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8 Tasty Trader Joe’s Frozen Meals That Are Dietitian-Approved

May 2, 2024
Courtesy of Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s is clutch for so many things: Affordable organic produce, dips and spreads, fun snacks. Plus, the freezer aisle is a treasure trove of meals, treats, pre-chopped veggies, and more. Though we’d love to cook from scratch for every meal, it’s just not reality — so we asked a registered dietitian to take us down the freezer aisle at Trader Joe’s to pick out some of the healthiest, best-tasting frozen meals.

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You asked: Is it OK to eat frozen dinners?

In a word: Yes. Given that most of us don’t have time to cook every single meal from scratch, frozen dinners can be part of a healthy diet, as long as you choose mindfully — especially when compared to options such as fast food. Research shows that people who opt for frozen meals instead of fast food take in a greater amount of more than 12 nutrients — including fiber, protein, potassium, vitamins A and B6, and calcium — than people who chose fast food.The frozen-dinner eaters also ate fewer calories. 

Of course, the same principles apply to frozen meals as other packaged foods: It’s important to read labels. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Serving size. Some frozen meals are meant to serve one; others contain multiple servings. Check the label and eat accordingly.
  • Added sugar. As with any packaged food, some frozen meals are high in added sugar, especially items covered in a sauce. Read the nutrition label and watch out for excess added sugar.
  • Excess sodium. Some frozen meals can run high in sodium. Avoid any with a ton of sodium (700 mg or more); or if you do choose one on the high side, opt for lower-sodium foods for the rest of the day. Note: The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 2300 mg of sodium daily for adults. 

What are the healthiest frozen dinners to eat?

Along with our recommendations for frozen meals at Trader Joe’s, here are some guidelines for shopping the freezer aisle:

  • Whole foods. Check the ingredients and aim for meals that are mostly or all whole foods. Avoid meals with very long ingredients lists, or that have a lot of ingredients you don’t recognize. Even if the label says “organic” or “plant based,” that doesn’t make it healthy; the proof is in the ingredient list.
  • Balance. If the frozen meal is going to be your main dish, make sure it contains a lean protein, some carbs (ideally vegetables, and if it has a starch, whole grains), and a small amount of healthy fat, such as olive oil. If you’re buying a frozen meal that’s mostly starch, such as mac and cheese, treat it like a side dish, and have a small portion next to lean protein and vegetables.
  • Consider extras. There are plenty of healthy frozen meals worth buying that need a boost — some additional vegetables, or more protein, for example. Keep bags of frozen vegetables and easy lean proteins (canned tuna, quick-cooking frozen burgers, etc.) on hand, so you can enjoy those convenient frozen meals and make them complete easily.

Here are 8 frozen meals worth buying from Trader Joe’s.

1. Chicken Burrito Bowl

Chicken Burrito Bowl

Courtesy of Trader Joe’s

“This bowl is one of my go-to frozen meals at Trader Joe’s,” says Megan Huff, RD. “It’s gluten-free, high in protein at 22 grams, and has no added sugar. Although its sodium level sits at a moderate 630 mg per bowl, it’s important to note that this is for a complete meal. I love that it has a blend of both brown rice and quinoa, which provides whole grains and plant-based protein.”

This flavorful bowl also has black beans, corn, tomatoes, poblano peppers, cheddar, and, of course, chicken.

2. Chicken Shawarma Bowl

Trader Joe's Chicken Shawarma Bowl

Courtesy of Trader Joe’s

Here’s another bowl with chicken, this one featuring pickled red onion, basmati rice, chicken, and a tangy, garlicky sour cream sauce. 

“The Chicken Shawarma Bowl is another of my favorites,” Huff says. “It packs 20 grams of protein from the chicken, which is seasoned to perfection. While this bowl contains red bell peppers and spinach, I do think that it’s lacking in the veggie department. Consider eating this bowl with a side of roasted veggies for some added fiber, vitamins, and minerals.” 

Related: Ranking the 10 Best Trader Joe’s Salad Kits  

3. Cheese and Green Chile Tamales

Trader Joe's Cheese & Green Chile Tamales

Courtesy of Trader Joe’s

“Since they’re made from corn flour, these tamales are a great gluten-free option. They have a decent amount of protein at 8 grams, but they’re relatively high in carbs, fat, and sodium,” Huff notes. “I’d recommend sticking to one tamale for a serving and eating it with a side of veggies for some added fiber.” 

4. Vegetable Biryani with Vegetable Dumplings

Trader Joe's Vegetable Biryani

Courtesy of Trader Joe’s

This is a good choice for anyone looking for a plant-based option, Huff says. “It’s a great source of fiber at 6 grams, and it contains turmeric, a spice known for its anti-inflammatory properties.”

Though it’s a hearty meal, with rice, cabbage, bell peppers, peas, and cauliflower, it’s light on protein, Huff warns. “With just 5 grams of protein per serving, the vegetable biryani may not fully satisfy your hunger,” she says. “Consider adding plant-based protein sources such as chickpeas or lentils for a more gratifying meal.” Or pick up a package of Trader Joe’s baked tofu.

Related: I Tasted 5 Trader Joe’s Frozen Pasta and This One Was My Favorite

5. Tortilla Espanola

Trader Joe's Tortilla Española

Courtesy of Trader Joe’s

A Spanish “tortilla” is nothing like a Mexican one; the European tortilla is a frittata traditionally made with eggs, potato, and onion. That’s exactly what the Trader Joe’s version is, and it’s a good choice for a meal any time of day.

“One serving of the omelet [one-sixth of the whole] provides 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of protein,” Huff says. “If you’re eating this for breakfast, I recommend eating one to two slices with a side of fruit and Greek yogurt to boost the fiber and protein content of your meal.” If you’re having it for lunch or dinner, try two slices with a salad that includes beans and/or some nuts or seeds.

6. Tarte aux Champignons

Trader Joe's Tarte aux Champignons

Courtesy of Trader Joe’s

If a frozen pizza and a fancy French meal had a baby, it would be this umami-rich flatbread, made with white and oyster mushrooms, a rich Emmental cheese sauce, and a sprinkling of Parmesan. It’s perfect for a night when you want a rich, indulgent meal, but also want a hassle-free, budget-friendly bite.

“This French-style flatbread is a savory delight,” Huff says. “It’s worth noting its relatively high levels of saturated fat and sodium, so opt for just 1 serving, half of the tarte. Balance your meal by pairing it with a refreshing side salad for added veggies and fiber, along with a protein source.” 

Pro tip: Cut the tarte into smaller pieces and serve it as an app at a party.

Related: 6 Healthy Trader Joe’s Frozen Foods Under $5

7. Chicken Tikka Masala

Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala

Courtesy of Trader Joe’s

This dish has been part of Trader Joe’s frozen meals lineup since 2009, and no wonder: With roasted chicken in a rich, tomato-based curry sauce over cumin basmati rice, it’s so flavorful.

“With a hearty 21 grams of protein, it’s guaranteed to leave you feeling content,” Huff says. “However, it’s worth noting that this dish doesn’t include any veggies, which means it’s lacking in fiber. To balance things out, I suggest pairing it with a side of roasted broccoli or your favorite vegetables. Also, if you’re lactose intolerant, be mindful that this curry is milk-based, so it might not be the ideal choice for you.” 

8. Japchae

trader joes japchae

Courtesy of Daily Waffle

Korean food has been trending for a while now, and japchae — gluten-free glass noodles made from sweet potato — is a favorite dish. The Trader Joe’s version has just a few wholesome ingredients, including a veggie stir fry with onion, spinach, carrots, and bell peppers.

“I love Trader Joe’s Japchae — it almost tastes as if you’re eating it at a Korean restaurant,” Huff says. “While full of colorful veggies, each serving has just 1 gram of protein; I would not consider this a balanced meal. Heat up some chicken, beef, or shrimp to make this a more satisfying meal that will keep you full. I’d also recommend eating half of the tray, as the ½ tray serving size contains 560 mg of sodium, 7 grams of added sugars, and 34 grams of carbs.”  

Read next: I’m a Food Writer and These 7 Trader Joe’s Meals Are Always Stocked in My Freezer

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