What Dietitians Would Buy at Trader Joe's with Just $30
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, according to dietitians.
Do you have yet to meet someone without a deep affinity for Trader Joe's? 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's no denying that you can find all kinds of...let's call them "indulgences," at TJ's (have you had the cookie butter or chocolate lava gnocchi?), but it's 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's or Whole Foods?)
To get the ultimate stamp of approval, dietitians scoured the shelves and shared the best things to buy at Trader Joe's if they were given a super wallet-friendly budget of only $30. Ahead, their favorite buys at Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's Shopping List #1
The Dietitian: Tory Stroker, M.S., R.D.
Organic Tofu, $2.49
"This is one of my favorite plant-based protein options because it contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs," says Stroker. Follow her lead and combine it with veggies and brown rice or farro for a quick and easy weeknight stir-fry.
Steamed Lentils, $3.29
Lentils are rich in fiber and a great source of iron, a major boon if you're a vegan or vegetarian; people following those diets often lack iron, notes Stroker. She suggests tossing these in salads or quesadillas and applauds the fact that they're pre-cooked and don't require any draining, upping the convenience factor.
Creamy (No-Salt-Added) Peanut Butter, $3.49
"I always tell my clients that there should only be one thing listed on the ingredient label for peanut butter: peanuts," says Stroker. This fits the bill, with no sugar, salt, or oils added. "It completely meets my standards without breaking the bank," she says. (More here: Your Complete Guide to Nut Butter)
Kumato Tomatoes, $3.49
Even in the dead of winter, this particular tomato tastes legitimately tomato-ey, and not like the cardboard ones you often find in grocery stores. "They're also rich in lycopene, which is great for both your skin and heart health," explains Stroker.
Greek Yogurt Everything Bagel Dip, $3.49
"I'm obsessed and fully on-board the everything bagel bandwagon. I love this spread on whole-wheat toast with smoked salmon as a healthier take on an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox," says Stroker. It also pulls double-duty as a great app; she often pairs it with crudité when guests come over. (Also obsessed? Here are more creative ways to use the seasoning.)
Frozen Wild Blueberries, $2.49
"Stocking your freezer with fruits and vegetables is one of my top tips for a healthier kitchen. It's a great alternative when fresh produce is pricey or not in season," explains Stroker. She picks up these antioxidant-packed berries, and likes using them in lieu of maple syrup: "Microwave them for one minute and use as a delish topping for peanut butter toast or whole wheat waffles."
Don't sleep on sauerkraut. Stroker recommends adding it to salads for crunch and a brine-y taste, plus an excellent dose of good-for-your gut probiotics.
California Veggie Burgers, $3.49
Keep these on-hand for any time you need a quick, easy, and healthy dinner option. Stroker likes serving them on a whole wheat bun or over a salad and adds that they're also the perfect non-meat alternative for BBQs and summer grilling season.
Total cost: $26.22
Trader Joe's Shopping List #2
The Dietitian: Brittany Modell, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., founder of Brittany Modell Nutrition and Wellness
Steamed Lentils, $3.29
Modell is also a fan, noting how nutrient-dense (and tasty!) they are. "I love adding them to salads, pairing them with avocado and eggs, or just having them on their own. I prefer them cold, but you can warm them up as well." Variety is the spice of life.
Black Beans, $.99
"Beans are loaded with fiber and protein, and are inexpensive," says Modell. She likes black beans in particular for their versatility, ideal for adding to tacos, bowls, or salads; she also mixes them with canned tomatoes for a tasty side dish.
Tofu Sprouted Extra Firm, $2.49
Another repeat pick, Modell points out that this plant-based protein can work at any time of day. "You can scramble it for breakfast, add it to a salad for lunch, or add to pasta for a protein boost at dinner," she says, adding that it's also low in calories and fat. (Related: 6 Mistakes You're Making When Cooking Tofu)
Olive Oil Popcorn, $1.99
When a snack attack hits, reach for a bag of this. "It's the perfect fiber-rich snack that you can eat any time of day. I personally love pairing it with some dark chocolate for a sweet and salty treat," Modell says.
GlutenFree Rolled Oats, $3.50
"These are one of my must-have pantry staples since they're so inexpensive and convenient," says Modell. She pairs hers with a sliced banana and spoonful of peanut butter at breakfast, though you can also go savory and enjoy with some olive oil and sea salt.
Frozen Shelled Edamame, $1.99
Another inexpensive and convenient source of protein and fiber, Modell suggests keeping this in your freezer for a quick and easy addition to stir-fries and salads.
Beet Chips, $3
"These are one of my favorite snacks, because they're loaded with fiber," Modell says. Also a plus: The minimal ingredient list that contains only just one thing—beets. (P.S. did you know you can make fruit and veggie chips at home, too?)
15-Minute Brown Rice, $3
Regular brown rice can take 45 minutes or more to cook, which, when you get home starving on a weeknight, might as well be 45 days. That's why Modell keeps this quick-cooking option on-hand to complete pretty much any type of meal. (Use it to make this Brown Rice Kale Bowl with Walnut-Sage Pesto and Fried Eggs, for example.)
Frozen Broccoli, $1.99 Frozen Strawberries, $1.99
"I keep a variety of frozen veggies in my freezer at all times so that I can whip up a quick weeknight meal whenever," says Modell. Aside from the convenience element, you're getting excellent nutrition, too: Frozen produce is frozen at the peak of ripeness, keeping the nutrition intact, she says. Two of her favorite go-tos? Broccoli and strawberries, the former for using at dinner time and the latter as an add-on to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal.
Unsweetened Dried Mango, $1.99
Mango is naturally high in sugar, perfect for anyone searching for a healthier way to satisfy a sweet tooth. Just make sure to go for the unsweetened variety so that you don't get any additional, artificial, sugar, cautions Modell.
Total cost: $26.22