Like many registered dietitians, I’m a little obsessed with grocery shopping. Some of my earliest memories involve wandering the aisles of our local store with my mom and sister and negotiating for which heavily advertised "kid food" I wanted to buy that week. Despite our limited budget, my mom always tried to prioritize organic produce and less-processed foods, but she still let us try the stuff we saw on TV, if only to see what the fuss was about and make up our minds for ourselves about the real deal behind the glossy messaging.
I remember once begging for some highly processed cold-cuts snack pack, and her response was something to the effect of, "Um, why? We could just make actual sandwiches that will taste better and won’t be full of crap."
She had a point. Questions like that probably had a lot to do with my eventually becoming a dietitian. Even as an unsupervised adult, I often catch myself asking "why" when considering a hyped-up product.
Quality is important, but I’d be lying if I said that price isn’t a factor. While I’d love to buy all my food from farmers markets and specialty stores, paying the mortgage is also a priority. Like many New Yorkers, I rely on Trader Joe’s for a lot of my grocery shopping needs. I really appreciate the selection of organic products, grass-fed meat, and wild fish, plus many other healthy options that deliver on taste and quality without draining that bank account. Here are a few of my favorite healthy finds:
Organic Roasted Baby Golden Beet Wedges:
I love seeing what different vegetable treats Trader Joe's comes out with. I've been enjoying their organic roasted baby golden beet wedges in salads. I love yellow beets but hate all the prep—and the fact that they turn black if you try to keep any as leftovers. What I especially like about these is that turmeric is used as the coloring agent. They're delicious over organic greens with a little goat cheese and a simple dressing of Champagne vinegar and olive oil.
Wild Caught Skinless & Boneless Sardines in Olive Oil:
Sardines certainly earn their superfood status. Packed with protein, vitamin D, and omega-3s, they're a great way to incorporate fish into your diet. I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to sardines with the bones and skin still intact, which is why I love these boneless, skinless ones—they're great for sardine newbies! The water-packed version is lovely, too, but the olive oil makes these wonderfully rich without being heavy. I love to toss the filets with arugula and some grilled or roasted red pepper, eggplant, and zucchini. Add a hit of balsamic vinegar and you've got yourself a quick and easy nourishing meal that tastes a heck of a lot fancier than it is. You could also try these in pasta, puréed and blended into a dip, cooked into a sauce, or mashed up with avocado on toast.
I'll put tahini on almost anything. Made from ground sesame seeds, tahini is a delicious nut-free alternative to almond butter and peanut butter that provides a similar amount of protein and healthy fat. It can be used in all the same ways if you're open to a little flavor experimentation. I love how its rich, warm flavor can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. I love a spoonful on top of oatmeal (especially savory oatmeal) or spread on a baked sweet potato. Drizzle it over roasted figs or grilled veggies. Tahini is also divine in a marinade or salad dressing. If you haven't tried it blended with white miso, put that on your must-make list, stat! As with nut butters, keep this in the fridge after opening. I love that the organic tahini I buy at Trader Joe's stays creamy and smooth. I may or may not buy multiple jars at once.
Want more TJ's goodness? These are the healthiest snacks available at the food cooperative.