Living LifeWise: The Great Veggie Smuggle

Living Lifewise Sunday, September 22, 2013 Written by

Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Johanna Dokken.

I can’t tell you exactly when the change happened. At some point, my children lost interest in all things green and fresh. This meant I had to come up with creative ways to get them to eat their vegetables. It’s been a continuous effort that has produced various pro-veggie strategies:

The Vegetable Spokesperson

Try as I might to show genuine excitement for my own vegetable consumption, it only works to a degree. My two year old will sometimes get caught up in my enthusiasm and gleefully snatch a veggie from me and pop it in his mouth – only to realize that he’s been duped and promptly spit it out in disdain, chug his milk and glare at me over the rim of his sippy cup.


The goal of this approach is to leverage recipes that offer opportunities to “hide” veggies. It works like a charm. Broccoli and spinach are minced into pasta sauce. Squash replaces noodles in a casserole, and can be worked into meatloaf. Cheese is an excellent conduit. Even desserts are no escape. I mash up garbanzo beans for chocolate chip cookies, and I infuse zucchini into muffins.

Indirect Exposure

I try to encourage the general positive attributes of vegetables at every opportunity. We started growing our own vegetables in the backyard garden. I plan routine visits to the neighborhood P-patch where we can play games with the size and variety of crops. I show excitement when we encounter animals at Woodland Park Zoo having veggie snacks (like bears eating romaine lettuce, gorillas eating cucumbers and broccoli).

Two degrees of something familiar

In this ruse, a veggie or fruit is attributed to something they already enjoy. Asparagus is “like a green bean.” A pomegranate is “like a cherry.” Even if the food is, in truth, nothing like the food they love already, the technique at least gets through the first step of expanding their palette and gets past the initial fear of something new.

They’re alive!

Who can argue with an adorable green bean that is requesting to go in your belly? How about an attack on a forest of broccoli trees? Although bringing some animation to the dinner plate can quickly turn into a nightmare at a restaurant, it makes for a lively engagement and adds to positive veggie vibes.


Johanna_DokkenJohanna Dokken is a former college swimmer and mom of two, looking to make health and fitness a higher priority. Her inspiration to lead a more active and healthy life comes from her family’s history of diabetes and heart issues, as well as a personal brush with cancer as a teenager. She loves the personal empowerment, stress relief and community of training and pursuing outdoor activities.