse under cold water
  6. Combine 2 tbsp soy sauce, 4 tsp vinegar, 1 tbsp sesame oil. Add to cooled noodles, toss to coat.
  7. Plate noodles first and top with marinated cucumber, green beans, tomato, eggs. Garnish with spices of your choosing.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Emmy Schram

Emmy Schram is the Communications Coordinator for the Department of Emergency Medicine. She earned her MA in English from Ball State where she taught English Composition while working as a freelance graphic/web designer. She brings with her varied professional experiences which she uses to support departmental communications efforts while finding new ways to combine her passions for marketing and education.