People love Trader Joe’s for their selection of convenient ready-to-eat meals. They can be a total lifesaver for busy professionals and time-crunched parents everywhere. But when you grab one of those tasty meals out of the freezer aisle, do you really know what you’re getting?
Convenience foods often come at a price: Ease and simplicity in exchange for your health. Luckily, Trader Joe’s does offer many fun and easy foods that are actually good for you. Keep reading for a few of our favorites below.
Are convenience foods worth it?
We’ve all been there: You had a really long day at work, the kids are crying in the back seat, and the last thing you want to do is go home and spend an hour in front of the stove. It can be really tempting to just grab some fast food or pop a TV dinner in the microwave. But will you end up regretting that decision later?
Convenience foods are commercially prepared foods created explicitly to give people an easy option. Unfortunately, most processed foods provide little to no nutritional value and have excessive amounts of sodium, added sugar, and saturated fats (not to mention MSG and artificial flavors and colors). While these foods are bad for anyone, they are particularly harmful to those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
How is Trader Joe’s different?
Unlike other prepackaged or “convenience” foods, Trader Joe’s offers a more health-conscious selection. Registered dietician Sheila Flavin, M.S., R.D.N. says, “I’ve definitely recommended Trader Joe’s food to clients. It’s much better to have foods like these ready to go in your freezer than to get take out when you’re starving, busy, or in a rush.”
Browse the aisles of the popular market, and you’ll find plenty of good-for-you meal options that will reduce your prep and cook time – all while sticking to your clean eating plan. From organic riced cauliflower to a variety of pre-made salads, these convenience foods make it easy to get dinner on the table fast, without sacrificing nutrition.
1. Organic riced cauliflower
Riced cauliflower has been all the rage for the past few years. With only 25 calories per cup and a ton of fiber, it’s a super-healthy alternative to more traditional options. Trader Joe’s comes in both refrigerated and frozen versions, and they’re both crazy versatile.
Joy Bauer, TODAY nutritionist and founder of Nourish Snacks, says, “I typically make my own, but it’s great to be able to skip a few cooking steps on hectic weeknights and get dinner on the table faster. Plus, I have one less mess to clean up.”
Try it paired with a healthy protein like grilled chicken or salmon and a stir-fried veggie. If you’re in the mood for something a little spicy, try TJ’s Sriracha baked tofu. Marinated for 12 hours prior to baking, this tofu packs quite a wallop (and has a whopping 30 grams of protein to boot!)
2. Chicken burrito bowl
A burrito bowl from a fast-food chain can come with tons of saturated fat and added sodium. But at only 380 calories, this Trader Joe’s option packs in 10 grams of fiber, 22 grams of protein, and just 3 grams of sugar. With ingredients like chicken, brown rice, black beans, quinoa, corn, and chipotle seasoning, it’s a great option for when you’re craving Mexican without the guilt.
3. Creamy low-sodium tomato soup
Tomatoes are a great source of fiber, potassium and vitamins A, C and K. Serve them up as a tasty soup, and you can’t go wrong! Trader Joe’s makes an amazingly delicious (and healthy) variety that’s great as a meal or a snack. It has the rich, creamy feel you love with just 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Add a pack of TJ’s frozen veggies for some texture, or pair it with a slice of whole-grain bread to dip.
4. Turkey meatballs
Everyone loves meatballs – that’s a fact. Sadly, the traditional beef and pork variety can be terrible for your health. In fact, many people, due to health issues, are advised to stay away from red meat altogether.
TJ’s turkey meatballs offer a nutritious, and delicious, alternative. Just two of the meatballs have 12 grams of protein and only 5 grams of fat.
Eat them topped with healthy tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parm, pair them with zoodles or put them on a whole-grain roll for a drool-worthy sandwich.
5. Mexican style corn and quinoa salad
When you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, Trader Joe’s has dozens of pre-made salads you can choose from. One of our favorites is the Mexican style corn and quinoa salad. With layers of brightly colored tomatoes, kale, and red and green cabbage, it is just loaded with antioxidants and vitamins. Paired with the tasty roasted poblano dressing, this salad makes a nice side or main dish. To make it heartier, simply add some tofu, grilled tempeh, shrimp, or the healthy protein of your choice.
6. Wild salmon burgers
TJ’s wild salmon burgers are a lifesaver when you’re craving a burger but don’t want all the calories. Made with wild salmon, carrots, celery, and onions, these patties turn out moist and flavorful with just the right of crispness on the outside. And, because they’re quick-frozen, they take just a couple of minutes to get ready. Slice one up and put it on top of a salad with some TJ’s Cilantro Chive Yogurt Dip for a healthy weeknight meal.
7. Organic acai puree packets
If a quick snack is what you need, look no further. Acai bowls at smoothie shops are usually LOADED with sugar, but you can use these pouches to make your own bowl at home with your favorite fruit toppers. Since they’re unsweetened, you’ll know exactly how much sugar is going in. Don’t feel like making the effort? No worries: These are super tasty as-is, without any add-ins!