Trader Joe’s has a strong rep as a grocery store for unbeatable convenience foods (like those frozen Greek spinach things and fancy cracker selection), but it’s also a great source for whole foods with few ingredients and good prices.
I ran through my local TJ’s recently to pick out the best healthy foods on offer this winter. Here’s what I found:
12. Brussels Sprout stalk
Brussels sprouts practically turn into candy when roasted, so when I find them, I get them. Trader Joe’s will often sell them bagged in the refrigerated produce section, as well. (Brussels have a relatively low pesticide load, so it’s fine to buy conventional instead of organic.)
11. Organic Cranberries
The season for fresh cranberries is short, so when you spot these–usually in the refrigerated produce section–grab them! You’ll get just the fresh fruit, no sugar or oil added. Try adding them to smoothies or oatmeal for a tart treat. (They also freeze beautifully.)
10. Organic Unsulfured Blackstrap Molasses
This mineral-rich sweetener can be hard to find organic. I also like that this version is higher in minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and selenium (that’s what “blackstrap” connotes). Blackstrap, compared to light or dark molasses is less sweet so I like to add just a little to foods like oatmeal or smoothies to give them that extra boost of minerals. It’s important to find an organic version of molasses to avoid glyphosate, a harmful herbicide used to ripen sugarcane.
9. Organic Coconut Sugar
They stock this year-round, but it’s especially useful during the holiday baking season. Outside of occasional sales or bulk purchases elsewhere, Trader Joe’s offers the best everyday price on coconut sugar ($3.99/lb at my store). If you’ve never tried it, it’s similar to light brown sugar but with a hint of caramel. Why switch? It’s minimally processed so it retains its mineral content. We substitute it cup for cup for white or brown sugar.
8. Organic Grade A Maple Syrup
Another year-round staple that gets more use during the winter: maple syrup. This one is organic and doesn’t have any added corn syrup or other flavorings–just pure maple syrup. You may notice different types of labeling like Grade, A, Grade B, or a range of color from light to dark. You really can’t go wrong with any of them. Just stick with organic and make sure the ingredients lists only maple syrup.
Just nuts and salt, no weird oils or preservatives to be found in these pistachios. And since these are already shelled, they’re easy to throw on top of salads, in a bowl of yogurt, in your favorite cookie recipe, or just in a bowl for holiday entertaining.
6. Organic Polenta
Have you had polenta? It’s essentially coarse corn meal cooked slowly in water or broth (the Trader Joe’s version is cooked in water and has only a few other ingredients) until it becomes a porridge–which then naturally firms up into something easy to slice, fry, and cover with butter and maple syrup, or your favorite roasted veggies. Since many corn products sold in the U.S. are genetically modified, it’s important to only eat it in organic forms.
5. Organic Ketchup
A staple everyone can relate to. You might typically associate this with summer, but it’s a key ingredient in a delicious and easy version of baked beans I’ve been making all fall and winter. It does contain sugar so I like to use it sparingly.
4. Organic Popcorn
Our favorite snack food on cold days–no movie required (though we almost always wind up watching one when we’re eating popcorn). These kernels are organic so we don’t worry about genetic modification. Look out for my foolproof method for popping corn and the surprising health benefit of popcorn soon!
3. Organic Apples
You can always find apples at Trader Joe’s, but the best varieties–Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp–arrive seasonally in the fall and winter.
2. Organic Sweet Potatoes
Another cold-weather staple in our house, we roast sweet potatoes into cumin-scented fries, add chunks to soups, or sautee diced sweet potatoes in coconut oil and toss with sesame seeds for a yummy side dish.
1. Organic Potatoes
Potatoes aren’t a novelty item at Trader Joe’s, but in the fall and winter you’ll start to see other varieties like fingerlings, red (or “new”) potatoes, and our favorite, gold potatoes. The sign doesn’t lie–these do make excellent mashed potatoes, and hash browns, and hold together well in soups. Did you know that potatoes are actually a good source of vitamin C? They are also rich vitamins and minerals that promote cellular health, aid the nervous system, and promote a healthy heart.