Should You Shop at Trader Joe's? And My Current Favorite Picks.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been teaching on nutrition. I’ve been working with my group on food basics and dietary myth-busting. Basically I’m helping people make realistic, delicious, and wellness-giving diet makeovers.

All of the people I’m working with right now lead busy lives — they have ambitious jobs, full family lives, and the stresses of daily living. So helping them live happier and healthier lives needs to flow seamlessly into what they are already doing.

For most of them, this means planning healthy meals that are fast. And one serious way to do this is to grocery shop smartly.

This is what brings me to Trader Joe’s. It’s one of my favorite places to recommend people shop.

Why Do I Recommend Trader Joe’s?

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It’s no secret - I personally have a love affair with Trader Joe’s. I love to shop there and I go every week.

First of all, Trader Joe’s has pre-washed, pre-cut, and pre-cooked options that make eating well easier. They have pre-washed organic spinach and mixed greens, pre-cut organic butternut squash, and pre-cooked and frozen organic brown rice. Who doesn’t want that? In my decade of working in health and wellness, I have NEVER had anyone say they didn’t need time-saving in the healthy eating area.

Second, Trader Joe’s has high quality organic produce. I LOVE that. And while I always try to eat local, where I live right now doesn’t grow much in the winter. So I don’t feel bad getting non-local produce. (If you live somewhere with warm winters and lots of fresh local produce, the Trader Joe’s selection probably won’t impress you. But I live in the mountains in a dessert with lots of cold and snow. From where I’m sitting, the produce at TJ’s is strong.)

Third, the prices are fantastic. Especially when you compare them to other high-quality natural grocers. Even national chain ones. Healthy and affordable? What more could you want?

Fourth, Trade Joe’s is unique. They have rare seasonal offerings that can spice up your food repertoire. I love that. Who wants to eat the same old things all the time?

Fifth, the employees seem to genuinely enjoy working there. They smile, joke, and give off good vibes. It makes me feel good knowing I spend my money somewhere that creates and promotes a positive environment for the workers and the shoppers.

Also, did I mention the flowers? Just this week I showed my daughter all the different floral varieties. There were potted hydrangeas, lilies, orchids, succulents, and tulips. Not to mention the wide variety of fresh cut florals.

I should probably pause right now and let you know I have NO financial interest in Trader Joe’s. I don’t hold stock in them or make any money promoting them. I just truly love them.  

What Makes Me Nervous About TJ’s

For complete transparency, there are things I don’t love about Trader Joe’s.

For all the fantastic options, there are an equal number of non-fantastic options. To put it bluntly, there are lots of UNHEALTHY options at Trader Joe’s. In fact, sometimes it's trickier at Trader Joe’s because the unhealthy choices can be cloaked as “healthy.”

For example, I’m not wild about most of their frozen pre-made meals. They are often full of sodium, preservatives, and other wellness sabotagers.

There is TONS of sugar in many of their packaged offerings.

And the meat and seafood sections gross me out.

Why I’m Outlining My Current Picks

Because there are such great and not-so-great options, I made this list for you.

I want you to know the healthy go-to’s — the items you can buy knowing you are doing your health a favor.

So here we go!

Unsulphured Dried Apples

If you find yourself coming home from work famished and rifling though the cupboard for the first snack you can get your paws on, dried apples will be your new best friend. They are a fantastic snack option and superior to chips, crackers, and cookies.

These ones have a good texture (not too mushy, not too dry) and come in a clear package. I love the packaging because you can see them and reach for them right away (before you find the chips). The also obtain no sulfites, which is another bonus in my mind.

Organic Hearts of Romaine Lettuce

Now that the E.coli outbreak with mixed greens is over, I’m a HUGE fan of the organic hearts of romaine at Trader Joe’s. They last much longer than the mixed greens this time of year, taste great, and are a money saving value.

The bags come with three hearts and I typically cut them all at once, regardless of how much I need at the time. Next, I wash and dry them in my trusty salad spinner. Then I store what I don’t use in a glass container in the fridge with a lid. I find when I do this, the cut romaine lasts for a good week (though I eat so much it doesn’t normally stay in the fridge more than a few days).

Organic hearts of romaine are ALWAYS on my weekly shopping list.

Raw Almond Butter and Peanut Butter

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Nut butters can be EXPENSIVE. Especially when you venture into the organic and raw domaine (which I highly recommend).

Trader Joe’s has a great raw almond butter option without salt. It’s ingredients are top notch, it has a great taste, and the oil doesn’t separate out too much.

Ditto for the peanut butter.

These are typically on my weekly grocery list.

Organic Raw Cashews

Cashews are used weekly in my household. Most commonly, I add them to soups and blend them in the Vitamix for a creamy and rich taste and consistency sans dairy. Or I throw a few in with my smoothies.

Organic and raw nuts can be $$$. It’s nuts, really (sorry, but I can never resist a pun).

That’s why I love to buy them at Trader Joe’s. They tend to be fresh (even fresher than the ones I recently bought at Whole Foods) and at a fair price.

Organic Frozen Brown Rice

With a baby in the house, cooking time is at a premium. That’s why I LOVE these frozen brown rice packets for when I’m in a pinch. They are organic and pre-cooked. You just zap them in the microwave for 3 minutes and voila! You have brown rice ready to go.

I’m usually not thrilled with microwaving, but if time is a true issue I say go for it.


Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats

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If you like oatmeal for breakfast, this is a real treat.

If you’re a longtime reader, you know my thoughts on oatmeal and the breakfast mistake most people make. Hint: it involves microwavable oats from packets with added sugar.

Trader Joe’s helps take the time out of cooking steel cut oats. This option takes 8-minutes (instead of the typical 30 to 45) to make on the stove, as well as offering a microwave option.

Are you looking for a delicious oatmeal recipe? Try my Morning Glory oats (pictured above).

10 Minute Barley

This is another time saving savior from Trader Joe’s. Mushroom barley soup is a regular in my household this time of year. And having barley that cooks in 10-minutes is a life saver for me.

The Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Barley is partially pre-cooked. This means the barley still remains a whole grain, but just cooks faster. It cuts 40 minutes off cooking time and still tastes great.

Organic Pomegranate Vinegar

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If you want a quick salad dressing, this is it for you. Pomegranate vinegar has a delightful flavor, but is free of oil and added salt. It’s great splashed on a bed of greens or used instead of vinegar in recipes.

What Will You Try?

Now you have a list of Skye-approved Trader Joe’s food choices that can save you time and money.

What will you try next time you’re there?

Or did I forget one of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

Happy grocery shopping,
Skye