Trader Joe's Top Picks: Spring 2019

So many of you have been asking for it, so here it is! The first edition of the Real Good Nutrition Trader Joe’s Top Picks, where I brave the crowds, hunt the aisles, and scour the nutrition labels to find some of the best products to recommend to all of you. Because TJ’s alternates their inventory every so often, I’ll update my recommendations with fresh picks. Found something that I didn’t? I want to know! Half of the fun of good nutrition is finding variety with what you eat, so I’m always on the look out for interesting flavors and new foods to try.

And because I’ve gotten so many requests for this, I’m hitting you with 50 of my favorite picks from TJs. The theme this time around is all about making your meal prep easier. Trader Joe’s has a great selection of pre-made and convenience items for quicker and less stressful meal planning and prep, so I’m going to highlight some of my favorites in that category for you too. And please forgive my photog skills here. I’m sure you can understand how difficult it is to snap a great pic during that TJ’s rush hour… the stuff of nightmares.

Let’s shop!


1. Frozen brown rice.

This is absolutely by #1 pick. I’m no chef, but this is especially apparent when I try to cook rice. That’s why I love that these are microwavable packets that turn out perfect brown rice in less than 5 minutes. It makes it so easy to add a good whole-grain to your meals with little to no prep ahead of time. Each packet has about 3 servings, so it’s a great deal. Throw some with a stir-fry, in a salad, or stirred into stew. TJs also has frozen quinoa!

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2. Organic frozen produce.

TJ’s has some pretty great frozen produce. Frozen fruits and vegetables are such a great thing to include in your diet, especially in these Midwestern winters, because the produce is picked and frozen at its prime without any nutritional quality lost in transportation. So it’s a cost-effective way to get in a big nutrient punch. My favorites here are the wild blueberries, spinach (so great to throw in a smoothie, stir fry, omelet, or stew), and the rainbow cauliflower blend (my favorite smoothie addition).

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3. Frozen green vegetable foursome.

I’m always on the hunt for new combos of frozen veggies that make meal prep really easy. I love that this mix has the broccoli chopped as florets and the zucchini already quartered. It’s a great mix of non-starchy veggies to fill up on!

4. Raw shelled hemp seeds.

Have you tried hemp seeds? They’re a great way to get your essential fatty acids with a hefty dose of fiber, plant-based protein, vitamin E, as well as other trace minerals. Throw in oatmeal, protein pancakes, smoothies, or on a salad.

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6. Cruciferous Crunch Collection.

Not sure there’s an easier way to get all these antioxidant-containing veggies into your day. This mix of kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green cabbage, and red cabbage is so convenient - just add in your favorite protein, mix in a great dressing, and you’re good to go. Also great sauteed!

7. Fresh salad dressings.

These are some of my new go-to’s for using either as an actual salad dressing OR as a veggie dip, marinade for proteins, or sauce for sauteed veggies. With flavors like miso ginger carrot, almond butter turmeric, and green goddess, you can’t go wrong. Especially because they’re not loaded with any fillers or oils that aren’t good sources of unsaturated fatty acids.

8. Steamed lentils and baby beets.

Perfect for throwing on a salad as-is. There really isn’t an easier way to include these foods in your diet. These are a must for me.

9. Grilled chicken breast.

TJs does it again! These chicken breasts, especially the balsamic vinegar and rosemary one, are so tasty and take 100% of the work out of prepping your protein. Win-win. I like to shred it up with a fork and throw it on salads. This is a good addition to some of the TJ’s prepackaged salads that are lacking in portion-size (especially protein).

10. Amba mango sauce.

I’m always looking for fun sauces to add to the simple, unflavored things I’ve meal prepped to switch things up. It’s one of my biggest suggestions for making meal prep really easy without having to look up 1000 recipes before grocery shopping.

11. Vegan kale, cashew, and basil pesto

Finally! A great vegan pesto for all of us DF people out there! I love how this has some sneaky veggies in it too. Perfect for mixing into some whole grain (or Banza!) pasta, rice, or as a marinade for proteins.

12. Balela.

Incorporating beans into your diet is a great way to make sure you’re getting adequate soluble fiber, as well as many important nutrients like zinc and magnesium. This is a bright chickpea salad that is wonderful on its own or as a salad topper, and it makes getting beans into your diet easy!

13. Applegate turkey breast.

I love having a high-quality natural (i.e. nitrate- and nitrite-free) deli meat around for snacking (LOVE turkey roll-ups with cucumber and avocado or hummus) or for adding a little extra protein to things like omelets. Applegate is usually my go-to, and I love that they sell it at TJs.

14. Roasted seaweed snacks.

You gotta trust me on this one. These will 100% curb your salty snack cravings without a ton of refined grains (literally no refined grains, to be exact). These are SO flavorful and are a good source of iodine as well. Sprinkle on a salad, dip into hummus, or enjoy as is. Love these as a travel snack to avoid those typically enticing airport snacks.

15. Inner Peas.

Yes, yes, and yes. I absolutely love these lil’ crisps for a snack with a good amount of fiber and protein. Dip in bean dip, hummus, guac, etc. to make it a more complete snack. One of my go-to’s for road trips, traveling, or just having in my car when the mood strikes (which is usually immediately after putting them there).

16. Lundberg organic brown rice cakes.

Another brand that’s not just at TJs, but I’m glad it is! I love brown rice cakes because they’re high in fiber seeing as though they’re made with 100% whole grains, which makes them perfect to pair with natural nut butter, hard boiled eggs, avocado & tomato, hummus, or anything else to, again, make it a more complete snack. These with a little PB is a pre-workout go-to snack for me.

17. Ak-Mak sesame crackers.

A great whole grain cracker option. Made with whole wheat!

18. Hard boiled eggs

Ok, I know you can make these at home, but sometimes it’s just EASIER to buy them pre-made. And hey, if it means you’ll have a good high-quality protein on hand, I’m all for paying a little more for convenience. Chop these babies up and make homemade egg salad (tons of paprika, mustard of choice, lemon, and avocado/Greek yogurt/mayo).

And YES, eggs are just fine to include in a healthy diet.

19. Kefir.

Kefir is my #1 recommended product to support gut health, so I love that TJs has one. It’s an excellent source of protein and calcium, but also live and active cultures (aka probiotics) that have a beneficial effect on your digestive system (and therefore immune system as well!). Check out the post I wrote a while back about probiotics and why probiotic-containing foods may be better than a supplement.

20. Yuzu hot sauce.

Another flavorful sauce option that makes meal prep and planning a lot easier (this is a pattern with my picks this month). Throw on sauteed or baked veggies, use as a marinade for tofu, or as a sauce for a homemade poke bowl. I love that it doesn’t have any added sugars, too (this is one of the things I look for in sauce. Sometimes added sugar is a necessary ingredient, but I recommend to avoid it when it’s not).

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21. Cauliflower gnocchi.

Pretty much a cult classic at this point. While I don’t see it as a replacement for having a good amount of whole grains in your diet (this product isn’t carb-free, and I tend to think carbs from grains have a better nutrition profile than those from starchy vegetables like potatoes which are a main ingredient in this product), I do think it’s a fun way to mix an antioxidant- and fiber-rich cruciferous vegetable into your diet. Plus it just tastes good, and it’s totally GF so those who haven’t had real gnocchi in a long time (or ever) can enjoy it. There’s also a pretty tasty cauliflower pizza crust.

My advice for cooking: Just saute it in your oil of choice and ignore all other directions on the bag, otherwise it’ll turn out nice and soggy which no one wants.

22. Red pepper spread.

A great sauce for stirring into a plain veggie medley to give it some life.

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23. Turkey burgers.

I love having good frozen protein options on hand for those nights I just don’t want to cook, or for easy reheating for a work lunch. Turkey burgers are so easy for that, and this product doesn’t have any questionable ingredients in it (which is always a plus these days, especially with frozen meat products).

24. High protein veggie burgers.

Incorporating more plant-based meals into your routine can be a good way to add more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to your diet while avoiding excess saturated fat and cholesterol. These high protein veggie burgers make it easy to have a plant-based protein option that’s actually filling, which comes from pea protein in this case. Again, no weird additional ingredients. I love having frozen options for easy day-to-day meal prep!

25. Seltzers with a Splash.

TJs version of a Spindrift. I love these because they taste more fresh than a La Croix and come in a few really great flavors. They’re an excellent way to transition off of sugar-sweetened beverages and diet soda because they don’t have added sugar OR artificial sweeteners. I love the lemon ginger flavor for an after dinner tummy tamer. Plus they really do help make sure you drink enough water throughout the day.

26. Sun dried tomatoes.

A perfect topper for a more flavorful salad or pizza. I absolutely love adding these into the mix when I can. Watch out though, they can sometimes be a little high in sodium, so they would be best to avoid if you’re following a low-sodium diet.

27. Olive tapenade.

A healthy dose of omega-3s! I love this flavorful mix as a dip, pizza and pasta topper, or mixed into a sauteed veggie medley for some of those great heart healthy fats.

28. Canned artichoke hearts.

This is one of my favorite canned vegetables to buy. Drain, rinse, toss in olive oil and any seasoning mix you like, and bake until golden and crispy on the edges. They’re wonderful this way on salads, on pizza, in pastas, or as is for an appetizer (or with #27! Yum!).

29. Canned tomatoes.

These are definitely a pantry staple of mine. Throwing a can of tomatoes on top of sauteed veggies makes it a more cohesive and flavorful meal, especially if you pair it with homemade meatballs (tip: put ground flaxseed into your meatball mix. It serves as a great binder while adding extra fiber and omega-3s!). Also perfect for throwing together a quick soup or stew.

30. Recipe #99 Traditional Marinara Sauce.

This is one of TJs no-sugar-added marinara sauces, so it’s a favorite of mine and another pantry staple. I talk all the time about prepping a few plain proteins, a few veggies, and a few grains/starches, and pairing with different sauces you have on hand for easier no-stress meal prep. A good no-sugar-added marinara sauce should be on your list for these kinds of meals.

31. Pastas.

I LOVE that TJs has a variety of really high-quality pastas. My recommendations are the organic whole wheat fusilli, organic black bean rotini (extra fiber, antioxidants, and minerals), and organic brown rice penne (not just for my GF folks!). More pantry staples for sure.

32. Tricolor quinoa.

If you’re not going for the frozen variety, this is your next best bet. Quinoa is a GF grain that has a higher protein content than most other grains, so some consider it more seed-like. It offers a high fiber content as well. It’s much easier to cook than rice, so I’ll usually throw on a pot while I’m cooking or prepping other things so I can have it for the week. Throw it on salads or have as part of a stir fry, curry, or stew.

33. Salsa verde.

My favorite thing to do with this (and any salsa, really!) is to make Salsa Chicken. Just pour a jar of this into a crock pot or Instant Pot with boneless skinless chicken breasts and just shred it with a fork when it’s cooked through. Could not be easier, which is why it’s a staple in my meal prep rotation.

34. Canned tuna.

Let’s face it: if you’re not good at cooking fish, it’s unlikely that you’re going to consume enough of it on a regular basis. This is me 100%. So that’s why canned tuna and salmon is so nice because you get your omega-3s without having to do any cooking (unless, of course, you’re good at cooking fish and actually like to do it). Pop it open, mix with some lemon, herbs, and yogurt/avocado/mayo, and you have an easy tuna salad to put on a salad, with whole-grain toast or crackers, or as a protein-rich snack on its own. Canned fish is such an easy way to get these heart-healthy anti-inflammatory fats and a high-quality protein into your diet without breaking the bank.

35. Spicy brown mustard.

I love this mustard, and I always have a bottle around for egg salads, homemade marinades, and for sandwiches. It’s one of my pantry staple condiments.

36. Blanched almond flour.

I love almond flour as a higher-protein baking alternative, and TJs has such a great price on it. If you’re GF, having almond flour around is great in case you get the urge to whip up a baked treat, energy bite, protein pancakes, or homemade fig newtons (oh yeah.).

37. Unsalted natural peanut or almond butter.

If I’m out of one of these at home, it’s not going to be a good day for anyone. I always have nut butters on hand to make snacks and smoothies more filling (plus I’m just obsessed). Again, TJs has excellent prices on these, which is why they are top picks for shopping there. Go for the natural unsalted varieties (the only ingredient should be peanuts or almonds, or with salt if you are not on a salt restricted diet).

38. Everything But the Bagel Seasoning.

Another super popular TJs pick right now. I love this seasoning for so many things, and regardless of your feelings regarding bagels, it’s just a great blend of flavors. Use with eggs, avocado toast, hummus, sauteed veggies… really anything you like! Or go for it and make homemade bagels… then send me some.

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39. Firm tofu & 3-Grain tempeh.

Tofu and tempeh are excellent high-biological value plant-based proteins to include in your diet. If you’re unfamiliar with tempeh, it’s a fermented soybean “loaf” (sounds delicious, Emmy), so it’s also a great source of probiotics. Both can be marinated and pan fried, roasted, air fried, grilled… anything. I eat meat, but these are a staple for meatless meals.

40. Roasted garlic hummus.

A good go-to source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats for snacking. I’m a fan of this flavor, but TJs has SO many other options to try.

41. 100% whole wheat flour tortillas.

I love that TJs sells these. Even though I personally can’t eat wheat (Celiac problems), whole wheat is absolutely something to include in your diet if you don’t have an intolerance or allergy. It’s a great source of fiber and protein (if consumed as the whole grain vs. refined wheat). Good quality tortillas can be hard to find, especially the whole grain variety without a bunch of added randoms. Make wraps and breakfast burritos, or prep mini sandwich rolls ahead of time for snacking.

42. Ezekiel bread.

Again, another non-GF bread option but this one is a great choice. This is a high-quality sprouted bread that uses whole grains and nothing artificial. Again, whole grain products have more fiber and protein to actually keep you full between meals (and avoid that “I’m hungry again and it’s only been an hour since lunch” feeling). This bread takes the guesswork out of finding a great whole grain loaf.

43. Sprouted 7 Grain Bread.

Another excellent whole grain choice at a better price point.

44. RX Bars.

These are usually the first protein bar that I recommend to those looking for a high-quality product. They have 0g added sugar and have added protein from egg whites, which helps to keep you full and satisfied. They also have a dose of healthy fats from nuts. A lot of granola and protein bars at TJs are loaded with added sugars, so I love that they have these as an option. This is one to stock up on and leave in your car console or work desk for snacking emergencies.

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45. Cereal.

Just like their granola bar selection, TJs has some great cereals and some less great cereals (I’m specifically talking about added sugar and fiber content). My main choices are Barbara’s Multigrain Spoonfuls, Barbara’s Morning Oat Crunch, Maple Ladders, Shredded Bite Sized Wheats, and Joe’s O’s. These are all whole grain and high-fiber cereals without a ton (or any, in some cases) added sugar. I love adding some cereal to Greek yogurt for some crunch and fiber to round out the snack a little better.

46. Super Seed & Ancient Grain Blend.

This mix of sprouted buckwheat, sprouted millet, chia seed, golden flax seed, red quinoa, shelled hemp seed, and amaranth is loaded with fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. I absolutely love this for topping oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, and salads. I absolutely LOVE that this is at TJs, and I definitely recommend trying it if you are trying to increase your plant-based omega-3 intake (i.e. if you don’t like or don’t eat enough fish, or take a supplement).

47. Unsweetened instant oatmeal.

Perfect for those mornings that you just don’t have time, for those AM snacks eaten at your work desk, and for traveling. These are a pantry staple of mine for all of those reasons! Oats are also a whole-grain and a great source of cholesterol-lowering and regularity-promoting soluble fiber, so something I encourage everyone to include in their diet if they can.

48. Organic chia seeds.

Again, a great source of fiber, omega-3s, and antioxidants. TJs does it again with this price. Use it to make chia seed pudding, as a topper for oatmeal or yogurt, or in a salad.

49. Rosemary Marcona almonds.

These are such a treat. Super flavorful, great texture, and perfect to throw on pizzas, salads, pastas, rice bowls, or in a homemade trail mix. They are a big salty though, so if you are following a low-sodium diet then the roasted unsalted almonds would be your best bet.

50. Heirloom popcorn with avocado oil and pink salt.

Popcorn is one of my top snacks because it’s a whole grain and a serving size is a whopping 3 cups! With heart-healthy avocado oil, this is a way better alternative to those microwave popcorn bags full of random chemicals. Pair this with a protein for a well-rounded snack.


So there you have it! These are 50 of my favorite things at Trader Joe’s right now, and definitely not everything I buy on a regular basis (think more fresh produce and proteins). I hope this gives you a little bit of inspiration during your next shopping trip or meal planning/prepping session. I wanna know: What are your favorite TJs finds? Shoot me an email if I’m missing one of the greats!

Take care!

Emmy

Emmy Bawden