By Danielle Centoni
If you happen to live in the vicinity of a Trader Joe’s, you already know that the freezer aisle can be a life saver. With global flavors and on-trend ingredients (hello, jackfruit), the freezer meals at TJs are perfect for busy days when you only have time to nuke a quick lunch or dinner. Of course, not all of the options are particularly healthy. Whether you’re looking to keep the saturated fat low, the protein high, or pack in a few servings of whole grains and vegetables, you may have to do a little hunting.
But don’t worry: We did the work for you. We scoured Trader Joe’s to find dinners that offered a slew of veggies and whole grains, double-digit grams of protein, and little-to-no added sugar. Then we tasted through them to find the best ones.
Here are the five healthiest, most delicious freezer meals at TJ’s right now. Bonus: They’re all under 400 calories per serving.
1. Cod Provençale with Ratatouille and Rice, $3.99 for 12.3 oz
We were a little worried about how fish would fare after six minutes in the microwave, but it turned out perfectly flakey, tender, moist, and not at all “fishy.” The ratatouille was almost as good as homemade — rich, savory and thick with discernible chunks of zucchini and eggplant. You can taste the olive oil and herbs. And it was all served on a bed of brown rice and wild rice pilaf, which offered a deliciously chewy texture. This was by far the favorite, and a delicious way to eat more fish.
Calories: 370; Fat: 14g (2 g saturated); Sodium 540mg; Total Carbohydrates: 37g (6g dietary fiber, 5g sugar, 0g added sugar); Protein 23g
2. Reduced Guilt Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells, $2.69 for 8.5 oz
Vegetarians and pasta lovers should zero-in on this crowd-pleaser. We loved the plump pasta shells swimming in a bright and tomato-y marinara sauce. The generous scoop of spinach in the filling makes it a bit more nutrient-dense than the usual pasta and sauce. And it tasted comfortingly rich and cheesy even though it uses fat-free ricotta and reduced-fat mozzarella.
Calories: 280; Total Fat: 8g (4.5g saturated); Sodium: 500mg; Total Carbohydrate: 31g (3g dietary fiber, 8g total sugars, 1g added sugar); Protein: 19g
3. Chicken Burrito Bowl, $3.49 for 11.6 oz
Trader Joe’s Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl gets a lot of love, but it doesn’t compare to this burrito bowl when it comes to nutrition. Brown rice mixed with red quinoa is topped with black beans, corn, roasted peppers, chicken breast, shredded cheddar cheese and chipotle sauce.
Pro Tip: The chicken chunks were a bit dry, but once we added hot sauce, a squeeze of lime, and some chopped fresh cilantro, we thoroughly enjoyed this healthy bowl.
Calories: 370; Total Fat: 10g (4.5g saturated); Sodium: 650 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 51g (9g dietary fiber, 2g total sugars, 0g added sugars); Protein: 22g
4. Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Lasagna, $5.99 for 32 oz
TJ’s has a lot of freezer meals with pasta, but most are bowls of gooey decadence. This lasagna offers a much healthier alternative — plus it can feed a whole family. Instead of cheesy cream sauce, it goes all-in on roasted vegetables layered between sheets of multigrain pasta made with rye, oat and flaxseed. There’s a whole garden’s worth of vegetables in this dish, including zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, carrots and mushrooms.
Pro Tip: The tomato-based sauce was a bit bland, so we topped each serving with a spoonful of Calabrian chile paste and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan. It was delicious, fast, and filling.
Calories: 220; Total Fat: 5g (2g saturated); Sodium 380 mg; Total Carbohydrate 35g (5g dietary fiber, 5 g total sugars; 1g added sugar); Protein: 11g
5. Riced Cauliflower Bowl, $2.99 for 10 oz
This vegan bowl might just be the most nutritious meal in the whole freezer case: It’s completely made of veggies and tofu, with a based of riced cauliflower, and chickpeas, sweet potatoes, tofu, and kale on top. Although the box says it serves 2.5, we could easily polish off an entire bowl in one sitting and we’d only be doing ourselves a favor.
Pro Tip: We highly recommend a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for extra savory flavor, or maybe a few shakes of aminos or a dollop of herby-spicy zhug. An egg on top would be great too. Whatever you do to dress it up, you can’t go wrong with this bowl.
Calories (entire container): 280; Total Fat 16g (2g saturated); Sodium 370 mg; Total Carbohydrates: 27g (8g dietary fiber, 5g total sugars, 0g added sugar); Protein: 13g.