My annual checkup brought me face to face with reality. My days of carb-laden, dairy-rich meals that I had no problem eating during pregnancy and while accommodating my marathon-nurser are over. It’s time to get back on track and allow for more fiber and a lot less sugar in my diet. While this goal is achievable by prepping for and cooking whole food meals, my time and energy come in finite quantities. The solution? Maximize my time and shopping list with a little help from my favorite one-stop shop, Trader Joe’s. Below are some of my beloved stand-bys that help me make a meal in a pinch while staying true to my health goals.
Trader Joe’s has a variety of breakfast meals to choose from. You can get muffins, latkas, wheat-free waffles, and pancakes. While I like those options for every once in a while, my favorite go-to is their Organic Steel Cut Oats. Steel cut oats are whole grain oat kernels (groats) that have been cut into pieces rather than rolled flat. I like these because they are very filling, allowing for a good amount of fiber (4 grams) and iron (10% of US RDA) in a single serving. Yes, they take longer to cook than rolled oats, but I started quartering the recipe/cook time, and they cook up in 5-10 minutes.
Trader Joe’s has an abundance of chip alternative items, such as popcorn, veggie chips, and dehydrated fruit and vegetables. Some of my favorites that satisfy my salty, crunchy cravings while helping me adhere to my “more fiber” goals are Crispy Crunchy Broccoli Florets (7 grams fiber, 20 grams of fat…so beware), and Meanwhile, Zesty Nacho Kale Chips (3 grams fiber, 130% US RDA of Vitamin A). These veggies are packed with flavor and are almost a guiltless snack.
If you’re looking for a snack or a mini-meal/hold me over, check out Gluten-free Norwegian Crispbread. These are a new item I’ve added to my repertoire. They are made primarily of seeds and nuts, and they come in wheat or gluten-free options. If you like Wasa type or Mary’s crackers, you’ll most likely like these. I find them buttery and satisfying. Each cracker has 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. Eat them alone, toss in soup or salad, or top with a cheesy fixin’ (cream cheese and tomato anyone?).
Speaking of cheese, my new favorite is Unexpected Cheddar Cheese (7 grams protein, 10 grams fat). While this is a cheddar cheese, it tastes like a perfect combination of cheddar and Parmesan. This cheese holds its form, but can crumble easily too. I like to eat it plain, on crackers, or in salads. It’s delicious!
Simply Almonds, Cashews, and Cranberries Trek Mix are an oldie but a goodie in my TJ’s buying experience. Great for a snack and a good way to get some protein (5 grams) and good fat (9 grams) into your diet. This mix helps tide me over when I have the munchies. It also comes in single serving packets (Just a Handful of Simply Almonds, Cashews and Cranberries) for on-the-go and portion-control convenience. And on the sweeter, more indulgent side, there’s Simply Almonds Cashews and Chocolate available in both the standard and “Just a Handful” sizes.
Meals in a Pinch
When I need to make a quick dinner or lunch, my go-to items in the frozen food aisle are Beef Tamales, Black Bean and Cheese Taquitos, and Wild Argentinian Red Shrimp.
If you’re going to eat a frozen tamale, eat the Handcrafted Beef Tamales (12 grams protein, 4 grams fiber). The beef is well-seasoned and tender, and the corn masa is just right. (I even like these better than those found in the deli section of TJ’s). They come two to a package. Serve them up with a salad for a tasty and satisfying meal.
I also love the Black Bean and Cheese Taquitos (7 grams fiber, 10 grams protein). I work with middle school students, and they rave about them too. These cook best in a conventional or toaster oven. Eat them plain or top with some plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and guacamole for a snack. Add rice and a salad for a Taquito Tuesday dinner.
I think I have maybe deveined and peeled shrimp once. Even if I didn’t, I’m pretty sure I don’t like (and don’t want) to do it. The Wild Argentinian Red Shrimp are peeled and deveined, a great value, and a cinch to cook. They are fast, easy to flavor, and best of all, you can’t mess them up. We like them best fajita style or in a stir fry for an effortless meal.
I love ice cream, and sadly, can’t have it at the moment. My new best friend for a creamy craving? Buono Mochi Ice Dessert, Strawberry. The Buono Strawberry Mochi Ice Dessert, vegan and soy free, deflowered my virgin mochi ice cream taste buds. I am now spoiled and I don’t want to try any other. Even my husband, who’s very meat and potatoes, likes them. These frozen treats double as the perfect sweet-tooth pick me up and teething reliever. Sometimes with vegan products, you can tell they’re vegan…but not with these. The “ice cream” is fresh, creamy, and light.
Just to reiterate, Trader Joe’s has A LOT of great items to choose from. It was challenging to limit this list to ten. My advice: if something piques your interest, buy it; check out their Fearless Flyer and all the blogs (I didn’t know so many existed) dedicated to rating products at Trader Joes. Bon appetit!