Trader Joe’s counts among the most popular grocery stores in the country for excellent reason. The prices are low, the quality is high, the customer service is exceptional and ― according to licensed nutritionists and dietitians ― many of the products sold by this particular chain are both flavorful and healthy.
TJ’s frozen meals tend to garner particular accolades, thanks to their flavor, convenience and the ease with which they fit into a nutritious diet. In a world where many frozen meals are loaded with mysterious hidden calories and ingredients that are impossible to pronounce, nutritionists helped us identify 10 reliably nutritious meals from Trader Joe’s.
Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burger
You can find an impressive selection of veggie burgers in the Trader Joe’s frozen section, but Los Angeles-based nutritionist and dietitian Jennifter Glockner of Smartee Plate especially recommends the Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burger.
“It’s yummy and seasoned with lots of herbs and spices for a Southwestern flavor profile with added health benefits,” Glockner told us. “It includes plant-based sources of protein like quinoa and black beans. It’s 180 calories for one burger and provides 5 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, 1 gram saturated fat, 280 mg sodium and 2 grams sugar. Many other frozen meals contain higher amounts of added salts and sugars and saturated fats, and not as much fiber. The quinoa and beans provide some iron and the veggies provide vitamin A along with some other vitamins and minerals. Overall, it’s a good addition to a healthy eating pattern.” She suggests serving the burger on a whole grain bun or pita and adding your favorite burger toppings ― preferably lots of vegetables.
Chicken Burrito Bowl
Trader Joe’s isn’t about to let Chipotle have the last word on burrito bowls, as evidenced by their frozen bowls loaded with brown rice, red quinoa, black beans, seasoned chicken breast, corn and chipotle dressing.
“[The] Trader Joe’s chicken burrito bowl is your best bet for restaurant-style Mexican food in the comfort of your own home,” said registered dietitian Kelly Springer of Kelly’s Choice. “This frozen meal uses brown rice as the base, which is a great way to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Even better, Trader Joe’s uses expeller-pressed canola oil in this meal. What does that mean? No chemicals were used when extracting the oil! Canola oil also provides you with omega-6 fatty acids, which are needed to promote inflammation during times of injury, [which has healing properties]. The chicken burrito bowl is also filled with black beans, red quinoa, cheese, and corn mixed in a chipotle sauce — this whole bowl is only 380 calories with 10 grams of fiber and 22 grams of protein!”
A longtime Trader Joe’s bestseller, Channa Masala includes chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, garlic and ghee (clarified butter), all seasoned with turmeric, bay leaves,and other aromatic spices.
“[Trader Joe’s] channa masala is an excellent addition to a healthy diet as it is highly nutritious, [with] vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein,” said Detroit-based nutritionist Bansari Acharya of FoodLove. “In addition, it is a plant-based meal, so it’s perfect for individuals who are following a vegan or a vegetarian diet. The whole package [offers] a whopping 12 grams each of protein and fiber! It also contains many spices which have beneficial anti-inflammatory effects.”
Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas
These enchiladas have a long history on the TJ’s product list, and their abiding popularity pays tribute to their engaging flavor and their status as an inexpensive and satisfying healthy meal.
“Trader Joe’s Black Bean & Corn Enchiladas are always in my freezer,” said registered dietitian Kristen Carli of Camelback Nutrition and Wellness in Scottsdale, Arizona. “They are perfectly balanced in terms of protein, fiber and fat. I always look for meals containing at least 7 grams of plant protein. These ones are also surprisingly vegan!”
Shiitake Mushroom Chicken
Some health-food-averse diners worry that nutritious meals won’t fill them up and keep them fortified for their lifestyle needs, but Chicago fitness trainer and nutrition expert Joey Thurman assures us that Trader Joe’s Shiitake Mushroom Chicken won’t fall short on any of these expectations.
“Trader Joe’s Shiitake Mushroom Chicken is a great option for anyone who is culinary challenged or simply wants a quick and healthy meal,” Thurman said. “Shiitake mushrooms are low-carb and are even known for boosting the immune system, helping lower cholesterol, and even anti-aging benefits. Adding the chicken will make sure you meet your protein requirements, as well.”
Thai Vegetable Gyoza
Low-cost, easy to prepare and bursting with flavor, the Trader Joe’s assortment of frozen dumplings are rightfully famous among TJ’s devotees. Health-conscious shoppers like Carli especially enjoy TJ’s Thai Vegetable Gyoza.
Carli says that “the Thai Vegetable Gyoza are delicious. Frozen meals can be pretty high in sodium; a good rule of thumb is to keep the sodium below 700 mg per serving. These have 310 mg per serving, which is three pieces.”
Mildly Spiced Organic Vegetable Burritos
Trader Joe’s burritos get high marks for convenience; these tightly wrapped parcels are easy to zap in the microwave, and they make tasty and satisfying meals, whether you’re eating at home or on the go.
Carli recommends the Mildly Spiced Organic Vegetable Burritos, which “are made with black beans, corn and tomatoes. They contain plenty of fiber (11 grams in two burritos) and protein (16 grams in two burritos). They actually contain a lot of veggies and are also surprisingly vegan!”
The frozen pastas at Trader Joe’s deliver impressive flavor and texture far beyond what you’ll get from the boxed stuff, and anyone looking to lower their carb intake should give TJ’s Cauliflower Gnocchi a try.
“The Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi is a personal favorite of mine,” said North Carolina licensed nutritionist Sharon Price of Beverly Medical Center. “Much lower in carbs than the traditional dish, it’s a quick, satisfying and microwaveable meal. Add some turkey or chicken sausage for extra protein if you like, or just enjoy it with your favorite sauce ― I like Trader Joe’s vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil pesto. [This gnocchi is] great for those who eat gluten-free or anyone just looking to cut carbs. This one’s a lifesaver for when you can’t quite figure out what’s for dinner.”
Riced Cauliflower Bowl
Pre-made bowl-style entrees take the guesswork out of lunch or dinner prep; everything you need for a balanced meal is already right in the package. According to Texas registered dietitian Talia Hauser of Healthy Bytes, the frozen Riced Cauliflower Bowl from Trader Joe’s “is super satisfying, as it has riced cauliflower, sweet potatoes, chickpeas and tofu, which provide a healthy dose of fiber and protein, two things that help us feel full. The whole bowl has 13 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. There’s a tangy lemon-tahini sauce, roasted onions and herbs to make it very flavorful. The sodium is even low for a frozen meal, coming in at only 370 milligrams.”
Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl
“I like that [the Trader Joe’s Cuban Style Citrus Garlic Bowl] meal includes protein from the chicken, plant-based protein from the black beans, and it even has added turmeric in the rice,” said registered dietitian and Fitter Living board advisor Amanda A. Kostro Miller. “It also contains plantains, red peppers and onions. It [includes] 400 calories, which is a pretty [reasonable] calorie amount for your main meal item. You can even add it to a variety of recipes like tacos and enchiladas.”