10 Trader Joe’s Grab-and-Go Items Nutritionists Love
We’ve all been there, even when we know we shouldn’t be there: grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Fortunately, Trader Joe’s has built its empire not only on affordability, but on quality and convenience, and it’s entirely possible to find a nutritionally worthy Trader Joe’s grab-and-go snack or meal that is ready to eat upon leaving the store.
“When purchasing convenience items, I weigh out the positives with the negatives,” says Trish Gomez, RD, CPT, and owner of The 5/10/15. “Look for items that will keep you satisfied. These will have higher protein, healthy fats, and fiber.”
When looking for Trader Joe’s grab-and-go items, Gomez recommends:
- For snacks, look for 3 to 5 grams of protein, less than 5 grams of saturated fat, and at least 3 grams of fiber.
- For meals, look for high-protein items that bank at least 15 grams, have less than 10 grams of saturated fat, and provide at least 5 grams of fiber.
It’s also important to consider when you’re looking for something to eat on the go is portion size, which can sometimes be misleading, especially for prepared items.
“When looking at a label, I like to start by determining if the portion size is worth it when compared to the calories,” says Ana Reisdorf, MS, and RD for The Food Trends, who cautions checking to make sure that what counts as a single portion is equal to your hunger. Even Trader Joe’s is sometimes guilty of offering ready-made foods that seem like they should be one serving — a burrito or sandwich, for example — but that count as two or more according to the nutrition label. The numbers might look good at first glance but can be problematic if you’re unknowingly eating multiple servings.
Reisdorf and Gomez both also recommend considering other factors like the ingredient list, steering clear of overly processed flours and oils, and keeping an eye on both added sugars and sodium. “You won’t always be able to find products that meet all of these criteria,” says Gomez, especially when you’re in a hungry-now situation, “but the key is being mindful with every purchase.”
Beyond the easy-to-compose lunch favorites like Trader Joe’s numerous salad kits, tucked into the refrigerated section with some of our favorite dips, sauces, and soups, TJ’s offers a handful of salads, sandwiches, and other items that require no assembly — just add fork or napkin. With the help of our nutritionists here, we break down the best Trader Joe’s grab-and-go options for when you find your stomach growling in the grocery aisles.
1. Vanilla Overnight Oats
As a fan of overnight oats, I can personally vouch here for their flavor and texture, but Trader Joe’s Vanilla Overnight Oats is more than just a good time whose only requirement is a spoon. “I love this product,” says Gomez.
“For the low-calorie content, it’s high in fiber and protein, sweetened with fruit, and loaded with anti-inflammatory ingredients. You could easily eat two if you needed to in order to stay full longer.” Reisdorf also co-signs on this, and has another strategy for upping the protein: “I might consider adding a few hard-boiled eggs to this for a bit more staying power,” she says. Conveniently, Trader Joe’s also offers hard-cooked, already-peeled eggs in the same department.
2. Almond Butter Chia Overnight Oats
If you like your overnight oats on the nuttier side, Trader Joe’s also has a convenient version for you. The almond butter in this overnight oats selection does provide a healthy dose of fat, but it’s the good kind and can keep you feeling full.
“I like that it’s higher in calories than the Vanilla Overnight Oats, and the fat is mostly unsaturated from the almond butter and chia,” says Reisdorf.
Gomez also points out it is “high in fiber, low in sodium, a good source of iron, and has no added sugar. I would choose this as a healthy breakfast, snack, or even dessert.”
Grab-and-go, nutritionist-approved dessert? This is why we love Trader Joe’s.
3. Cheese, Spinach, and Kale Egg Bites
These egg bites are another great convenience item that can work for breakfast or an anytime snack when hunger hits mid-shop.
“This is a good high-protein item,” says Reisdorf. “They are slightly higher in sodium than I would expect, likely because they are made with cottage cheese, but since they are fairly low in calories to be a meal on their own, I might pair them with a slice of whole grain toast,” or a piece of whole fruit, in keeping with the grab-and-go mentality.
Likely stocked next door to these veggie egg bites, Trader Joe’s also offers a Cheddar and Bacon version, which might seem counterintuitive as a healthy choice at first glance, but Gomez says they’re worth considering: “The higher protein and fat content may keep you fuller much longer, and this is a much better product than a fast food egg sandwich.”
4. Tuna Salad Wrap
Trader Joe’s has a number of wrapped sandwiches available in their grab-and-go section, but it’s important to note that all of them indicate a serving size of one-half a sandwich. This can be hard to monitor when you’re hungry, and eating on the go. Regardless, a few tasty wrap options still appealed to our nutritionists, beginning with a classic Tuna Salad Wrap.
“This is a good choice,” says Gomez. “Even though the serving size on this is only half wrap, the sodium content is low enough that you could eat the entire wrap and still meet your sodium recommendation. Also, it is high in protein and healthy fats,” meaning it will really satiate you until your next proper, sit-down meal.
5. Spicy Lentil Wrap
Legumes, including lentils, have some of the best track records when it comes to nutrition, so it’s no surprise that this Spicy Lentil Wrap also made the cut where grab-and-go sandwiches are concerned. (Again, it’s important to note that the serving size is one-half of the sandwich.)
“I would choose this item,” says Gomez, Plus, “you get plenty of fiber, and the combination of ingredients provides a complete, high protein vegan meal.”
6. Chickpea, Kale, and Crispy Red Rice Salad
When it comes to Trader Joe’s prepared salads, the main thing to look out for is added sugar. Many salad options in the convenience department had a staggering amount of added sugar, usually in the dressing. (Which, if something especially appealed to you, using only half of the dressing would be one way to get around it.) Still, there were some standouts, and speaking of legumes, the first star among Trader Joe’s prepared salads is one that features chickpeas.
“This is a great choice with a nice amount of protein and fiber,” says Reisdorf. “The carbs are a little high, but it’s to be expected with a salad with rice and chickpeas in it.”
Gomez also points out several other attributes that this salad brings to the table: “This vegetarian salad is high in fiber, an excellent source of iron, and a good source of protein, calcium, and potassium.”
7. Classic Greek Salad
A classic indeed, Trader Joe’s Greek Salad features some usual suspects such as cucumber, feta cheese, and kalamata olives, and also boosts the veggie profile with added red bell peppers.
“This salad is filled with healthy ingredients,” says Gomez, but notes that the protein content might not be equal to the task of managing your hunger at length. Fortunately, she has two grab-and-go solutions, making this still an excellent meal option with portability: “I would buy this and add some canned beans or tuna to make it a filling meal.”
8. Lemon Basil Orzo Salad
What better endorsement of a product than one that nutrition pros themselves grab off of the shelves? This is especially good news when it comes to something as craveable as a pasta salad. Loaded with flavor, Trader Joe’s Lemon Basil Orzo salad is also loaded with veggies such as peas and zucchini.
“I love this salad and eat it regularly myself,” says Reisdorf. “I think it makes for a great lunch, and I always add even more vegetables to it.”
9. Mediterranean Style Orzo Pasta Salad
Trader Joe’s offers yet another pasta salad option that is both tasty and healthy. While both pasta salad options feature basil, the Mediterranean-style salad has a slightly different flavor profile, incorporating spinach and sun-dried tomatoes into the mix.
“This would make a great snack, side item, or meal if you double the portion size,” says Gomez. (As with sandwiches, be sure to consult the label for what the portion size is.) “While it is a little higher on the sodium side, it has a good amount of protein, is low in saturated fat, and has very little added sugar.”
10. Peanut Udon Noodle Salad
To shift the noodle salad options away from the Mediterranean flavor profile, Gomez also endorses this Asian-inspired option.
“With anti-inflammatory ingredients like ginger, garlic, and lemongrass, and its low sodium and saturated fat content, this would make a great Trader Joe’s grab-and-go meal,” she says. “You could add thawed, frozen mukimame — shelled edamame — for added protein.”
Veggies are numerous, including carrots, bell pepper, and cabbage, as well as flavorful herbs, with basil, cilantro, Thai lime leaf, and spearmint all making the ingredient list.
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