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Getting Essential Nutrients You Need, but May Be Lacking

It Worked for Me!
WebMD Feature

In our burger-and-burrito world, it's no surprise: Research shows most Americans don't get enough of these essential nutrients -- calcium, fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin A, carotenoids, and potassium. These help keep muscles, nerves, organs, skin and bones -- plus immunity -- in tip-top shape. But these essential nutrients are just the starting point.

"There's a much longer list of nutrients that work together, and all are essential to health and wellness, growth and development," says Kathleen Zelman, WebMD's director of nutrition. "A daily multivitamin provides some of them, but not everything. You need real fruits and vegetables for all their nutrients and for their fiber. You need dairy for calcium."

We asked our WebMD community: What are your secrets for fitting these essential nutrients into your meals and snacks? Do you rely on a few super standards that you know provide more than one nutrient -- like dairy for calcium and magnesium, or beans for fiber, potassium, and magnesium?

Here are their tips and tricks for adding essential nutrients into family meals. Look them over, and keep the conversation going by adding your own ideas to the WebMD message boards.


  • We can't get Nicholas to eat any vegetable unless we melt cheese on top -- so he really is getting 2 food groups.


  • Yogurt is a fun, sweet "treat" for little ones, and packed with nutrients and protein that they need.
  • My little one loves peanut butter, so we give him that on whole-grain bread and he gobbles it up.
  • I make pasta with spinach in the sauce, or chopped carrots, to sneak in veggies.
  • We went entirely whole wheat in our house about a year ago (wheat bread, wheat pasta, etc.). The girls were so young that now they expect food to look that way. I really think that starting early is key.


  • Last night I served cheese manicotti, but instead of doing a filling of just cheeses, I put in a good bit of spinach. That gets more veggies into my toddler. (He's on a veggie strike at the moment.)
  • Night before last, I made black bean burgers. It was "hamburgers" without any meat, made with black beans, breadcrumbs, an egg, and salsa. (It's a Pillsbury recipe.)
  • Another good way is quesadillas. Just add your favorite veggies along with cheese, or add refried or black beans. Since it's disguised with cheese and tortillas, it works like a charm.
  • I like to spread applesauce on top of waffles, toast, and pancakes before cutting them up for my toddler. It gets another fruit in.
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Our "Healthy Recipe Doctor"

Need some quick, fresh ideas? Ever wonder what's behind the latest food headlines? Check in with Elaine Magee, RD, MPH.

Which food group do you eat the most?