7 'Healthy' Foods From Trader Joe's You Should Definitely Avoid
Here's what to buy instead.
Photo: Getty/SOPA Images
Let me start by saying I. Love. Trader. Joe's. I love the atmosphere, flowers, kombucha, branding, Teeny-Tiny Avocados and so much more. I spent approximately half of my work week writing about Trader Joe's, wandering my local store or stalking Trader Joe's accounts on Instagram.
That said, no grocery store is perfect, and if you're a Trader Joe's shopper trying to eat a little cleaner, there are some so-called "healthy" products you should steer clear of. Here, you'll find seven unhealthy items disguised as nutritious options:
Trader Giotto's Tomato Basil Marinara
I'm on a mission to find the best budget pasta sauce that contains no added sugar-sorry Rao's, I just can't afford you-and Trader Joe's has several delicious ones. However, what they lack in added sugar, they make up for in sodium content. This one in particular has 580mg in a half-cup serving, which is about a quarter of your daily sodium limit. And that's before you add some grated Parmesan and garlic bread.
Buy Instead: Trader Giotto's Organic Tomato Basil Marinara
Simply buying the organic version of this product saves you 140mg sodium per serving-which isn't amazing, but still a serious improvement. It's also lower in sugar than just about any pasta sauce on the shelf, with just 3g.
Trader Joe's Greek Lowfat Almond Butter Coconut Yogurt
This one is pretty sneaky because it doesn't scream "I'm loaded with sugar" like some of the fruit-flavored options in the yogurt section. While this one is better than many of the other yogurts surrounding it-some have 16g added sugar-this one still has 13g sugar, with 9g added.
Buy Instead: Trader Joe's Plain Greek Yogurt
Control how sweet your yogurt is by adding in the sweet stuff yourself. A handful of mixed berries and a drizzle of honey should be enough to quell your sweet tooth. Want the nutty flavor? Swirl in a spoonful of your favorite nut butter.
Trader Giotto's Caesar Salad with Chicken
It's healthy to have a salad for lunch, right? Not in this case. This Caesar Salad with Chicken and Cracked Peppercorn Caesar Dressing contains nearly half your daily sodium limit and more than half of your daily fat recommendation. To its merit, this salad is loaded with protein and does contain a few grams of fiber, but you can certainly find those qualities in another option that's lower in salt and fat.
Buy Instead: Lemon Chicken & Arugula Salad
This salad is loaded with all kinds of veggies, quinoa, grilled chicken and a lighter dressing for a hearty and nourishing lunch. If this one doesn't sound tasty, we've found the 10 best pre-made salads to buy at Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's Tandoori Naan
This one is a heartbreaker, along with many of the other breads in Trader Joe's bakery section. I was excited to see this naan was made without any dairy products (I'm vegan), but was disappointed that one piece of naan packs one-third of my daily sodium limit-and of course I was planning to serve with curry and other sodium-rich options. Beware of the sodium content when looking for the right bread at Trader Joe's, as many healthy-looking options are packed with it.
Buy Instead: Ezekiel Bread
Ugh, we know, this is way less fun than a big fluffy piece of naan bread, but we promise it will still soak up curry or hold your gyro toppings just fine. Ezekiel bread has only 150mg sodium in two slices, so you won't have to worry about bloating later.
Trader Joe's Dried Banana Chips
I have never understood why people like banana chips, but my college roommate was obsessed with them. They're a seemingly healthy option since they're just dried banana slices, right? Not exactly.
Trader Joe's adds coconut oil, sugar and natural banana flavor (side note: why?!) to these chips. A serving size is a quarter-cup-or one-eighth of the bag-and packs in a surprising 8g saturated fat.
Buy Instead: Freeze-Dried Fruit
Trader Joe's freeze-dried berries are pretty addicting and taste great in a bowl of cereal or oatmeal. These babies are full of fiber, devoid of saturated fat and are a good source of vitamin C, too.
Trader Joe's Lowfat Mixed Berry Granola Cereal
This box touts not only being low in fat, but also high in fiber, which we all could use more of in our diets. However, we could all likely use less added sugar in our lives, and this granola is full of it.
Milled cane sugar is the second ingredient listed, which is probably the reason why this granola contains 17g sugar in a three-quarter cup serving. That's double the amount of sugar found in a bowl of Reese's Puffs! There are so many other options out there for cereals and granolas, so this is definitely worth skipping.
Buy Instead: Peanut Butter Protein Granola
While this option is a little higher in calories than the mixed berry granola, it has more protein and less sugar for staying power. It's also a good source of heart-healthy fats and fiber to keep you full until your next meal. Bonus: you can stretch your granola further by sprinkling it over Greek yogurt and topping it with a little fruit.
Trader Ming's Low-Fat Chicken Chow Mein
Most Trader Joe's fans have (probably) heard their frozen meals can get a bit crazy with the sodium. However, this one is a bit less suspecting. Sure, we would all expect the heavily breaded equivalent of Asian chicken nuggets to be packed with it, but not the nutritious-looking grilled chicken with noodles and colorful veggies.
Unfortunately, this option isn't healthy either. But it's low-fat! I think we are seeing a trend here-low-fat does not necessarily equal healthy, as sodium and sugar are often added to low-fat products for better flavor. This Low-Fat Chicken Chow Mein packs 960mg of sodium, equivalent to 40 percent of your daily sodium limit!
Buy Instead: Spicy Thai Shrimp Fried Rice
You can still satisfy that takeout craving without all the salt! Several of their frozen rice and mixed veggies combos have a much more manageable amount of sodium, like this Spicy Thai Shrimp Fried Rice with only 320mg per serving. It's also a good source of fiber and protein to prevent you from overeating.