When I moved to a new house 11 years ago, I was thrilled with its location near freeways and good school — but possibly even more excited at its proximity to the closest Trader Joe’s. A mere two miles were now all that stood between me and the iconic California grocery chain. And believe me, in the decade-plus since, I’ve made the short trip innumerable times for inexpensive wines, seasonal pumpkin delights, hummus flavors galore, and so many other tasty Trader Joe’s products.
See, I’m a dyed-in-the-Hawaiian-shirt Trader Joe’s superfan. I also happen to be a licensed nutritionist. And while TJ’s might be known more for its kitschy packaged products than fresh, whole foods, I believe, if you know where to look, it’s a treasure trove of healthy, affordable items. Here are nine Trader Joe’s products I buy for myself and my family on repeat.
1. Bagged Kale
I know, cue the eye roll. Nutritionists are always harping on the greatness of kale. But hear me out: Trader Joe’s 10-ounce bag is not only a smokin’ deal, but it’s also super versatile and doesn’t go bad quite as quickly as fresh spinach. And yes, of course, it’s extremely healthy, too, packed with fiber, vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium, potassium, and even—surprise!—a bit of protein. I like to use it as the base of salads, a filling for lasagna, or as an easy dinnertime side, sautéed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
2. Pacific Supreme Smoked Atlantic Salmon
If your usual lunchtime tuna could use an upgrade, consider picking up some Pacific Supreme Smoked Atlantic Salmon at Trader Joe’s. Though the 3-ounce package technically only contains a single serving, I find it can stretch for at least two lunches as the protein foundation of a sandwich or wrap. Plus, it’s a minimally processed food with just three ingredients and plenty of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Lentil Soup with Ancient Grains
I live in metro Phoenix, where it’s approximately a bazillion degrees eight months a year. So when cooler weather means I get to enjoy soup, I choose wisely—and Trader Joe’s Lentil Soup with Ancient Grains is about as wise as it gets. Its ingredient list reads like something you’d make at home, featuring lentils, veggies, olive oil, quinoa, herbs, and not a lot else. And with a fiber count of 8 grams per serving, plus low saturated fat and no added sugar, it’s an all-around winner. My one caveat: This soup is quite high in sodium, so if you need to watch your salt intake, you may want to skip it.
4. 2% Plain Greek Yogurt
Debate continues to rage about the merits of non-fat versus full-fat dairy. While public health organizations like the American Heart Association still recommend non-fat or low-fat cheese and yogurt for heart health, other research shows that consuming higher-fat dairy foods could have benefits like promoting a healthier weight and even (paradoxically) protecting against cardiovascular disease.
Personally, I like to strike a happy medium with 2% milk-fat Greek yogurt from Trader Joe’s. I prefer its moderately rich flavor to the barely-there taste of non-fat and the richness of full-fat. And by going Greek, I rack up more protein and fewer carbs. I use this stuff on everything!
5. Frozen Wild Boreal Blueberries
What’s healthier than blueberries? Wild blueberries! Because of their smaller size, blueberries that grow in the wild (such as in the Boreal forests of northern Ontario) have more surface area of skin. That may sound like no big deal, but the skin of blueberries is the part that contains the most fiber and antioxidants. Wild blueberries are a little pricier than regular frozen blueberries, but I say their health benefits are worth the splurge. These frozen gems make their way into all sorts of dishes my family enjoys, from muffins to smoothies to parfaits.
6. Sparkling Spring Water
Sparkling water is totally having a moment, and as a nutrition professional, I’m here for it! Though it’s not a perfect beverage (some research indicates it could damage tooth enamel), it’s still a far better choice than high-sugar drinks like soda or sweetened teas. With zero added sugars and a hint of natural flavor, sparkling water can be a great way to hydrate without interfering with health goals.
I purchase Trader Joe’s numerous fun flavors in bottle form for minimal waste. (Does anyone ever finish an entire can of sparkling water?) My favorites include grapefruit and cranberry clementine, but all the flavors are great zero-sugar, zero-calorie choices for hydration.
7. Mahi Mahi Burgers
My personal dietary pattern skews Mediterranean, with several servings of fish per week. Seafood is loaded with healthy fats that support brain and heart health, and it’s a good source of protein, too! Even if you don’t follow a Mediterranean-style diet, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet consume at least 8-ounces of seafood per week, and those who eat more than 2,000 calories a day get at least 10 ounces weekly.
Salmon and tuna tend to get the most glory as smart seafood choices, but there are other fish in the sea! I like to vary things with Trader Joe’s Mahi Mahi Burgers. They’re just 140 calories each, with 15 grams of protein and only 14% of the Daily Value of sodium. I also dig their compact ingredient list of Mahi Mahi (obviously), canola oil, and a handful of spices. Plus, their meaty texture holds its own as a burger and their taste is pleasantly mild.
8. Honey Wheat Hamburger Buns
You can’t have burgers without buns! And good-tasting whole wheat hamburger buns can be hard to come by (not to mention pricey). Trader Joe’s honey wheat buns don’t break the bank and have whole wheat flour as their second ingredient (after water). In each burger base, you’ll get a respectable 4 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein.
9. Chocolate Chip Cocoa Meringues
Even nutritionists love dessert (confession: I especially do). For a little something sweet to nibble, I often pick up a box of Trader Joe’s chocolate chip cocoa meringues. They’re only 30 calories per airy, crunchy, chocolatey treat, and their not-too-tiny size makes them perfect for portion control. I can’t claim they’re a healthy food—they do pack 18 grams of added sugar in a three-meringue serving—but we all deserve some sweetness in life!
The post I’m a Nutritionist and I Always Buy These 9 Trader Joe’s Products appeared first on Clean Plates.