Trader Joe's Top Picks: Summer 2019
It’s back! The Real Good Nutrition Trader Joe’s Top Picks is back with some of my favorite things that kept me going all summer ‘19. Think more variety, new flavors, and as always, things to fuel your body to keep your energy levels up. And for me this means a few things, staring with:
Focus on whole grains over refined grains: Whole grains have the whole grain, meaning they retain the fiber and protein (and not to mention vitamins and minerals) that are lost in processing. This makes them a better source of fuel because they provide sustained energy versus a quick burst that is reflected in a blood sugar spike and drop. And we could all use a little more energy going into fall!
Having some high-quality convenient things on hand: This can make it easier to fuel consistently throughout the day so that you’re not constantly chasing your hunger, which on its own leads to low energy levels and sometimes cravings.
Trying new foods meet your nutritional needs: Eating well is all about getting the most out of your food. We all know eating the same foods over and over gets old quick, which makes it more difficult to stick to healthy eating. So I’m saying switch it up! Try a grain or a veggie or fruit that you haven’t had in a while or ever before. Spice up familiar foods with new flavors. Switch up your snacks. Anyway you do it, do something to keep it interesting!
Sound good? Then let’s get started!
1. Shishito peppers
I love these little guys for an app or as the star veggie of a meal. These vitamin-C-rich peppers are perfect when baked, sauteed, grilled, or [my personal favorite] air-fried because their skins blister up to give a really great, crunchy texture. The flavor is usually mild, but once in a while you’ll get an extra spicy one! Here’s a recipe to try stove-top shishtos. And here’s another recipe using ginger to spice it up. I also love these without any other seasoning than olive oil, salt, pepper, and a spicy aioli for dipping.
2. 10-minute barley.
You know I’m all about making meal prep easy, so a whole grain that’s ready in only 10 minutes is perfect. If you’re gluten intolerant or have a gluten allergy, barley is not the grain for you. But, for everyone else, barley is amazing. It’s rich in both insoluble and soluble fiber (beta-glucans, to be specific) that promote gut and cardiovascular health (specifically cholesterol and blood pressure) as well as satiety with meals. A simple recipe like this showcases this nutty-tasting grain and is perfect to bring chilled to a BBQ or picnic.
3. Baby zucchini.
How cute are these?! They’re not new to TJ’s, but they are a great staple to have around, especially in the summer. Just like the shishitos, they can be roasted, sauteed, grilled, and more. I would recommend slicing them up or in half length-wise, season with herbs, spices, and oil, and then cook however you’d like. These are the perfect bite size, so I love them in things like pasta salads and power bowls.
4. Asian vegetable stir-fry.
This kind of mix can make busy weeknights so. damn. easy. Take a pan, heat it over medium-high heat with some olive or sesame oil, throw in your veggies, and cook until they’re as you like them. Then pair with a protein (tofu, shrimp, chicken, garbanzos, salmon, and ahi tuna would all work well!), a whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, or noodles would be great), and a sauce (soy sauce, peanut sauce, etc.) and your meal is a done deal. Make enough for leftovers and tomorrow’s lunch is done too!
5. Misto alla griglia.
Another super easy pre-made veggie mix. This is a frozen mix of grilled veggies (eggplant, zucchini, and red peppers) that have been marinated in balsamic vinegar and herbs. Pop this on a tray with chicken breasts for an easy sheet pan dinner. I would also try defrosting them and cooking them in my air fryer (do you sense a pattern?). You could make an awesome Greek salad with these veggies, quinoa, garbanzo beans, fresh herbs, a great olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and feta cheese (if you’d like). A flavorful no-brainer… my favorite kind of meal.
6. Dehydrated rainbow carrot snacks and broccoli florets.
My clients always ask me how they can sneak extra veggies into their snacks. I’m the queen of trying to sneak veggies in here and there (because I’m not always up for raw veggies dipped in hummus), and these dehydrated snacks are actually a great option. But heads up: you really do have to like the flavor of carrots or broccoli because these are extra flavorful. These snacks are different than other dried veggie snacks because they’re actually the whole vegetable, just dehydrated. They’re not a potato or corn stick pretending to be carrots, and you can tell because the only or main ingredient is the actual veggie. You can also tell because they contain significant fiber (11g and 7g, respectively). Now dipping these in hummus is something I can get behind. Bring these with you to work, on a road trip, on a flight… anywhere. Another heads up: the portion is one small bag, so they’re a little pricey at $2-3.
7. Sea salt and turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds.
I can’t get enough of these lately. I love ending dinner with something sweet (it’s what truly satisfies me and keeps me from going on the full on dessert rampage that would happen if I never allowed myself to have dessert), and these almonds are perfect. And they’re dairy-free, which is kind of hard to find for chocolate covered nuts. These aren’t too, too salty, but I might steer toward an unsalted variety if you’re watching your salt/sodium intake or have high blood pressure. But for everyone else, the combination of salty and sweet makes them so satisfying and I love them and thank you for coming to my TED talk.
8. Frozen riced cauliflower bowl.
Hey, I’m not against a frozen meal here or there. They can add convenience to your life and if you know what to look for in terms of ingredients, then they can be pretty healthful too. This riced cauliflower and tofu bowl is packed with plant-based protein (13 grams) without totally overdoing it on sodium (which is usually a problem for frozen meals… this one has 370 mg). It also doesn’t have any added sugar, which can be added excessively to “diet” meals that are looking to keep calories down by decreasing fat and overall portion size and increasing sugar and sodium. It also has 8 grams of fiber, which isn’t too shabby. My advice is consider adding extra protein or veggies if the portion seems skimpy for you, or if you try it and aren’t totally satisfied afterward. That’s usually what I recommend with frozen meals because they’re not all that filling on their own (and usually have way less veggies than the picture on the box portrays) but can be doctored up just a bit to be a more complete meal. Plus I really like the flavor of tahini sauce, so this one could be a great freezer staple to keep around for busy nights.
9. Jalapeno sauce.
This sauce is new to me! I love that the first ingredient is actually jalapenos, so you know that it’s going to be pretty flavorful. It also has 0 grams of added sugar, which is ideally what I like to shoot for when it comes to sauces and dressings (not against sugar, I just don’t think it’s necessary in these cases to get more flavor). Use this over grilled veggies, as a dip for chicken, shrimp, or veggie/tofu kabobs, as a salad or power bowl dressing, or anything else your little jalapeno-loving heart desires. I haven’t tried this one yet, so let me know how you like it!
10. Frozen seafood blend.
If you like seafood but don’t really know how to prepare it, this is a great idea. It’s a blend of shrimp, calamari rings, and bay scallops. Defrost, toss in olive oil, seasonings, salt, and pepper, and throw it in a saute pan, bake it, grill it, or, you guessed it, air fry it! Seriously, you could use that thing for really anything. I also like these tossed in a marinara sauce over pasta with veggies.
11. Brown rice and quinoa pasta.
You had me at “Cooks in 2-3 minutes.” This is such a great new find at TJ’s for anyone on a gluten-free diet (or anyone looking to try a new whole grain or two!). This is a mix of 100% brown rice and quinoa, which is awesome because a lot of quinoa pastas out there are quinoa flour mixed with a refined grain instead of a whole grain like brown rice. This just means that this pasta is going to have more fiber and protein to help keep you full. Plus I’m obsessed with this mini elbow shape. I see a lot of cold pasta salads in my future…
12. Organic chicken bone broth.
The only reason why this bone broth is on my list is because it seems like every single person is getting the worst cold/flu/I don’t know what this season. Getting sick like that totally decreases your appetite, making you less likely to meet your nutrition needs and putting you more at risk for unintended weight loss (not to mention your calorie, protein, and fluid needs all increase when you have an infection or fever). So it’s important to maximize the bites that you are able to take when you’re feeling under the weather by focusing on more nutrient-dense foods (i.e. foods that give you more “bang for your buck,” as in more nutrients per bite). This includes things like peanut butter, eggs, Greek yogurt, etc. Bone broth is also a great choice because a) it usually sounds great when you’re sick (especially if you have a sore throat); and b) one box has a whopping 21 grams of protein (keep in mind that it also comes with 630 mg of sodium, which is definitely considered a very high sodium food… which may be less of an issue if you aren’t eating sufficiently anyway).
13. Canned sardines.
Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and although they may not be everyone’s favorite texture and flavor, they may be just the kind of variety you’re looking for if you’re over other omega-3-containing fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel. Eat them plain with crackers or use as a topping on salads, toast, and pizza.
14. Mixed nut butter.
This is one of my favorite treats right now at TJs. It’s definitely a little bit of a splurge compared to your regular PB, but it’s worth it once in a while. It has an amazing roasted flavor and runny texture that is perfect for drizzling on yogurt, pancakes, smoothie bowls, yogurt, etc. Brazil nuts are the best source of the micronutrient selenium out there, so it’s pretty cool that they’re included in this product.
15. BBQ rub and seasoning with coffee and garlic.
The flavors! Perfect as a rub or for making a marinade for chicken, fish, pork, beef, and even tofu. I love using new ways to flavor up old favorites, and I’m sure this will make chicken breasts more interesting for all of us. There’s 50 mg of sodium per 1/4 teaspoon serving, so just keep an eye on how many teaspoons you use in your portion if you’re following a low sodium diet because that stuff can creep up on you quickly!
16. Nutritional yeast.
I’ve been absolutely in love with this stuff for years starting when I became lactose intolerant! Nutritional yeast does not actually have any active yeast as it has all been killed during processing. It’s an excellent source of complete protein (it is one of the only plant-based sources of all essential amino acids), vitamins (most notably B vitamins, especially vitamin B12), and micronutrients (like zinc). Nutritional yeast has a really nice cheesy flavor that can be used to make “cheesy” (like this favorite of mine) sauces or sprinkled (like a flaky Parmesan) on things like pasta, pizza, salad, and power bowls. But it’s not just for those on a dairy/lactose-free or plant-based diet! One of my favorite uses is to make plain homemade popcorn, drizzle with a great olive oil, and stir in a healthy amount of nutritional yeast for a nutrient-rich “cheesy” popcorn. Throw in some cayenne or crushed red peppers and it’s even better.
17. The Shell House meyer lemon spiked seltzer water.
Oh yeah. This is one of my favorite things to drink period. It doesn’t have any artificial sweeteners in it, so it tastes great and won’t give you the bloated and crampy feeling that those ingredients do. It has just a few grams of added sugar, so it also won’t leave you feeling like you just drank a soda. The flavor is so light and natural so I’ve found it super refreshing all summer long. Perfect to make a cocktail with too ;) And it’s gluten-free, so there’s nothing to worry about for a lot of you there.
Find something new? Did I mention an old favorite? What’s going to be on your next TJs shopping list? Drop a comment below and let me know!