Use this healthy Trader Joes shopping list to guide you through the store! For first-time shoppers, Trader Joes can be somewhat of an overwhelming place. With their own branding and graphics on many items, things can be hard to recognize or identify.
And while there are lots of nutrient dense foods, they can sometimes get buried in the not-so-healthy options that the store carries as well. Here are some of my favorite ways to eat clean and healthy at Trader Joes!
As you walk through Trader Joes, it's easy to be unsure of yourself - where to look? Where to head? Where is the "regular" grocery store layout I'm used to?
Don't stress - it takes a bit of practice, but once you learn their style, Trader Joes is the jam. Reasonable prices and healthy options abound, if you know where to look. Let's go!
Trader Joes has got the produce section on lock. They know you're busy and know you're short on time. Are we going to zig zag our own butternut squash on a Tuesday evening? Probably not. But will we roast some butternut squash that someone else zigged and zagged for us? Probably.
Bagged broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, riced cauliflower, chopped onions, shaved brussel sprouts, and trimmed and washed green beans are just a few of the time saving prepped veggies you can find at Trader Joes.
Prepped and easy produce
In addition to pre-chopped and prepped veggies, they offer an awesome variety of pre-mixed veggies. Some of my favorites of these are below:
Garden Vegetable Hash - Cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, fire roasted corn, celery, and yellow onion. A great addition to spruce up a salad, or would be excellent roasted in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil.
Asparagus Sauté - Asparagus, mushrooms, and red onion, chopped and ready to go. Try it with some chicken or steak. Add a bit of sauce and dinner is done!
Healthy 8 - A versatile chopped veggie mix that can be used in so many ways. Salads, stir fry, roasted.
Asian Stir-Fry - We love cooking this up with some chicken and a bit of stir fry sauce. Watch your ingredients on the store-bought versions, though. There's a pretty simple homemade version in my chicken stir fry post here, or you can grab some coconut aminos from Thrive Market like this one, mix it up with a little garlic and ginger, and call it good.
Not familiar with Thrive Market? No problem. You can check out my review all about Thrive Market here!
Bagged salads aren't always the healthiest option when it comes to salad - often times toppings and dressings can contain a lot of ingredients and chemicals that you can avoid when making the salad yourself.
They can also pack a big punch of calories and fat, depending on what's in them.
However, bagged salad in a pinch can still be a healthier option than many other choices. From the Southwestern Chopped Salad, Buffalo Ranch Chopped Salad, Yellow Curry Chopped Salad, and Vegan Ranch Crunch, Trader Joe's has lots of flavorful choices that can make for an easy meal.
Add some cooked chicken for protein (which they sell, btw) and dinner is done!
If you're feeling handy, check out my homemade clean version of the Southwestern Taco Salad!
Sauces, dressings, dips and more
Oh sauce, how I love you.
Sauce can make or break a meal, and the healthy Trader Joes sauces are on point.
Trader Joe's has a very strong sauce game, starting with their salad dressings. Their green goddess (you can make a homemade copycat version with my Green Goddess recipe here!) is one of my favorites, and the Spicy Cashew Butter Dressing is incredible if you like a little heat.
A list of Vegan Caesar and Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing, Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette, and Cilantro Dressing round out the cast of dressing characters. Yum.
There's also a whole wall of dips and sauces that's typically by the lunchmeat and cheeses. The Zhoug Sauce and Cashew Fiesta Dip that reside in that section are two of our favorites.
Zhoug sauce is great tossed with some roasted veggies. It's also great on steak or chicken!
Cashew Fiesta Dip is great dairy free spread on some Simple Mills Almond Flour crackers, or melt it a bit in the microwave and use it a as a cheese dip with some tortilla chips.
Continuing on our sauce and condiment journey, we navigate into the nut butters - peanut, almond, cashew, and even mixed nut blends mean there's an offering for everyone.
And if you can't do nuts, no problem - Trader Joes also has a sugar free SunNut butter available. My son's school is nut-free, so this is the only way he can take "pb" and j for lunch!
To add to the healthy PB and J option, they have something that is soooo hard to find in so many other places - no sugar added jelly. It's sweetened with fruit juice. I buy one of each flavor and keep them stocked in the pantry.
And not to be left out, the two most trustworthy sauce/seasoning options that are always at the top of my healthy Trader Joes shopping list...
First up, the best hot sauce ever. It's got no sugar added, no crazy chemicals, and is the perfect amount of heat and spice.
Everything But the Bagel seasoning is the most versatile go-to seasoning.
We put it on scrambled eggs, roasted broccoli, and everything in between. I even love it on roasted chicken with a drizzle of my favorite olive oil.
If I could only have two things to add flavor from now until forever, these would be it!
Meats and proteins, fresh and frozen
Trader Joes carries all of the typical meats you might shop for - ground beef chicken breasts, pork tenderloin.
However, they also sell a number of either pre-cooked or prepared meats, and they can be so incredibly handy if you're in a hurry.
One of my favorite go-tos on my healthy Trader Joes shopping list in this category is the pre-cooked chicken sausages. They come in SO MANY flavors: sweet italian, spicy jalapeno, sweet apple, roasted garlic, and more. Some of the ingredient lists are worse than others, but all are fairly clean.
I use the italian sausage in this Sheet Pan Fall Flavors Meal - and you can get everything you need to make it right at Trader Joes.
They also sell small portions of frozen fish, frozen bags of shrimp and other seafood.
And if you're really in a hurry, they even have pre-made burgers of various kinds, to include grass-fed beef, shrimp, and mahi mahi.
Healthy Trader Joes 10 Minute Meal Hack
1 bag of spring mix or mixed greens
1 package frozen mahi mahi burgers
1 container Mango Jicama Slaw
Cook the burgers according to package directions. Mix all slaw ingredients in a bowl. Place a large handful of greens on a plate, top with mahi burger, and top mahi burger with slaw.
Add some sliced avocado to take it to the next level!
Gluten free options
For starters, there's an entire shelf (with a very large sign) labeled gluten free. This contains both gluten free bread and a number of not-so-healthy items, or refined carbs.
Things like bagels, bread, muffins, cupcakes, and more can be gluten free but still be junk food.
That said, if you're going to go there, doing it gluten free is a better choice than not gluten free!
Not saying you can't eat them, just saying they don't fall in the "healthy Trader Joes" category quite as much as some other things.
That said, Trader Joes does have a number of other items that actually a bit healthy and are gluten free. Let's take a look see, shall we?
On the top left are the Cauliflower Thins (white package) and the Jicama Wraps (orange text).
Cauliflower Thins make a great morning "toast" or a nice low carb turkey sandwich.
The jicama wraps are a bit small in diameter to actually "wrap" anything, but they are a great substitute for taco night!
The microwave rice is in the freezer section, and it is a staple in our house. Each box comes with 3 bags in it, and takes just 3 minutes in the microwave to cook to perfection.
Trader Joes also sells gluten free pasta. Again, not the healthiest choice, but if you're going to go for a pasta, gluten free is better than not gluten free to help keep inflammation down.
Healthy Trader Joes snacks
When it comes to healthy snacks, there's not really anyplace I'd rather hit up than Trader Joes.
All the photos below are labeled, and I've given some notes on each one below.
Hard boiled eggs: Don't have time to make your own? No problem. Use these pre-cooked ones for an on-the-go snack that packs a punch of protein with it.
Applesauce packets: Were you thinking they were just for kids? Nope. These are a great quick carb, perfect for post-workout recovery when you're feeling depleted of energy.
Plantain chips: No, chips aren't healthy. Yes, these are still cooked in oil. However, they are a healthier option than regular potato chips, and they make a mean pairing with my Cumin-Lime Avocado Dip.
Chip alternatives: Kale, cauliflower, peas, mushroom, green beans. Would it be healthier to eat the actual vegetable? Yes. Is that always a reasonable option? No. Keep these in your desk or your car so you don't get caught hangry without a healthy option.
Bars: Perfect Bars and Rx Bars. Two name-brand bars that are my favorites when it comes to getting in some quick protein. Both make a great snack and an easy go-to. Watch your temperatures - Rx Bars sometimes have chocolate and get melty in heat (purses, cars) and Perfect Bars get soft when not refrigerated, allowing them to sometimes be mushed on accident.
And, we can't forget the Nuts + Seeds aisle!
You'd be hard pressed to find a type of nut that you can't get here. They even have the really hard to find ones (looking at you, macadamia and pine nuts!)
Beware the pre-seasoned and flavored ones. Anything other than roasted and salted likely has chemicals, sugar, and unnecessary ingredients.
Again, still a healthier snack than other options. This aisle also contains lots of dried fruits, which pairs well with nuts for a nice snack.
The freezer section at Trader Joes contains a LOT of delicious-sounding-but-actually-terrible-for-you items.
From frozen microwave meals, to pizzas, to fries and desserts, it's easy to get sidetracked and veer off course.
Here is where the golden rule comes into play: READ YOUR INGREDIENT LABELS.
Remember, the front of the package is marketing. The back is what's actually IN it.
Here are some of my favorite healthy frozen items that you can find at Trader Joes that are nestled in between the not-so-healthy ones.
Frozen roasted potatoes with peppers and onions: These make a great breakfast hash. I love to add a bag of the fire roasted peppers and onions to up the veggies and top with a fried egg.
Fire roasted peppers and onions: a great way to beef up the veggie serving with the potatoes, or used as a fajita stir-fry mix over cauliflower rice.
Frozen veggies: broccoli, spinach, artichoke hearts, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and more are available plain and frozen. They don't go bad and they're great in a pinch!
Modified veggies: kale and cauliflower gnocchi can satisfy a carb-type craving while still packing a punch of veggies. Zucchini and carrot spirals save you the work but make eating dinner so much more fun.
Frozen cauliflower rice: Available in both the plain and mexican style (spicy) variety, these are great to combine with the fire-roasted peppers and some cooked chicken for an easy burrito bowl. Cauli rice is a great low-carb option as a base for lots of dishes.
Frozen rice: if you eat regular rice as well, these are a lifesaver, especially with kids in the house. Three minutes in the microwave and they're ready to go.
Healthy Trader Joes hacks
There are lots of ways to "hack" a meal at and have a healthy Trader Joes shopping cart. I hope this post has given you some ideas!
Think about it as simply as possible - carb, protein, fat. Veggie, meat, sauce.
You can combine fresh or frozen pre-cut veggies with pre-cooked or frozen meats, top them with a sauce, and you have an easy and healthy meal.
Healthy doesn't have to mean boring or expensive, and if you have a Trader Joes, it won't be either one.
What's your favorite healthy Trader Joes item? Tell us in the comments!