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As a dietitian, it’s my job to make eating well easy and accessible for people. And as a busy working parent, I need fast, nutritious solutions myself! The beloved grocery store Trader Joe’s does this so well, so I decided reach out to nutrition pros across the country who shared with NBC News BETTER their favorite Trader Joe’s shopping secrets. Take a peek into our kitchens and prepare yourself for quick and healthy eating ideas.
Organic Riced Cauliflower (frozen)
I’ve never been much of a “sneak veggies into meals” type of mom, but lately I’ve been pulling the wool over my 14 year-old son’s eyes with this frozen gem. Truthfully, he does well on the veggie front, but he draws the line on shredded carrots in his turkey tacos. (The peas didn’t go over so well, either.) But the riced cauliflower blends right in to tacos, brown rice dishes, and more. And because it’s frozen, it’s readily available whenever I want to add more vitamins, minerals and fiber to our meals. It’s also great as a stand in for rice altogether, though Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN, Jersey City, NJ-based registered dietitian nutritionist and author of "A Teen's Guide to Gut Health" suggests a 50/50 blend of frozen brown rice (see below) and the frozen riced cauliflower, adding “the mix of cauliflower and rice makes it a bit heartier and more meal-like than a straight cauliflower rice, which I find to be tasty but not very filling.”
Organic Brown Rice (frozen)
Marie Spano, RD, sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Falcons goes for this brown rice, as do I. I love saving time in the kitchen (like everyone else!), and I particularly love shortcuts that don’t compromise on taste or great nutrition. Spano puts it this way: “This brown rice takes three minutes in the microwave and is the only brown rice I eat. The taste and texture is much better than any long-cooking brown rice. It stands out in this category.”
Frozen Carrot Spirals
In my opinion, spiralized veggies are an awesome trend! Fun and clever ways to eat more veggies is something I can definitely get behind. Granted, the texture isn’t a perfect match for pasta, which is why Rachel Paul, MS, RD, PhD candidate at Columbia University who’s behind the popular Instagram account @collegenutritionist is a fan of this product. “It’s hard to find veggie ‘noodles’ that can really replace regular pasta, but I’ve found these come the closest! Carrot noodles are pretty hearty, and getting them frozen and pre-zoodled makes it easy to get in your veggies throughout the week,” she says.
Try them in one of these ramen recipes.
Shaved Brussel Sprouts
New York City-based Registered Dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD leans on this convenient item to simplify things in the kitchen. “Because it takes a lot of time and energy to shave the Brussels, I prefer to buy them pre-cut and throw them into everything from salads to stir fries to roasted veggie dishes,” she says. Buying pre-prepped veggies pays off because it means you’ll eat veggies more often, thereby giving you a nutritional advantage. In this case, a one-cup serving has more than a day’s worth of vitamin C and helps you get some much-needed fiber.
These ready-to-eat lentils (sold in the produce section) are another exceptional Trader Joe’s find. Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of "Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches With Pulses - The New Superfood" says, “I pop them in my fridge for a fast go-to plant protein to add to salads, or to mix with a handful of greens as a fiber-rich bed for organic eggs or wild salmon. One half cup provides 8 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein,” she says. The simple ingredients also win her over. Another bonus: “Lentils are a member of the pulse family, which have been linked to numerous health benefits, including weight loss, protection against type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and a higher overall nutrient intake.”
Gluten Free Cheese Pizza with a Cauliflower Crust
News flash: Dietitians love pizza, too! Spano turns to this version, which has more veggies thanks to the cauliflower crust (which also contains chickpea flour). Sure, you could pulse your own cauliflower and make a homemade crust, but why bother on busy nights? Spano suggests this frozen pizza, instead. “Cauliflower crust plus tomato sauce plus cheese equals a nutritious meal option that tastes great and is ready in 10 minutes!” she says.
Healthy frozen entrees are a great backup plan when life gets in the way of cooking or preparing wholesome meals. Like a good friend, they’re there for you when you need them. Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area, likes this vegetarian offering. “With chickpeas as its base, it offers satiating protein and fiber to help keep me fuller for longer.” Gorin likes her dish with quick-cook brown rice, and she also adds in some diced tomatoes. Adding fresh veggies to frozen entrees is another good idea. You’ll get more flavor, freshness and some extra nutrition in your meal.
Mixed Nut Butter
This is another nutritionist crowd-pleaser. Gisela Bouvier, RDN, LDN considers it “heaven on earth.” The blend — a mix of almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and pecans — has a touch of sea salt and no added sweeteners, according to another fan, Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, CSCS, a New York City-based dietitian and the founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. “It can be eaten with almost anything,” says Bouvier, though she prefers hers spread over toast. In addition to toast, Rumsey pairs the delicious blend with apples and bananas, and drizzles it over oatmeal. With great flavor and healthy, plant-based fats, it’s a satisfying spread to stock at home.
Everything but the Bagel Seasoning
My relationship with this blend of white and black sesame seeds, sea salt, dried garlic and onions and poppy seeds can be summed up in one word: Obsessed! This seasoning popped up on several dietitians’ lists. Whether on top of eggs or avocado toast, as a seasoning for chicken, roasted potatoes or a hummus topping, it makes everything better. And while I like a good bagel every now and then, I mostly keep things light by sprinkling this seasoning on top of a flatbread whole grain cracker with a schmear of cream cheese and a slice of lox. It matches the flavor and satisfaction of a bagel without the extra carbs and calories.