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“I’m a Registered Dietitian: Here’s What I Buy at Trader Joe’s — And What to Steer Clear Of”

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Trader Joe’s has long been celebrated as a haven for food enthusiasts seeking quality ingredients, unique flavors and wallet-friendly prices. However, amidst the excitement of exploring its aisles, it’s essential to navigate with a discerning eye, ensuring that our choices align with our nutritional goals. As a registered dietitian, I’ve delved into the depths of Trader Joe’s offerings to uncover its hidden gems and offer guidance on making informed decisions. I also asked a few other dietitians for their thoughts. Keep reading for our Trader Joe’s favorites.

Trader Joe’s favorites: Prepped veggies

trader Joe's favorites: Cruciferous Crunch Collection
Courtesy of: Trader Joe’s website

One of the first stops on our Trader Joe’s journey inevitably leads us to the produce section for an abundance of prepped, packed and portioned fresh vegetables. “Of course, I love TJ’s affordable produce,” says exercise physiologist Samantha Heller, RD, host of SiriusXM Doctor Radio. “Trader Joe’s has many precut vegetables, which save time on the prep work.”

Related: Sandra Lee Dishes on Her Thrilling New Cooking Show, ‘Dinner Budget Showdown’

From vibrant shredded cabbage blends to nutrient-rich Cruciferous Crunch Collection, these offerings provide a convenient solution for incorporating more greens into our diets. “Trader Joe’s simplifies meal prep without sacrificing nutritional integrity,” says health coach Jessica Cording, RD, author of The Little Book of Game Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress & Anxiety, and The Farewell Tour: A Caregiver’s Guide To Stress Management, Sane Nutrition and Better Sleep. She loves the time-saving options like ready-to-cook Mirepoix and shredded kale, “Aside from being packed with important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, these make it so easy to prepare salads, stir-fries, veggie sides and soup. One of my favorite things is to sauté or roast the shredded cabbage and enjoy with eggs, sliced avocado and another Trader Joe’s favorite, Everything But The Bagel seasoning.” (Click through to learn how to make your own everything but the bagel seasoning.)

Related: These Summer Salads Are Anything But Boring — 12 Fresh and Flavor-Packed Recipes

Trader Joe’s favorites: Spice blends

trader Joe's favorites: spice
Courtesy of: Trader Joe’s Instagram

No culinary adventure is complete without the tantalizing allure of spices, and Trader Joe’s delivers in spades with its diverse selection of spice blends. Whether you’re craving the bold flavors of chili lime or the aromatic richness of the seasonal Herbs de Provence, these seasonings serve as culinary game-changers, effortlessly enhancing the taste of your favorite dishes. With a dash of creativity and a sprinkle of Trader Joe’s magic, ordinary heathy meals are transformed into extraordinary culinary creations.

Related: Does Turmeric Help You Lose Weight? Top MD Says Yes — Here’s How to Get the Benefits

Trader Joe’s favorites: gluten-free delights

trader Joe's favorites: Almond Flour Tortillas
Courtesy of: traderjoeslist Instagram

For those navigating dietary restrictions, Trader Joe’s offers a treasure trove of gluten-free options, including the beloved almond flour wraps. Despite their unassuming appearance, these wraps pack a nutritious punch, boasting 5 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and a low carb content. Perfect for crafting breakfast burritos or wholesome wraps on-the-go, they redefine convenience without compromising on taste or quality.

Related: Top MD: Nearly 50% of Us Have Some Type of Gluten Sensitivity and Fatigue Is a Top Symptom — How to Feel Better

Trader Joe’s favorites: Healthy frozen options

trader Joe's favorites: Organic Brown Rice
Courtesy of: adviceforeating Instagram

In today’s fast-paced world, convenience often reigns supreme when it comes to meal preparation, and Trader Joe’s understands the importance of balancing nutrition with ease. Enter frozen brown rice – a freezer-friendly staple that promises impeccable texture and flavor with minimal effort using only a microwave to reheat. Whether paired with sautéed veggies or served as a hearty base for your favorite dishes, this versatile option proves that nutritious eating can be both convenient and delicious.

Related: Don’t Throw That Leftover Rice Out: Fry It Up Into a Delicious, Unusually Healthy Side Dish

Trader Joe’s favorites: Protein-packed pancakes

trader Joe's favorites: pancake mix
Courtesy of: Amazon

Who says indulgence can’t be nutritious? Trader Joe’s buttermilk protein pancake mix challenges this notion, offering a guilt-free breakfast option packed with 2 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein in just 2 pancakes. With just a splash of water, you can whip up a batch of fluffy pancakes that satisfy your cravings without derailing your wellness goals. Pair them with fresh fruit for a wholesome start to your day.

Related: Pioneer Woman’s Secret to Fluffy Pancakes: Just Use a Sheet Pan — No Flipping Needed!

Trader Joe’s favorites: Tofu made easy

trader Joe's favorites: tofu sheets
Courtesy of: trader_joes_treasure_hunt Instagram

For those embracing a plant-based lifestyle, Trader Joe’s offers a plethora of vegan options to tantalize the taste buds. From tofu and frozen vegetable dishes to innovative tofu sheets, there’s no shortage of protein-rich delights to explore. One of Heller’s favorite items is seasonal tofu sheets. These are the protein rich ’skins’ that form when boiling soy milk. She says, “I’ve been looking for these for years. I was thrilled when I found them at Trader Joe’s in January 2024. Tofu sheets come frozen, so after heating in the microwave per the instructions, I toss with extra virgin olive oil and salt and roast until crispy, or once heated, add to soups, stews or stir fries.” 

Trader Joe’s options to think twice about

While Trader Joe’s is renowned for its quality offerings, not all products are created equal, and it’s essential to exercise caution when navigating certain aisles. Take, for example, the pasta selection: While options like lentil pasta offer a healthier alternative, premade, boxed or frozen pasta dishes may fall short in the nutritional department. Heller finds most pastas disappointing, “I find it does not hold together well when cooking.” Similarly, the frozen and snack food sections can be a minefield of hidden health pitfalls, requiring careful scrutiny of labels and ingredients. “From an RD perspective, I would suggest that if you have the time, try to make most dishes from scratch and not rely on premade, boxed or frozen dishes,” she says.

Cording advises caution in the frozen and snack food section. Many are perceived as having a “health halo,”, she says. “A lot of people think they’re healthy because they come from Trader Joe’s, but in some cases, they may not have much nutritional benefit. You still need to check labels and think about the bigger picture of your health goals when making food decisions.” 

What to know before you shop

Armed with knowledge and a discerning eye, you can navigate the aisles of Trader Joe’s with confidence, making informed choices that prioritize your health and wellness. Create a well-crafted grocery list to guide your shopping experience, and avoid the pitfalls of shopping on an empty stomach, which can lead to impulse purchases. By embracing a balanced approach to nutrition and savoring the journey of culinary exploration, you can make the most of your Trader Joe’s experience while nourishing your body and soul.

Trader Joe’s invites us on a culinary odyssey, where every aisle holds the promise of discovery and delight. With the guidance of expert nutritionists, we can navigate its offerings with confidence, savoring the abundance of wholesome treasures while steering clear of potential pitfalls. Here’s to embracing the nutritional journey and making every shopping trip a step toward a healthier, more vibrant lifestyle.

For more advice from nutrition pros, click through the links below!

Nutritionist: “The Weight-Loss Effects of These Foods May Be the World’s Best-Kept Secret”

News: The Top 10 Soup Ingredients To Speed Weight Loss, According To Nutritionists

Nutritionists: The Prep Shortcut That Makes Oats 4 Times Healthier & Tastes Great Too!

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