15 Nutritionist-Approved Trader Joe's Foods for $5 or Less
Trader Joe's is one of the best spots to find staples at low prices. Not only is the food generally delicious, but they're constantly adding new stuff—and there are plenty of items that the we can't stop raving about. The national chain has found a way to make outrageously delicious products, but also is a place that many cooks lean on for healthy meals.
It's also not a secret that Trader Joe's has some of the lowest prices around—and a heck of a return policy—that makes shopping here that much better. And if you know where to look, you can find a slew of healthy staples and must-have snacks.
With the help of Cooking Light's Assistant Nutrition Editor Jamie Vespa, who often spends her days looking for the intersection of delicious meals and healthy ingredients, we pinpointed the healthiest groceries and ready-to-eat items in each aisle of Trader Joe's. What's more? They're all under $5.
Be sure to stock your cart with these must-haves the next time you find yourself at TJ's:
1) Trader Joe's Classic Smooth Hummus, $2.99
Hummus is one of those items you can't leave the store without—and Trader Joe's is no exception. It's priced to sell at just $3 per tub and it's a wonderful snack to pair with veggies or crackers at 80 calories for two tablespoons.
2) Multi-Grain Breakfast Waffles, $1.99
There are a lot of amazing granola blends and boxed cereals available at Trader Joe's for breakfast, and an equal amount of frozen items that you could enjoy first thing in the morning. But Vespa loves this frozen multigrain option because each serving is two whole waffles—a filling option at 230 calories and just 330mg of sodium, leaving you room to top with your favorite fresh fruit.
3) Frozen Spiralized Carrot Noodles, $2.99
Getting frozen spiralized veggies isn't a totally new concept—we settled the debate on which kind of spiralized veggie is best earlier this year when Green Giant released a line of microwave-friendly options. And while fresh options are probably going to be better tasting, Trader Joe's product is just as healthy. There's only one ingredient: carrots.
4) Pre-Cut Sweet Potato Ribbons, $3.49
But the produce section of Trader Joe's does have fresh options if you're dying for delicious spiralized veggies immediately. These sweet potato ribbons are great additions to salads and sauteés on the fly, and they're also amazing sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber.
5) Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala, $3.49
Trader Joe's is celebrated for what's probably the most expansive (read: best) frozen section—but that doesn't mean that all options are safe. There are plenty of salt bombs to avoid, but this chicken tikka masala is a solid option. The entire meal will cost you 360 calories and 580mg of sodium, but it also is a good source of protein at 21g.
6) Gluten-Free Crispbread Crackers, $4.29
Vespa is a big fan of these gluten-free flatbread crackers that are perfect for snack time—or, in a flash, can serve as a healthier substitute for sliced bread at lunch. These hefty crackers are made with a delicious seed-based mix and are just 130 calories.
7) Ezekiel Sprouted Sesame Bread, $4.49
If you're looking for a loaf to enjoy, however, Vespa is a huge fan of this sprouted sesame loaf. Trader Joe's Ezekiel bread is equally delicious as it is wholesome—each slice is just 80 calories, and carries 150mg of sodium.
8) Unsalted White Corn Tortilla Chips, $2.69
The Trader Joe's snack aisle is constantly changing, and we're always buzzing about new snacks and must-try products. Regardless of the hot new snack blazing the aisles of your local Trader Joe's, there are a few constant offerings that are definitely worth your attention: Like this gigantic bag of tortilla chips. There are different tortilla chips on sale at TJ's, but Vespa says the key is to grab the unsalted variety—you'll save big on calories and on sodium counts at snacktime.
9) Potato Fries Snack, $1.99
Skip the drive-thru—and the regret. These fun (and almost identical) potato sticks do not need ketchup! Half the bag is manageable at 300 calories and 130mg of sodium.
10) Dark Chocolate Bar, $1.69
If sweet cravings are more your style, Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Lovers bar is for you. It's free of sodium and cholesterol, and you can ration sweet treats all week as a third of the bar is totally manageable (and filling) at just 250 calories.
11) Shrimp Spring Rolls, $4.49
The ready-to-eat section at Trader Joe's is filled with delightful options for a meal on the go, like the store's collection of lunch-friendly salads. If you're foraging TJ's for a quick lunch, pair a side salad or one of your favorite light snacks with these shrimp spring rolls.
The spicy peanut dipping sauce is finger-licking good and the whole meal will only cost you 430 calories, 1g of saturated fat, and 290mg of sodium.
12) Riced Cauliflower Stir-Fry, $2.99
The Internet has spoken—and it loves Trader Joe's riced cauliflower stir-fry. Each cup of this shockingly easy-to-make side is just 50 calories, 2g of fat, and 7g of carbs total, meaning you have plenty of room for a protein-heavy addition or a hearty veggie-based main.
13) Frozen Porcini Mushroom Chunks, $3.69
Vespa loves each and every frozen vegetable in Trader Joe's arsenal, so it was hard to pick a winner—but these frozen porcini mushrooms are so flavorful and versatile, it was even harder to say no. Simply sprinkle them into any recipe you're cooking for an extra boost of meaty-mushroom health benefits.
14) Frozen Shelled Edamame, $1.79
Edamame is one of the most beloved appetizers or crowd-friendly snacks for any home cook—but Trader Joe's just made it that much easier by shelling the edamame, which reduces overall sodium counts drastically. A whole cup of this edamame is just 200 calories and mere 10mg of sodium, making it the best choice for a healthy starter.
15) Trader Joe's Sparkling Waters, $0.99
A trip to Trader Joe's isn't complete if you don't stroll down the beverage aisle. One of the greatest offerings in the entire store is Trader Joe's line of sparkling waters, which are constantly revolving around seasonal flavors and new products—including this watermelon variety, just in time for summer.
Honorable Mention: Green Tea, $1.49
And while you're there, check out this blueberry-and-pomegranate-infused green tea, which is best served on ice. It has zero sugar added and makes for a great substitute for other caffeinated, fizzy drinks—and might make for a great alcoholic mixer.