Shopping at Trader Joe’s is a fun and interesting experience as they have things you don’t find at other places. I don’t often shop there as it’s about a 25-minute drive, but I like to stock up on certain items there once in a while. Some of the prices on a few things I buy regularly are lower than some places such as Sprouts, where I do most of my grocery shopping. A few things are exclusive to Trader Joe’s, though.
I confess I borrowed the idea for this blog post from Paleo Scaleao about paleo finds at Trader Joe’s, so I opted call my list “healthy” rather than “paleo.” If you aren’t familiar with Paleo, it’s eating like our cavemen ancestors, particularly no grains or dairy. I’m not strict paleo myself as I like grass-fed butter and raw goat milk kefir, but most of the recipes I create are Paleo friendly or Bulletproof™. I’m more into eating whole foods and avoiding chemicals, mold toxins, sugar and gluten than following a diet, and that’s what I advise others to do too. I don’t consider most of Trader Joe’s offerings particularly healthy, as there’s a lot of processed food and not many organic items. Of course, your idea of healthy may be different than my idea of healthy.
1. Frozen Cauliflower Rice
In case you hadn’t noticed, cauliflower is popular right now, probably because so many people are looking for low-carb alternatives to rice and potatoes. Cauliflower contains about one-tenth the calories and carbohydrates of white or brown rice and has vitamins C, K and B6. You can just chop up a cauliflower and process it in a food processor until it has a rice consistency. Or, for convenience, you can find cauliflower rice already made at Trader Joe’s (fresh and frozen). I read that it’s so popular that at one point Trader Joe’s enforced a two-bag limit, but I’m not sure that’s still in effect. I prefer the frozen as it’s organic. It’s great substitute for rice, and I like to add it to smoothies for extra nutrients and texture.
2. Coconut Oil
You can buy coconut oil pretty much anywhere, but I like this one as it’s raw and organic, plus the price is right. Despite recent controversy, coconut oil is good for you, especially for your brain. Yes, it has saturated fat, but it’s the kind of fat that’s healthy in the form the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which are quickly converted into energy as they’re digested differently and aren’t as readily stored as fat. You can also use it on your skin and hair. See this article for more of the many coconut oil’s many benefits. I use it mostly for cooking.
I’ve been using almond meal for baking as it’s used in a lot of Paleo/gluten free recipes. I’m hoping this Blanched Almond Flour will be lighter than the brand I’ve been using, as most of the time I don’t like how dense everything comes out with it; I usually mix it with coconut flour because it’s not as heavy. This seems like a pretty good price.
3. Raw Sauerkraut
Raw sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables you find in the refrigerated section, are full of healthy probiotics, many more than in most probiotic supplements. You can make your own fermented vegetables, but it’s time consuming and messy. I used to make my own but occasionally had a jar that went moldy, so I prefer to buy it. This is a great price–$2.00 less than similar ones I’ve seen elsewhere. Trader Joe’s also has other kinds of fermented vegetables next to the sauerkraut, which I haven’t tried yet.
4. Grass-fed Beef
As you probably know, grass-fed meat is healthier than conventionally raised meat as it has healthy omega 3 fats; regular meat has high levels of unhealthy omega 6 fats. Plus, it’s not going to have antibiotics and other chemicals, or the mycotoxins from the moldy grains that conventional cows are fed. The price of this frozen ground beef ($5.99 a pound) is a couple of dollars cheaper than in some health food stores. Trader Joe’s sells fresh meat, but I didn’t see any that was grass fed.
5. Wild Sockeye Salmon
You can find wild Alaskan salmon in many stores these days, but it’s good to know that Trader Joe’s has it in the frozen section, and the price is pretty reasonable. When it says “wild caught,” it shouldn’t be from a farm, but I have seen salmon marketed as wild caught when it’s not. Like with grass-fed meat, wild-caught Alaskan salmon contains more omega 3 fats and has less toxins. If you didn’t know, color is added to the feed of farmed salmon, otherwise it would be gray.
6. Raw Almond Butter
Raw nut butters (and nuts) are healthier because they’re not roasted, like most store-bought nut butters. Roasting degrades the healthy fat. This raw almond butter is a great price, but I don’t like that the container is plastic, not glass, like the pricier version I normally buy. Trader Joe’s also sells raw nuts.
7. Organic Frozen Blueberries
Having a bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer is handy for times the berries at the store don’t look good or are too expensive–they’re great to add to smoothies. It’s best to buy organic as berries are heavily sprayed with pesticides. I prefer to buy mine in season at the farmers market, because a farmer once told me that even the organic berries in stores aren’t chemical free.
8. Plantain Chips
While processed snack foods aren’t the healthiest option, there are times they come in handy, like when you’re traveling. I hadn’t tried these chips before, but they’re sweet and crunchy. I’m new to plantains, so I’m not very familiar with them. They’re a relative of the banana and are popular with people who follow the Paleo Diet. According to this article, plantains are good for things like brain function, regulating digestion, and boosting the immune system. The only other ingredient is palm oil, which isn’t as bad as some other oils, but apparently it’s a bit controversial as palm oil plantations are said to be destroying ecosystems.
I’m not generally a fan of energy bars as most have unhealthy ingredients and aren’t much better than eating a candy bar. However, Larabar is one of the better ones as it’s gluten free and has very few ingredients. This Cashew Cookie flavor lists ingredients of just dates and cashews (23 grams of carbohydrate, 6 grams of protein). Keep in mind that even the “healthy” energy bars tend to be high in carbohydrates.
10. Epic Protein Bar
These mostly meat bars have only 10 grams of carbohydrate and also have some protein (8 grams). I like Epic Protein Bars because the meat is grass-fed and organic, they’re gluten free, and don’t have any added sugars or unnecessary ingredients.
11. Kerrygold Butter
It may surprise you that I consider butter healthy. It’s the main reason I visit Trader Joe’s. Kerrygold is about a dollar cheaper there than most other places (except Walmart), so I usually stock up. I use a lot of it in my Bulletproof® Coffee.
Butter contains butyrate, a short chain fatty acid that’s good for you and is anti-inflammatory. Grass-fed butter is higher in omega 3 fats, CLA, beta-carotene, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E. See more about why butter is good for you in this infographic.
Of course, dairy doesn’t agree with everyone, so it depends on what you can tolerate. Some lactose intolerant people are OK with ghee, which is made from butter. Trader Joe’s sells ghee also but it didn’t appear to be organic and I prefer to make my own (you just heat butter and strain off the milk solids). Ghee is great for cooking as it doesn’t burn as easily as butter.
12. Organic Pumpkin Puree
Fall is almost here and I’m planning on making lots of pumpkin recipes. Of course, it’s probably better to use fresh pumpkin, but it’s more convenient to use canned. I use pumpkin all year round in things like smoothies. More reasons to eat more pumpkin: it has lots of fiber, is low in calories and has antioxidants such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, plus minerals such as magnesium and calcium.
13. Organic Maca
You might not be familiar with Maca, and I’ve only recently started using it myself. It’s made from a root that grows in the Andes and has been used in Southern American medicine and cooking for thousands of years. This Maca is organic and fair trade and also gelatinized, which is supposed to be better; the price is really good too. You can add it to baking recipes, smoothies, and drinks. There’s a recipe on the back for “Coconut Cream Energy Bars” I’m going to try that looks yummy. Maca is considered a new a “superfood” as it may have lots of health benefits such as balancing hormones, boosting energy, improving mood, building muscle, increasing fertility and more. For more about its nutritional content, click here.
I love the feel and experience of shopping at Trader Joe’s, and it’s definitely not boring. When I walked in the door of the store in Nichols Hills, OK, I was greeted by this lovely flower display.
My main complaint about Trader Joe’s is it isn’t a health food store, so you have to hunt for the healthier items. While they obviously have more healthy offerings than I list here, I think they could offer more organic and gluten-free items. Of course, stores only sell what there’s a demand for. Hopefully that will change.
I hope this post inspires you to try some new things when you shop at Trader Joe’s. Happy shopping!