Published on December 7, 2018

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Illustration by Phuong Nguyen

Trader Joe’s is perhaps best known for its most decadent creations, like the obscenely brilliant Cookie Butter, Mandarin Orange Chicken, and Dark Chocolate PB Cups. It isn’t really associated with wellness items or healthy picks—but it should be, says Jackie Topol, an integrative dietician at Integrative Health and Wellbeing at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. The beloved grocery store is her favorite spot for weekly healthy groceries because of the convenience, the prices, and the ease of food prep.

When asked to share a handful of her healthful food picks, she couldn’t stop at just a few. Instead, Topol compiled a comprehensive list of her absolute must-grabs. From produce to the pantry to the frozen aisle, you’re covered. Get ready to print this for your next grocery shopping excursion.  

Frozen

Cauliflower Gnocchi

The internet is abuzz with this product and for good reason. “It’s not terribly different from regular gnocchi in terms of taste, but it is only 140 calories for a one-cup serving compared to potato gnocchi, which is about 250 calories,” says Topol.

Organic Wild Blueberries

Stock up on these for all your smoothies and overnight oats. Plus, they contain more antioxidants than regular blueberries, says Topol.

Multigrain Blend With Vegetables

It might be easy to overlook the humble bag of frozen veggies, but you shouldn’t. Topol grabs them as a base for a quick lunch and adds some sauteed kale for a perfectly balanced plant-based meal.

Organic Riced Cauliflower

Now is the time to see what all the hoopla is for riced cauliflower. “It’s an awesome no-carb option that mimics the texture of rice and cooks in no time,” says Topol. She recommends sauteing it with a bit of olive oil and seasoning (ginger, garlic, tamari, and toasted sesame oil are her favorites), and then add some veggies and protein. “You have a meal in under 10 minutes.”

Organic Brown Rice and Quinoa

It’s always a good idea to stock up on these healthful basics, especially when you need dinner to come together in a pinch.

Pantry

Everything But the Bagel Seasoning

We’ve fangirled out hard on this “bottle of magic” before, but allow us to do it again. “I love sprinkling some on roasted vegetables (especially asparagus and broccoli), hard-boiled eggs, and salmon,” says Topol. It’s the perfect boost to plain old steamed or roasted veggie fatigue—just top them with EBTBS.

Chili Lime Seasoning Blend

In the spirit of “magic in a bottle,” may we intro you to a close second—the chili lime blend. “My favorite thing to put this on is avocado toast and grilled tofu (PS: Organic extra-firm tofu is also a great deal at TJ’s!),” says Topol. “It gives food a nice tangy mild kick.” Noted.

Nutritional Yeast

If you aren’t familiar with nutritional yeast yet, it’s basically known as vegan Parmesan because of its rich, addictive cheesy flavor. Topol uses it as she would parm, adding it in soups or pesto with basil and pine nuts or even sprinkling on top of fresh popcorn. “It’s also a great source of several B vitamins, including B12.”

Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Organic coconut oil can be pretty pricey in other stores, but TJ’s has it for a fantastic deal. “It’s not my go-to cooking oil (olive oil and avocado oil are), but for certain veggies and dishes, it adds a wonderful hint of sweetness,” says Topol.

Ancient Grain and Super Seed Oatmeal

If oatmeal is your typical breakfast, this is an excellent healthy upgrade, thanks to the addition of quinoa, amaranth flakes, almonds, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp, flax, and chia seeds. “You’ll stay full a bit longer since there are more fiber and protein in this than your standard oatmeal,” says Topol.

Just a Handful of Raw Almonds

“These portion-controlled little packets of almonds are one of my favorite things at TJ’s, and I regularly recommend them to my patients,” she says. While it may seem more convenient to just grab the economy size, these handy to-go packs are perfect for portion control. “It can be very easy to have a few handfuls of nuts from a large bag, which can quickly add up to hundreds of calories, so these perfectly sized bags will help you snack smartly,” says Topol.

Creamy Almond and Peanut Butter

“I love that TJ’s nut butters are just nuts and salt,” says Topol. Meaning there is no palm oil or partially hydrogenated oils, which are frequently found in other nut butters.

Organic Beans

Canned beans aren’t always a smart health choice, from the sodium levels to the unsafe aluminum interaction. Topol says this is one of the only beans she actually purchases, and they’re perfectly healthy. “All the beans that TJ’s has are a great price, and it’s a convenient item to have on hand to throw into a salad or stew to get some extra protein.”

Organic Reduced Fat Coconut Milk

The ingredients on this couldn’t be simpler: water and organic coconut. “Believe it or not, some brands that make coconut milk contain guar gum, which can be difficult for some people to digest,” she says.

Produce

Cut Butternut Squash

Fresh produce might not seem like the first purchase you’d get at Trader Joe’s, but Topol says it has an incredible selection of fruits and vegetables at great prices, like cut butternut squash, which is a huge pain to break down, even with the best peeler and sharpest knife. Topol loves to toss this with some coconut oil and cinnamon for a quick and easy side.

Steamed Lentils

Just as the pantry staple is convenient for last-minute dinners, this pre-cooked version takes it up another notch in convenience. Topol throws it into salads, soups, or grain-based dishes to provide more protein and fiber.

Green Goddess Salad Dressing

Who doesn’t love a green goddess dressing? The store-bought ones can have an excessive amount of stabilizers, making it not so healthy. This delicious dressing, though, is made with super-clean ingredients (avocado, apple cider vinegar, green onions, lemon juice, chives, parsley, olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, yellow onion, basil, garlic, sea salt, and black pepper) and contains no preservatives. “Besides salads, it’s great in grain-based dishes too,” says Topol.

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