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15 Nutritionist-Approved Trader Joe's Foods for $5 or Less

15 Nutritionist-Approved Trader Joe's Foods for $5 or Less

We found a whole basket full of staples and snacks that are healthy, yummy, and won't break the bank.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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With the help of Cooking Light's Assistant Nutrition Editor Jamie Vespa, who often spends her days looking for the intersection of delicious meals and healthy ingredients, we pinpointed the healthiest groceries and ready-to-eat items in each aisle of Trader Joe's. What's more? They're all under $5.

Be sure to stock your cart with these must-haves the next time you find yourself at TJ's:

1) Trader Joe's Classic Smooth Hummus, $2.99

Hummus is one of those items you can't leave the store without—and Trader Joe's is no exception. It's priced to sell at just $3 per tub and it's a wonderful snack to pair with veggies or crackers at 80 calories for two tablespoons.

2) Multi-Grain Breakfast Waffles, $1.99

There are a lot of amazing granola blends and boxed cereals available at Trader Joe's for breakfast, and an equal amount of frozen items that you could enjoy first thing in the morning. But Vespa loves this frozen multigrain option because each serving is two whole waffles—a filling option at 230 calories and just 330mg of sodium, leaving you room to top with your favorite fresh fruit.

3) Frozen Spiralized Carrot Noodles, $2.99

Getting frozen spiralized veggies isn't a totally new concept—we settled the debate on which kind of spiralized veggie is best earlier this year when Green Giant released a line of microwave-friendly options. And while fresh options are probably going to be better tasting, Trader Joe's product is just as healthy. There's only one ingredient: carrots.

4) Pre-Cut Sweet Potato Ribbons, $3.49

But the produce section of Trader Joe's does have fresh options if you're dying for delicious spiralized veggies immediately. These sweet potato ribbons are great additions to salads and sauteés on the fly, and they're also amazing sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber.

5) Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala, $3.49

Trader Joe's is celebrated for what's probably the most expansive (read: best) frozen section—but that doesn't mean that all options are safe. There are plenty of salt bombs to avoid, but this chicken tikka masala is a solid option. The entire meal will cost you 360 calories and 580mg of sodium, but it also is a good source of protein at 21g.

6) Gluten-Free Crispbread Crackers, $4.29

Vespa is a big fan of these gluten-free flatbread crackers that are perfect for snack time—or, in a flash, can serve as a healthier substitute for sliced bread at lunch. These hefty crackers are made with a delicious seed-based mix and are just 130 calories.

7) Ezekiel Sprouted Sesame Bread, $4.49

If you're looking for a loaf to enjoy, however, Vespa is a huge fan of this sprouted sesame loaf. Trader Joe's Ezekiel bread is equally delicious as it is wholesome—each slice is just 80 calories, and carries 150mg of sodium.

8) Unsalted White Corn Tortilla Chips, $2.69

The Trader Joe's snack aisle is constantly changing, and we're always buzzing about new snacks and must-try products. Regardless of the hot new snack blazing the aisles of your local Trader Joe's, there are a few constant offerings that are definitely worth your attention: Like this gigantic bag of tortilla chips. There are different tortilla chips on sale at TJ's, but Vespa says the key is to grab the unsalted variety—you'll save big on calories and on sodium counts at snacktime.

9) Potato Fries Snack, $1.99

Skip the drive-thru—and the regret. These fun (and almost identical) potato sticks do not need ketchup! Half the bag is manageable at 300 calories and 130mg of sodium.

10) Dark Chocolate Bar, $1.69

If sweet cravings are more your style, Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Lovers bar is for you. It's free of sodium and cholesterol, and you can ration sweet treats all week as a third of the bar is totally manageable (and filling) at just 250 calories.

11) Shrimp Spring Rolls, $4.49

The ready-to-eat section at Trader Joe's is filled with delightful options for a meal on the go, like the store's collection of lunch-friendly salads. If you're foraging TJ's for a quick lunch, pair a side salad or one of your favorite light snacks with these shrimp spring rolls.

The spicy peanut dipping sauce is finger-licking good and the whole meal will only cost you 430 calories, 1g of saturated fat, and 290mg of sodium.

12) Riced Cauliflower Stir-Fry, $2.99

13) Frozen Porcini Mushroom Chunks, $3.69

Vespa loves each and every frozen vegetable in Trader Joe's arsenal, so it was hard to pick a winner—but these frozen porcini mushrooms are so flavorful and versatile, it was even harder to say no. Simply sprinkle them into any recipe you're cooking for an extra boost of meaty-mushroom health benefits.

14) Frozen Shelled Edamame, $1.79

Edamame is one of the most beloved appetizers or crowd-friendly snacks for any home cook—but Trader Joe's just made it that much easier by shelling the edamame, which reduces overall sodium counts drastically. A whole cup of this edamame is just 200 calories and mere 10mg of sodium, making it the best choice for a healthy starter.

15) Trader Joe's Sparkling Waters, $0.99

A trip to Trader Joe's isn't complete if you don't stroll down the beverage aisle. One of the greatest offerings in the entire store is Trader Joe's line of sparkling waters, which are constantly revolving around seasonal flavors and new products—including this watermelon variety, just in time for summer.

Honorable Mention: Green Tea, $1.49

And while you're there, check out this blueberry-and-pomegranate-infused green tea, which is best served on ice. It has zero sugar added and makes for a great substitute for other caffeinated, fizzy drinks—and might make for a great alcoholic mixer.


What to Buy at Trader Joe's, According to Dietitians

You don't have to shell out big bucks to score a load of delicious, healthy TJ's finds. Check out the best things to buy at Trader Joe's if you had just $30, according to dietitians.

Have you ever met someone without a deep affinity for Trader Joe&aposs? Nope. Same. Even those who take the "grocery shopping is the worst task on Earth" stance appreciate the veritable treasure trove of delicious, wallet-friendly snacks and staples at the cult-favorite grocer. There&aposs no denying that you can find all kinds of. let&aposs call them "indulgences," at TJ&aposs (have you had the cookie butter or chocolate lava gnocchi?), but it&aposs also an excellent place to shop for super healthy picks — that ring in at way, way more affordable prices than many other grocery stores. (Related: Is It Better to Live Near Trader Joe&aposs or Whole Foods?)

To get the ultimate stamp of approval, dietitians scoured the shelves and shared the best things to buy at Trader Joe&aposs if they were given a super wallet-friendly budget of only $30. Ahead, their tips on what to buy at Trader Joe&aposs.


Also known as cha siu bao, this addictive type of Chinese pork bun might be challenging to find if you’re not at morning or afternoon dim sum service at a Chinese restaurant. Unless, of course, you happen to grab the four-bun frozen package at Trader Joe&rsquos. I’ll confess the dough doesn&rsquot live up to fresh, homemade bao, but they still deliver. Plus, they’re so filling, two basically equal a meal.

How easy are they to cook? Steam over a pot of boiling water or on a steaming tray in a rice cooker, according to package instructions.


The Best Trader Joe's Foods of 2020

Rachel Linder/ Eat This, Not That!

From spices and seasonings to a wide array of frozen treats, Trader Joe's has all kinds of products that other grocery stores don't carry. Every trip to TJ's is an adventure, and you're sure to leave the store with some snacks or beverages you didn't intend to buy.

One of the most fun things about shopping at TJ's is the ever-changing selection of products. Here are some of the best new and limited-time products that have shown up at TJ's this year.


A Nutritionist’s Favorite Things to Buy at Trader Joe’s

It’s easy to beeline right for the peanut butter cups and frozen food at Trader Joe’s (not to mention the cheap wine), but it is good practice to put some healthier items in your cart. So we asked nutritionists to recommend their picks for the best healthy items to buy at Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s is an American grocery story that’s hugely popular among shoppers for its great prices, happy atmosphere, and its unique—and sometimes, healthy—food products.

“When shopping at many of these ‘healthy’ grocery stories, like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, people are sometimes under the impression that if they buy it there, it must be healthy,” says Elizabeth DeRobertis, Director of the Nutrition Center at Scarsdale Medical Group and White Plains Hospital. “But, we still want to keep our guard up and check nutrition labels for things, like calories and saturated fat.

If you’re a frequent TJ’s shopper, but sometimes wonder if the products you’re buying are actually good for you, here are 10 items DeRobertis swears by—and would recommend you to purchase when hitting up TJ’s, too.

1. Trader Joe’s Cage-Free Hard Cooked Peeled Eggs

“Often people are looking for a fast breakfast, high in protein, to take on-the-go. That’s why I’d recommend these pre-cooked hard boiled eggs from Trader Joe’s, which have just 60 calories and six grams of protein in each,” says DeRobertis.

They’re great for breakfast or even to eat as a quick snack. And, “the only thing that would make these eggs better is if they were organic,” DeRobertis adds. “I usually recommend purchasing organic—but these eggs are certainly better than picking up a doughnut for breakfast.”

2. Trader Joe’s Dover Sole

If you enjoy eating a delicate fish, try purchasing Trader Joe’s Dover Sole. “It’s wild-caught, and is sold at a better price than you’ll find at other supermarkets,” DeRobertis says.

“Fish, in general, is an excellent source of lean protein that is very low in saturated fat,” DeRobertis says. This particular Dover Sole option has just 90 calories and 15 grams of protein per serving.

If you’re unsure of how to prepare it, “Trader Joe’s even provides some preparation tips on their labels,” DeRobertis points out. Or try simply broiling it with a healthy sauce on top.


5 Easy Trader Joe’s Meals (5 ingredients or less!)

Deep question of the day: where do you guys grocery shop?

I tend to shop based on proximity, but the store has to have the natural and organic selection of foods I’m looking for or it just won’t work. In my current neighborhood (West Hollywood!) there are quite a few options within walking distance. I tend to visit most of them (Whole Foods, Gelson’s and Bristol Farms) on a pretty regular basis to see what new foods are out there, but Trader Joe’s is, without a doubt, a weekly stop for me. I can find most of the things I need – and for a pretty reasonable price – but I’ve got to admit that I love the frozen and convenience foods that Trader Joe’s offers. (If you’re ever wondering how something is, just ask. I’ve probably tried it!)

Recently, my friend Lynn and her husband came up with this super-clever buzzfeed video featuring Trader Joe’s mashups:

I loved the video and the premise – it’s absolutely what inspired this post!

I started brainstorming some of my favorite trader joe’s combinations that fit the following criteria:

  1. under five ingredients (all but one are made with three ingredients)
  2. fairly healthy (all of them come in under or around 500 calories)
  3. include a vegetable (because every meal should!)
  4. delicious (again, because every meal should be!)

Here are the 5 Trader Joe’s meals that I came up with:

Classic Southern Dinner:

Let’s start with an easy, classic meal: bbq chicken breast, mac & cheese and collard greens. Prepare the mac & cheese and bbq chicken as directed and lightly steam or saute the collard greens. *I really like their “reduced-guilt” mac & cheese, but have yet to try the gluten-free variety!

Palak Paneer Eggs:

Why have I not combined Indian food with eggs before? Ah-mazing. Top cooked palak paneer with a fried or poached egg and serve with hot naan. This will definitely become a regular in our meal rotation – perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Tortilla Pizza:


Tortilla pizzas are one of my favorite meals and considering that I’ve eaten them on regular basis for years, it was a no-brainer. When topped with sauce, arugula, cheese and turkey meatballs, this is a particularly filling pizza. Simply bake the tortilla until crisp, top with sauce, cheese, arugula and warmed meatballs and bake until cheese has melted. (Brown rice and sprouted tortillas are my favorite to use.)

Chimichurri Rice & Sausage:

Chimichurri rice is a somewhat new item and I’m so glad I finally put it in my cart – it’s delicious (so is the kimchee rice!). When it’s combined with chicken sausage and a vegetable, you’ve got a balanced dinner that comes together in minutes. Slice and saute the sausage and rice as directed while you roast the broccoli in the oven.

Pasta with Mushrooms & Parmesan:

This vegetarian meal is delicious and simple. And absolutely OUTSTANDING if you add a drizzle of truffle oil or sprinkling of truffle salt. Simply prepare the pasta and mushrooms as directed and top with a sprinkling of cheese. Use your favorite pasta variety.


Tea Time: What Are The Benefits Of Green Tea?

Just Coconut Chunks

Coconut is a great source of anti-inflammatory saturated and medium-chain fats, which is why it’s a go-to food on the Bulletproof Diet. But who has the time (and the courage) to crack open a coconut? Try Trader Joe’s frozen coconut chunks — just coconut, and nothing else. Throw into a smoothie or eat as is for a filling, fat-fueled snack.

Organic Grass-Fed Ground Beef

“A great product that is very versatile and can be made into a stir-fry with some chopped vegetables, used in a chili, or as taco meat,” says Schmidt. “Grass-fed meat has a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids compared to the conventional version.”

Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter

Organic, grass-fed butter is a Bulletproof staple. Stir it into your Bulletproof Coffee or spread it on a hearty slice of keto bread . A half-pound of Kerrygold typically sells for $4.99 at gourmet supermarkets, but at Trader Joe’s, you can snag that same amount for under $3.

Saba Bananas (Mini Plantains)

Since they’re high in calories, sugar, and carbs, you should think of plantains more as a starch than a fruit. They’re a good form of resistant starch — which is great for gut health — and it’s best to eat them at night with probiotics. Throw these frozen guys in a smoothie or simply eat straight out of the bag.

Related: Is There Such a Thing As Bulletproof Resistant Starch

Riced Broccoli

If you have cauliflower rice fatigue, switch it up for Trader Joe’s riced broccoli.

“Toss in a salad or throw in a stir-fry,” says Schmidt. “Broccoli is high in vitamin K and C, and high in folate. Be sure to use this vegetable shortly after purchase to retain most of the vitamin C, otherwise put it in the freezer and pull it out when you want to cook.”

Try it in a recipe: Korean Beef Bowl With Kimchi

Raw Almond Butter

You don’t want to eat too many nuts — they are often high in mold toxins and omega-6 fats (these oxidize easily and cause inflammation). Raw almonds are one of the safer nut choices — they’re rich in vitamin E, antioxidants, and phytosterols. Enjoy Trader Joe’s raw almond butter on celery sticks as a snack. Or mix equal parts almond butter and grass-fed butter with cocoa powder — eat with a spoon or spread on veggies.

Canned Sardines in Water

It may have a strong, fishy flavor, but it’s hard to beat the health profile of this low-mercury, oily fish. Chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium, sardines added to salad or mashed with avocado are the bomb.

“Drain the sardines and mix with some olive oil, dijon mustard, and fresh lemon juice,” says Schmidt. “Try this food with an open mind and be surprised at how pleasant it can be.”

Organic Virgin Coconut Oil Packets

Talk about convenience: you get 14 mini packs (.51 fluid ounces each) for $3.99. For those days when you’ve run out of your Brain Octane Oil (a more powerful source of fat than coconut oil ), stir one of these packets into your coffee or tea. It won’t have the same benefits as BOO but it’ll give you a bump of energy nonetheless. You could even use a pack as a spot moisturizer on dry elbows or as a hair conditioner on your ends.

Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for direct, individual medical treatment or advice. It is the responsibility of you and your healthcare providers to make all decisions regarding your health. Bulletproof recommends that you consult with your healthcare providers regarding the diagnosis and treatment of any disease or condition. Products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Alison Moodie is a health reporter based in Los Angeles. She has written for numerous outlets including Newsweek, Agence France-Presse, The Daily Mail and HuffPost. For years she covered sustainable business for The Guardian. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she majored in TV news. When she's not working she's doting on her two kids and whipping up Bulletproof-inspired dishes in her kitchen.


Classic Wine Party Menu

For a few folks you want to impress, this classic snack spread should be your go-to list. Everything here is party neutral: that means it’s exactly what you expect at a nice get-together, and everyone can find a little something to nosh on. If you happen to have bottles of wine already in the cooler, you can skip those on your list and get a second dip, like Avocado & Tzatziki Dip ($3.49), and a whole baguette ($1.99), instead of the demi. If your crew prefers their drinks to their nibbles, skip the almonds and grab a case of Blood Orange and Orange Juice Seltzer Water ($2.99). Make a little cocktail moment with the seltzer water, a splash of OJ, and a bit of gin.


15 Foods a Nutritionist Always Keeps in Her Fridge

From dairy-free pesto to sauerkraut, these are the essentials Cynthia Sass, RD, likes to have on hand.

Healthy eating is my foundation, and I like to think of a well-stocked fridge as pre-production for everyday life. Having the right mix of nutritious foods on hand helps me hit my daily target for veggies and fruit, and lets me throw together simple but balanced meals, so I don&apost ever have to rely on takeout.

To stock up for the week, I shop at multiple spots, including my local farmer&aposs markets, Trader Joe&aposs, Whole Foods, traditional supermarkets, and on amazon.com. I&aposd say I spend about $100 per week on groceries (some of the things I buy aren&apost pictured because I keep them in the pantry or freezer). But I rarely spend any money dining out. Below is a peek inside my fridge, and a list of my 15 essentials.

Keep in mind that I don&apost eat gluten, dairy, soy, red meat, processed carbs, and refined sugar. I have an autoimmune condition, and avoiding these things makes helps me feel healthier and happier. But you may want to add some of my staples to your own shopping list.

1. Vegetable broth

I use the broth to sauté veggies for dinner in place of extra virgin olive oil, when I want to include another healthy fat in the meal, like nuts or avocado. I also use this to make a quick stew or soup. I just sauté minced onions in extra virgin olive oil, add garlic, herbs, spices, and broth, bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer, add more veggies and a scoop of steamed lentils or beans, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.

2. Dairy-free pesto

I always keep a few jars of Seggiano&aposs dairy-free pesto in the fridge ($10, amazon.com). I use it as a dip for raw veggies or toss it with greens, chickpeas, steamed broccoli, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes, or spaghetti squash.

3. Chickpeas

I oven roast them as a snack, add them to salads for plant-based protein and fiber, or use them to make my own homemade hummus. I also keep the liquid to make aquafaba.

4. Plant-based milks

I usually keep three types of plant-based milks in the fridge: coconut milk, almond milk, and pea protein milk. These are typically used for smoothies, overnight oats, and golden milk. I also love to use plant-based milks in chia or avocado pudding (my current favorite treat), or to make mock “ice cream” mixed with fruit, chopped dark chocolate, spices or herbs, and nuts. Ripple, the pea protein milk, contains 8 grams of protein per cup, so I’ll use it when I want to bump up my protein intake without having to add a protein powder.

5. Canned tuna

I always keep a can of sustainably-sourced tuna or salmon in the fridge (I like either Wild Planet, $31 at walmart.com or Safe Catch, $30 at walmart.com). For another quick meal, I mix the tuna or salmon with a combination of organic balsamic vinegar, stone ground mustard, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning and serve over chopped kale with a small scoop of quinoa and half of an avocado.

6. Pastured eggs

For a quick breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I’ll sauté veggies in the low-sodium organic vegetable broth, add eggs to scramble, and serve with half of an avocado. When I have more time I also make a crust-less veggie frittata or quiche.

7. Fresh veggies

I try to mix it up, but right now I have kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, and carrots. I eat veggies with every meal, and snack on raw veggies by dipping them in hummus, guacamole, or pesto. I also use cucumbers to infuse my water with added flavor.

8. Guacamole cups

I eat a lot of fresh avocado and homemade guac, but I keep individual cups of Wholly Guacamole (available at Walmart) in the fridge as a back-up, or for when I’m taking guac and veggies on the go.

9. Hummus

I enjoy making my own hummus, but I typically keep a store-bought version in the fridge—I like Hope brand ($60 for 8-pack, amazon.com) for when I’m pressed for time. Guac and hummus are great vehicles for eating more veggies. I never keep chips or crackers around because I love scooping up hummus with cucumber, carrots, red bell pepper, or broccoli florets.

10. Sauerkraut

For gut health, I keep some type of fermented plant-based food—sometimes kimchi, but currently sauerkraut (available at health food stores)—in my fridge. I’ll add the kraut to a salad, add a layer to hummus to scoop up with veggies, serve it as a side with dinner, or just eat it by itself.

11. Apple cider vinegar

I use Bragg brand organic raw apple cider vinegar ($7, amazon.com) to make a drink with organic honey, lemon, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and water—or just the honey and water if I’m having golden milk. (To learn more about the buzzy vinegar, check out "These Are The Real Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar.")

12. Sparkling water

While I prefer flat water these days, I keep some sparkling on hand, especially for guests. It’s nice to serve in a fancy glass with a few mashed berries, or some fresh grated ginger and a slice of fresh pineapple.

13. Water-filtering pitcher

I try to drink one pitcher per day. When I&aposm leaving home, I fill my stainless steel S&aposwell bottle from the pitcher.

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14. Probiotic supplement

Along with a fermented food like kimchi or sauerkraut, I take a daily probiotic from Nature&aposs Way ($30, amazon.com) to promote gut health.

15. Fresh fruit

As with vegetables, I aim for a variety. Currently, my fridge is stocked with blueberries and blackberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, and lemon. I eat fruit with breakfast every day and as a snack along with nuts, seeds, or olives. Ginger root and lemon make great water enhancers, too.

Cynthia Sass isHealth’s contributing nutrition editor, aNew York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.


Natural and Organic Vases & Vessels I’m Loving

I am all about the earthy textures these days — even more-so as I inch towards the completion of our conversation room and some of the larger, versatile, more textured vases I’ve invested in over the past couple of years have proven to be a positive investment. I tend to reach for them most often, I try to keep them all in use (with or without flowers), and I love the juxtaposition of dainty flowers against a more masculine/rugged vessel. Here are a few current pretties worth checking out! Each can be found linked at the bottom of the graphic.

I actually have a pair of Number 3 — sometimes I used them individually and other times, I have them positioned on the top shelves of my built-ins. If you aren’t totally down with the gritty look of some of these vessels, this one has a beautiful crackle throughout that makes it unique, but still polished. Number 14 isn’t as large as some of the others, but it is a steal at $17.99. I actually have this stoneware piece in an urn version and it’s beautiful in person. It also isn’t too stark as it’s a nice, neutral, warm shade. Number 10 has been a favorite of mine, in my own house, for a few years now. My favorite flowers for this unique vase are leggy stems, magnolia branches, and eucalyptus. If you’re more into branches, this is a great option. It’s also on sale today HERE. I have Number 5 in the two-handled version and it is such a beautiful contrast in the room I’m using it in — plus, if you’ve been looking for ways to incorporate a little dark contrast, this is an easy addition. I have Number 8 in its largest version on my fireplace and it is by far, one of my most favorite pieces ever. Number 4 and Number 11 are still on my wishlist!

For upcoming 2021 projects, be sure to subscribe to my emails at the bottom of the post you can follow me for daily sharing on Instagram HERE.