19 Healthy Foods Nutritionists Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
Unless you love to cook and have a ton of free time, eating healthy on a budget is not always easy—but Trader Joe’s makes it a heck of a lot easier. In fact, the affordable supermarket chain is setting trends in the healthy food space. Everyone’s obsession with cauliflower rice (and cauliflower gnocchi and cauliflower pizza crust) is largely thanks to Trader Joe’s Instagram account. Not to mention, cult favorites Everything but the Bagel Seasoning and Mandarin Orange Chicken. But don’t be fooled; not everything you see at the grocery chain is healthy.
“A key to sticking with the healthy items is to shop the perimeter of any Trader Joe’s store,” says nutritionist and holistic health coach, Jen Silverman. “This lets you stick with the fresher items, such as fruit, vegetables, yogurt, meat, and fish, since packaged, preservative-rich, shelf-stable items are always located in the center aisles.”
Sweet Nova's nutritionist, Tanya Freirich, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, says that it’s always important to check nutrition labels, especially in a store like Trader Joe’s where there are so many flashy, eye-catching labels and packages. Take the chip aisle, for example. “Even baked or fried in coconut oil, potato chips are, unfortunately, still chips," she says. "Go for the actual vegetable chips, like the kale or beet chips, which provide more fiber and vitamins than those from a potato. And never go to the grocery store hungry!”
While we all know the obvious healthy choices, like leafy greens, fruits, and pre-washed veggies, we asked some of the country’s leading health experts to share their favorite healthy food buys from Trader Joe’s. (We can’t survive off of apple slices and carrot sticks, after all.) Here are 19 products that are not only healthy, they’re affordable and easy to incorporate into a busy schedule.
Broccoli & Kale Slaw Salad
“This salad mix is healthy, nutritious, and takes under three minutes to put together. Plus it’s one-third the cost of a salad at a restaurant,” Silverman says. “You can eat it as is or add your favorite protein. Pro tip: skip the dressing it comes with to cut out the extra sugar.”
Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup
“This soup is not only healthy, but it’s delicious,” Silverman says. “The ingredients are clean (no fillers or additives). You can enjoy it warmed up in a bowl or pour it on top of your favorite vegetables instead of your standard tomato sauce.”
Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip
“Two tablespoons of this dip is just 30 calories and 1 gram net carb, which is low for such a flavorful, hearty dip,” says F-Factor founder and registered dietician Tanya Zuckerbrot. “It’s a great appetizer for guests instead of traditional higher fat dips like sour cream-based dip.”
Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry
“This Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry is super simple to make in under 10 minutes,” Silverman says. “It’s healthy (50 calories and 2 grams of a fat in 1 cup), very tasty, and can be eaten as a main or a side. Plus, it’s cheap at $2.99 per bag. Zuckerbrot adds that unlike many other frozen riced cauliflowers on the market, this one does not have added ingredients like canola, olive or sunflower oil, butter, or cornstarch. “It’s just two simple ingredients: cauliflower and a small amount of salt. Cauliflower is a great source of fiber, adds bulk and volume to any dish, and is a great replacement for more carbohydrate-heavy dishes like fried rice,” Zuckerbrot says.
Organic Coconut Aminos Seasoning Sauce
“An excellent wheat-, gluten-, and soy-free alternative to soy sauce, coconut aminos is a great substitution when making your cauliflower fried ‘rice’ or any sort of Asian style recipe,” Freirich says. “Also, at one-third the sodium content of soy sauce, it’s a healthier option. And Trader Joe’s boasts a price lower than you’ll find anywhere else for coconut aminos.”
Roasted Seaweed Snack
“A little sweet, a little salty and crunchy, these hit the spot with only 30 calories a pack,” says The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT. “It’s a great way to get a little iodine, which many people surprisingly are deficient in. Seaweed also contains sulfated polysaccharides, which can even help with your microbiome by increasing the growth of ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. Plus at just $3.99 for a 6-pack, they’re far less expensive than other brands that typically range from $5.50 to $5.99 for the same 6-pack.”
Organic Walnut Halves
Almonds seem to get all the glory, but according to The Nutrition Twins, walnuts are just as good for you. “They’re a good source of antioxidants and one of the few foods that contains the plant form of omega-3 fat, which may help reduce heart disease risk," they say. "Trader Joe’s Organic Walnut Halves come in full pieces and the packaging seems to protect the halves from breaking, unlike other brands whose walnuts seem to have a good deal of them crushed into little pieces.”
Creamy Spinach & Artichoke Dip
“This is actually a great, filling meal with some baby carrots or whole grain crackers,” says Rachel Paul, PhD, RD. “I often advise leaving one in the office freezer for a last-minute meal.”
Avocado's Number Guacamole to Go
“We all love avocados and guacamole, but it goes brown so quickly,” Paul says. “These single-serving guacamole packets are great for breakfast or snacks with hard boiled eggs or carrots.” Plus, they offer portion control since, while avocado is a great source of healthy fat, it’s not particularly low in calories.
“These steamed lentils help lower blood sugar, they’re low in calories, and a great source of folate and magnesium, contributing to heart health,” says Jessica Mantell, M.S., L.D.N., C.N.S and the nutritionist at 54D in Miami. “Also, they have a good amount of insoluble fiber to help support digestive health.”
Cruciferous Crunch Collection
“This mix of cruciferous vegetables is fiber-rich, so it keeps you full for a long period of time,” says Mantell. “It’s also extremely beneficial in reducing inflammation and reducing the risk of cancer by protecting the cells from DNA damage.“
Nutritional Yeast isn’t just a cheese alternative for vegans. “Nutritional yeast is a great source of all B vitamins, a complete protein, contains fiber, and is low in fat,” Mantell says. You can sprinkle it on anything from a sandwich to protein to pizza for a cheesy flavor without all the calories and fat.
“Every kitchen needs affordable, reliable oils that are great for quick and casual use,” says Serena Poon, a chef, nutritionist, and reiki master. “Trader Joe’s offers organic and premium oils at affordable prices,” she says. They have everything from olive oil, which is great for dressings, to coconut and avocado oils, which are great for high-heat cooking (since they have a high smoke point). Many of their oils are also available in spray cans for portion control.
Organic Sprouted Tricolored Quinoa
“One of my favorite items at Trader Joe’s is their Organic Sprouted Tricolored Quinoa,” says Poon. “I love that the quinoa is already sprouted and sold for only $2.99 for an 8-ounce bag.” Sprouting means that the quinoa will not only be more nutrient-dense, but it will be easier to digest.
Minced, Peeled, or Frozen Garlic
“Garlic is a known anti-inflammatory food due to its high content of allicin. It’s also heart healthy and useful for reducing blood pressure and cholesterol,” Freirich says. “These prepped garlics can make cooking meals from semi-scratch easier and faster. Sauté the garlic with onions for a quick, easy, and flavorful addition to any protein, vegetable, or grain dish.”
Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend
“This seasoning can be added to anything!” Silverman says. “Add it to your favorite veggies, sprinkle it on your eggs, or mix it into a tuna salad for an extra pop of flavor. One of my favorite snacks is fresh summer tomatoes, half of an avocado, and a dash of Everything but the Bagel Seasoning."
Verified Clean Label Dog Snacks
“Two of my dogs’ favorite treats can only be found at Trader Joe’s,” Poon says. “Although they are not certified organic, the Smoked Chicken Tenders and the Salmon & Sweet Potato are preservative-free, with no additional salt added. They’re also rated five stars by the Clean Label Project, so it’s a tasty indulgence that I feel good giving our fur kids.”
“In general, I highly recommend buying veggies pre-zoodled instead of doing it yourself since when push comes to shove, most people won’t actually do it themselves,” Paul says. “The ones from Trader Joe’s taste much better than any fresh types I've tried, they last in the freezer for months (probably years!), and they’re versatile.” Look for spaghetti squash, zucchini, and carrot spirals in the frozen section.
21 Seasoning Salute
“I often recommend this seasoning to patients,” says Ilana Lichter, CDN. “It’s a delicious blend of seasoning without the added salt and it’s well priced. You can sprinkle it on just about anything, from fish to poultry to vegetables.”