Making Trader Joe’s Meals from the Prepared Foods Section
Why make Trader Joe’s meals? What’s so great about TJ’s? Trader Joe’s has quite the loyal following and I totally understand why. I’m often thoroughly impressed with the flavor profiles and types of cuisines that show up on the shelves at TJ’s. I’m also impressed by the prices! But can you build a meal that is healthy? Well if you’ve been around here long, you know that the word healthy can mean a lot of different things and is different from person to person. But for the context of this blog, we’re building meals that are balanced, satiating, and most importantly, satisfying!
Did you miss the first part of this series? Check out our favorite TJ’s frozen options!
So what makes for a healthy TJ’s meal?
What do I look for?
I think about a lot of things when I’m making my meal plan for the week:
- How much time do I have to cook?
- What activities do I have going on?
- Will I be home for my meals or do I need to pack a meal?
- What cuisine/flavor profile am I craving?
- What haven’t I made in awhile?
- What sounds good to me?
- What does my family want to eat?
- How much is this going to cost?
When I come up with general ideas, I start to fill in the blanks to make sure what I plan is balanced and satiating. This often means making sure there is starch, protein, fruit/veggie, and fat.
So for example, I really like Middle Eastern cuisine, and in particular, I like TJ’s Shawarma Chicken Thighs. We’ll talk a little more about why I like it later. Back to the balance. Chicken is going to be a great source of protein here. But what about the rest? A flatbread is an easy source of carbohydrate. I like to layer on more flavor with some of the prepared sauces like tzatziki. For a veggie component, I’ll either stuff the wrap with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, olives etc., or if I don’t want to do that chopping, I’ll pair it with a salad kit. Between dark meat, sauces, maybe olives or salad dressing, we also have the fat component of the meal. Done!
Depending on your specific health goals, you may pay attention to certain aspects on the label. Do you have diabetes or blood sugar concerns? You may check total carbohydrate. High blood pressure? Let’s look at sodium. High cholesterol? Let’s try to find an option with more fiber. GI issues? Let’s check for symptom triggers in the ingredient list. This is why the term “healthy” can be misleading. Everyone has different needs.
8 Trader Joe’s Meals that are Easy and Nourishing
1. Almond Butter Chia Overnight Oats
I’m the kind of person who would rather save some money and make my own overnight oats because it’s pretty easy. But I was very pleasantly surprised by how tasty and satiating this little container was. It had a nice fluffy texture, and the almond butter and chia seeds adds fat to keep you full. Depending on how I’m feeling, I may pair it with some turkey sausage and fruit for more protein and fiber.
2. Chicken Sausage Breakfast Burrito
If I need a good grab and go hot breakfast, a breakfast burrito is a favorite. With plenty of protein, carbohydrate, and fat, this is pretty balanced in and of itself. If may grab some berries if I want a little color in this meal.
No Cook Trader Joe’s Meals
3. Peanut Udon Noodle Salad
This is tasty cold noodle bowl with udon noodles, veggies, and a tasty peanut dressing. I like to pair it with a protein source to make it more satiating. Some easy options would be edamame, tofu, or pre-cooked chicken. According to the label, the bowl contains 2.5 servings but I think you’ll more likely get 1-2 meals out of it.
4. Peanut and Crispy Noodle Salad Kit with Sriracha Flavored Baked Tofu
Another peanut noodle salad? Yes. This salad kit is one of my favorites. With crunchy cabbage, peanuts, rice noodles, and a spicy peanut sauce, it’s got flavor and texture which is super satisfying. I stumbled upon some marinated baked tofu in the meat/protein case and the sriracha flavor works perfectly with the salad. Great plant based protein and no cooking required!
Minimal Cooking, ie Microwave Cooking
5. Traditional Carnitas with Tortillas and Chimichurri Sauce
It doesn’t get much easier than nuking the piece of pork in the microwave, then it’s easily shredded with a fork. I paired it with the chimichurri sauce because I love the herby flavors. You could also do salsa verde. I always have lettuce on hand so I just shred a little for topping. I really like these “carb savvy” tortillas. They’re a great option if you’re looking to up your fiber intake.
Have to Turn on the Oven, But It’s Worth It
6. Italian Style Turkey Meatloaf
If you are looking for a meat and potatoes kind of meal, look no further than the meat/protein case where you’ll find things like heat and eat meatloaf and scalloped potatoes. Grab a veggie or salad kit, and you’ve got a solid meal!
7. Chicken Piccata with Mozzarella and Tomato Salad
When I first tried this, I was skeptical. When you take it out of the container it looks a little soggy. Don’t let that stop you. It heats really well in the oven and the edges get nice and crispy. The sauce comes in a separate pouch so you decide how much you want. The mozzarella and tomato salad is a great find. It’s not just tomato and mozz, but also has olives, green onion, pine nuts, greens, and a balsamic dressing. Lots of flavor!
8. Shawarma Chicken Thighs with Tzatziki and Zhoug Sauce on Indian Style Flatbread, and Mediterranean Style Salad Kit
Back to the shawarma chicken thighs. The flavor of these is so good. Great if you want a flavorful dish and may not have the time, or all the spices on hand that it would take to make it from scratch. There are several marinated proteins to choose from, but I love this flavor profile, and it’s one of the lower sodium choices. Zhoug is quite spicy, so creamy tzatziki helps cool it off. I’m also quite impressed with the Mediterranean Style Salad Kit. It starts like your typical Greek salad: greens, feta, red wine vinaigrette. But it also has sun dried tomato, crispy chickpeas, and pita strips. Yum!
Blog reviewed and updated February 2023
An award winning recipe developer, Dietitian Kaitlin’s mission is to empower others to reach their health goals by encouraging them to get back into the kitchen. Co-author of Nourished: 10 Ingredients to Happy, Healthy Eating and Cooking with Diabetes.