How One Nutritionist Advises You to Restock at Trader Joe’s for Balanced Meals
Given that we cook most of our meals at home (and by we, I mean my fiancé), it never ceases to amaze me how quickly our fridge and pantry goes from being fully stocked with all the delicious things to running on empty. On the bright side, though, an almost empty fridge and pantry calls for one of my favorite activities: a Trader Joe's run. That said, heading to the store without a healthy Trader Joe’s shopping list usually means we get home with a random assortment of our go-to staples that may or may not work well together or create complete meals.
To help with this, we asked Kelly LeVeque, CN, a holistic nutritionist, wellness expert, celebrity health coach, and best-selling author, for a healthy Trader Joe's shopping list (or, rather, a restocking formula) to ensure you add all the essentials to your cart that you’ll need in order to create balanced meals for the week in one easy haul.
First things first, LeVeque recommends stocking up on proteins for the week, beginning with breakfast options. She suggests eggs and non-fat plain Greek yogurt.
For lunch and dinner, LeVeque points to easy-to-make proteins such as ground beef or chicken. And, if your freezer is empty too, she suggests adding frozen wild salmon filets to your grocery cart because the omega-3-rich fish is one of the fastest proteins to defrost and roast in the oven, which is perfect for those busy days you don't feel like cooking.
Next up are healthy fats, which LeVeque says "keep us full and make our homemade meals more fun, so keeping a variety will keep you cooking." Healthy fat options she recommends include avocados (because who doesn't love a good guac), nuts (TJ's has a great selection), and spreadable nut butters (organic, creamy almond butter, anyone?) to add to your morning smoothie. And for roasting and whipping up homemade dressings, don't forget a liquid fat like extra virgin olive oil.
It's not a balanced meal without some vegetables in the mix to get your dose of fiber and greens. "We know that the quantity and variety of produce we eat directly influences the health of our microbiome,” LeVeque says. “So I recommend my clients stock two of each category—raw, cooked, and leafy—and then at least one frozen and one herb option.”
For raw veggies, LeVeque notes cucumber and peppers are good options to either snack on or incorporate into a dish. For veggies to cook, she adds that Brussels sprouts and broccoli are great. As in terms of leafy greens, LeVeque suggests opting for spinach or mixed greens.
As for frozen veggies, LeVeque's favorite is frozen cauliflower rice. And in terms of herbs, TJ's has plenty, including planted ones you can take home and continue growing—think cilantro, basil, and parsley, which are all great for adding tons of flavor to dishes. Pro tip: LeVeque recommends saving herbs and citrus juice by freezing them in ice cube trays, so you always have some on hand.
Dry pantry goods
Fresh foods are always best, according to LeVeque, but keeping your pantry stocked is a good insurance policy, and TJ's really kills it in this department. "Some of my favorite pantry goods include chia seeds and flax for smoothies, black and garbanzo beans, white basmati rice, a pasta sauce, and a variety of your favorite spices," she says. Side note: Trader Joe's also has frozen, organic rice options worth checking out. Just pop them in the microwave, and they're ready to eat.
Sweets and snacks
Lastly, a balanced Trader Joe's haul isn't complete without some snacks and sweets to enjoy throughout the week. For a nut-free school snack for kids, LeVeque says pumpkin seeds will do the trick. She also loves Trader Joe's Chomp grass-fed beef sticks and ready-to-eat packets of pitted olives and marinated artichokes, which are so handy when you're on the go.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, TJ's frozen organic wild blueberries are a mainstay in LeVeque's freezer because they're high in antioxidants, but choose whatever type of berry tantalizes your taste buds. She also points to the dehydrated fruit options, which are a fun treat for kids (and grown-ups!) that only have one ingredient. And, let's not forget bananas, which you can freeze and use for smoothies too.
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