5 Trader Joe's Finds that Make Healthy Dinners Easy
Don’t want to prep all your meals on Sunday? This article is for you. While meal prepping can make healthy eating easy during the week, sometimes you don’t want to spend your whole weekend cooking. And sometimes you can’t because: life. You go out of town, you have friends visiting, etc.
If Wednesday comes around and you have nothing healthy in the fridge to reheat or cook, you don’t have to succumb to unhealthy take out. Stock up on healthy foods you can make in a flash. Here are five of my favorites from Trader Joe’s.
Frozen Veggie Burgers
It’s time to get comfortable with frozen foods because they will make your life much easier. Ditch the notion that frozen is less healthy than fresh. You just need to check the nutrition label. In fact, when it comes to frozen fruits and vegetables, they are actually more nutritious than fresh since fresh produce can lose nutrients as it travels from farm to store.
I love frozen veggie burgers because they can be heated on the stove or in the microwave in less than 10 minutes. Then throw one on a whole wheat bun or sandwich thin, crumble into a whole wheat tortilla or pita, or top over a bed of salad. For more protein, fry up an egg. Then load it up with vegetables like baby spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado for fill-you-up fiber.
Look for a veggie burger with mostly whole food ingredients like “beans,” “quinoa,” or “lentils.” The fewer the ingredients and more whole food ingredients, the better. My favorites from Trader Joe’s are: Quinoa Cowboy with Black Beans and Roasted Corn, Thai Sweet Chili, Vegetable Masala, and High Protein Veggie Burger.
Head to the produce section to find zucchini noodles, aka spiralized zucchini or zoodles. These serve as a great pasta substitute - no boiling water required. Or you can do half zoodles, half whole-wheat pasta. The last time I bought zoodles I made Zoodle Spaghetti, and it took less than 15 minutes. Simply cook lean ground beef or ground turkey on the stove in one skillet. In a separate skillet, heat some olive oil, dump the zoodles in, and stir until heated. Mix with the ground meat and pour tomato sauce on top. Season with salt, pepper, basil, and oregano - these can be added as you go or at the end. You can also throw zoodles into green smoothies, and you can’t even taste them!
This dinner does require thinking 30-60 minutes ahead of time, but other than that, it’s easy peasy! Simply mix ¾ cup of water with 1 cup of mix. Let it sit for 30-60 minutes. Then roll into balls, heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and fry up the patties. Create a falafel plate of hummus, carrots, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes or fill a whole wheat pita with the same veggies, hummus, and/or tzatziki. While the falafel is sitting, you can make your own tzatziki with plain Greek yogurt, dill, and lemon juice. Make extra of everything so you have lunch for the next day!
Craving tacos but don’t have meat on hand? Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo makes a great taco filling that can be made in less than 10 minutes. Simply squeeze the chorizo into a pan on the stove and stir until heated through. Add to a tortilla with all your favorite taco toppings. Trader Joe’s Corn and Chile Tomatoless Salsa is one of my faves. One serving of soy chorizo delivers 4 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein.
Frozen Mexican Street Corn
Corn is a starchy vegetable so if you don’t have time to cook up quinoa or barley, make this delicious Mexican Street Corn instead. And by “make,” I mean dump it into a skillet on the stove and mix until heated through. Pair with non-starchy vegetables and protein like salmon, chicken, or white fish. It’s also a tasty addition to Taco Tuesday.
Final tips for easy, healthy dinners:
Keep the Healthy Plate in mind when making lunch and dinner. It provides a framework for healthy eating - fill ½ your plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate with a whole grain or starchy vegetable (potato, corn, or peas), and ¼ of your plate with protein.
Stock your fridge with vegetables that don’t have to be chopped - snap peas, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, peas, mushrooms. You’ll be more likely to reach for them if no chopping is required.
Fill up your freezer - In addition to these tasty Trader Joe’s finds, fill the freezer with frozen fruit for smoothies and pre-cut frozen vegetables that can be thrown into a variety of dishes. Look for low sodium (less than 600 mg of sodium or <20% Daily Value when possible), whole food ingredients, high fiber (3-5 grams or more), and high protein (3-5 grams or more).
Lainey Younkin, MS, RD, LDN is a Boston-based registered dietitian, nutrition consultant, and writer. Her mission is to help people get out of a dieting mentality and into a healthy lifestyle by changing habits. She sees clients in-person and virtually, does corporate wellness events, consults for food companies, and is a contributor at Eatingwell.com. She rarely meal preps and specializes in making dinner on the fly - follow her on Instagram and watch her stories for ideas. When she’s not coaching or consulting, you can find her at brunch with her husband and two boys, running, or working on her creative side gigs - Stella & Dot and EVER Skincare.