A Dietitian's Top Trader Joe's Picks
Having lived abroad for 2 years, I have learned not to take Trader Joe's for granted. I can always count on TJ's for some delicious, unique, healthy and affordable food. As a company, I am actually quite fascinated with Trader Joe's and I highly recommend everyone go listen to the Freakonomics Radio Podcast entitled "Should America Be Run By Trader Joe's?". My answer is, undoubtedly, yes.
However, there are some Trader Joe's items that always get the spotlight, such as the Everything But The Bagel Seasoning and the Cauliflower Gnocchi. But, there are several food items that I believe to be underrated in terms of taste, quality or price. Thus, I put together this list of my top TJ's products to shed some light on my personal favorites and why. Disclaimer: this list is in no particular order and 100% not sponsored by Trader Joes (although I wish it was).
1. Pre-cut Mirepoix: Mirepoix is the french term for the combination of carrots, celery and onions, which is the traditional base to most soups, stews and sauces. While some people may have time to prep these ingredients, I work with many of my clients on quick meal prep tips, and this is by far one of them! Buying pre-cut vegetables can be massive time saver. So, while we are at the peak of soup and stew season, I highly recommend picking up one of these containers to save time on chopping and cleaning.
2. Butternut Squash Zig-Zags: Butternut squash is packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Folate, and Potassium (among many others). While butternut squash is absolutely delicious, it is also one of the most treacherous vegetables to slice. Personally, I will always buy butternut squash pre-sliced to avoid a trip to the emergency room. So why not get a fun shape like zig-zags?!
3. Carrot Ginger Miso Salad Dressing: Ginger dressing was my all-time favorite dressing at any Japanese restaurant. So much so, that my mom used to buy a pint of the dressing for me when we went out for sushi! I was very pleased to find this dressing at TJ's, as the ingredients are amazing (it is also vegan friendly). Delicious with any salad or even baked salmon!
4. Curry Cauliflower Quinoa Salad: As I said earlier, I work with many of my clients on quick meal-prep tips, which usually includes the notion that "you do not have to make everything from scratch". Keeping some packaged food in the fridge can also be part of your weekly meal prep, which ensures you have high quality and nutrient dense food readily available. This curry cauliflower quinoa salad is a great addition to lunch or dinner, packed with 5g protein and 3g fiber per serving (3 servings per container). With no preservatives, chemicals, and relatively low sodium content, this is a great way to add some flavor to your weekly meals!
5. Siracha Flavored Baked Tofu: Tofu is a great source of plant based protein, whether you are vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or simply ENJOY tofu! Many clients tell me they enjoy tofu when they are out, but find tofu quite daunting to make at home. This siracha tofu is so simple to include in a stir-fry, in a buddha bowl, or even on a sandwich, plus it's bloody delicious.
6. Zhoug Sauce: Zhoug sauce is actually a hot sauce originating in Yemeni cuisine. This sauce reminds me of a salsa verde, but it's a bit different. It's delicious and very versatile: great for dipping vegetables, topped on grilled chicken or shrimp, or even with an omelette. The ingredients include: cilantro, canola oil (you will live if you have a bit of canola oil, don't freak out haha), jalapeno peppers, chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, sea salt and cumin seed!
7. Balsamic Vinegar: I put their balsamic vinegar on this list because it is seriously the best valued product in the whole store! It is definitely a high quality vinegar at a very affordable price.
8. Organic Tahini: I use tahini to make a lot of things (lemon-tahini dressing, falafels and homemade hummus)! Tahini is packed with healthy fats and has quite a nutty flavor, without any nuts (allergy-friendly). This tahini is absolutely delicious and very affordable, especially compared to come commercial brands.
9. Green Dragon Hot Sauce: Quite possibly one of my favorite hot sauces, I have been enjoying the TJ's green dragon sauce on my eggs for the past 2 years. With just right amount of vinegar, this is the perfect blend of flavor and spice.
10. Fat-Free Refried Beans: I don't usually opt for anything marketed as "Fat Free" because it usually means there are unnecessary chemicals or added sugars, and I am a big fan of healthy fats in the diet, but these refried beans are my exception! The only ingredients, however, are cooked beans, water and salt - which sounds good to me. These are delicious with tacos or fajitas, and back 7g of protein and 7g of fiber per 1/2 cup serving. And for $0.99/can, that is a great nutritional value to cost ratio!
11. Mixed Nut Butter: Prior to finding this nut butter, I was an almond butter kind of girl who occasionally dabbled in cashew butter. But now, this nut butter is a combination of dry roasted and salted almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts (yay to selenium), hazelnuts and pecans - truly an amazing and delicious mix at an affordable price.
12. Almonds, Chocolate & Cashews Trek Mix: I love these little nut packs because their individually packaged and portion controlled. A mid day snack of nuts is a great way to get in protein, fiber and healthy fats. However, portion control is important when it comes to nuts because they are higher in calories (but also high in nutrients) - thus, these pre-portioned packs are a great solution. Easy to keep a in your desk, car, or handbag, this is a smart and healthy snack to help with those mid-day blood sugar dips.
13. Shredded Hash Browns: I have been on "team white potato" since day 1. I think they get a bad reputation for being a "white carb", while the sweet potato seems to be glorified as a 'superfood'. However, both white and sweet potatoes are nutritionally similar (with small micronutrient differences). Potatoes are a great source of complex carbs, fiber, potassium, vitamin C and more! These shredded hash browns are perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and are definitely a freezer staple in my kitchen.
14. Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter Cups: Unfortunately, not everyone can enjoy the delicious taste of a Reese's. As peanuts are one of the most common allergens, these nut-free cups are a fantastic alternative. Plus, their made with dark chocolate (yum, antioxidants). Personally, I have been a big fan of other dark-chocolate nut butter cups, but you can't beat this price!
15. Tri-Color Quinoa: Am I the only one that prefers tri-color quinoa, as opposed to just white quinoa? They taste the same, but I think the tri-color is prettier, thus more appealing. I am also particular about my quinoa, I want them to be fluffy - not dense - and this quinoa delivers at a very reasonable price.
16. 10-Minute Farro: Have you guys ever tried farro? It's a delicious and nutty-flavored whole grain packed with 10g of protein and 5g of fiber per 1/2 cup (dried). Plus, a grain cooked in 10 minutes without an instant pot? Yes please! This is definitely a cupboard staple.
17. Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli Pasta: Three ingredients I can get behind - organic brown rice, organic quinoa and water! Per 1/2 cup cooked, this pasta has 5g protein and 2g fiber, which is a great source of whole grains. Plus it's gluten free for any of you that might have Celiacs or gluten intolerances.