24 Trader Joe’s Products Nutritionists Never Add To Their Carts (2023)

24 Trader Joe’s Products Nutritionists Never Add To Their Carts (1)

We don't know exactly how it started, but there's this unspoken idea that everything you find at Trader Joe's—from the inventive bagged salads to the omg-need-more cookie butter—is healthier than options you'd find at your regular grocery store. As much as we hate to burst your bubble, this just isn't true. While, of course, some TJ's products are ideal for a healthy diet, many are, well, not so much. We reached out to nutritionists to get the lowdown on which foods they avoid at Trader Joe's

*Now, let's be clear: Just because those "not so much" options aren't the most healthful doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't eat them in moderation.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

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Sure it's convenient, but "between the canola oil and the syrup blend, I would suggest something else," says Lindsay Wandzilak, CEO of The Daily. Look for a different Trader Joe's product that isn't as full of processed foods: "If you are aiming for an Indian-inspired meal, try marinating chicken in one of the many curry sauces that Trader Joe's carries with fewer and more natural ingredients."

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Caramel Ginger Popcorn

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Popcorn can be a healthy alternative to snacks like potato chips...when it's prepared correctly. This Caramel Ginger Popcorn doesn't make the cut. "What makes the Caramel Ginger Popcorn really bad is the sugar combined with the caramelization," says Glen Wilde, CEO and founder of Diet to Success. "The sugar alone is bad enough, but the caramel makes that sugar stick to your teeth, making it a cavity-inducing snack. A single one-cup serving contains just 110 calories, but a whopping 19g sugar. That's equivalent to half a can of Pepsi."

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Beef & Broccoli

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A quick glance at this bag of frozen Beef & Broccoli might lead you to believe that it's a healthful dinner option—after all, it's just beef and broccoli, right? Wrong. "When you look at the nutrition fact label, you'll notice that there are 27 grams of pure sugar per serving," dietitian Megan Byrd, of The Oregon Dietitian, explains to Delish. "And with three servings per package, that amounts to 81 grams of pure sugar per package!"

On top of that, Byrd notes that 11 grams of protein per serving isn't very impressive when you consider this is mostly beef. That means it won't keep you full for very long, so you'll end up eating more than one serving. "There are also a lot of additives, like potato starch, soy protein isolate, and caramel color," she adds.

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Organic Fruit Spreads

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Trader Joe's has got the seasonal items on lock, which is what inspires treats like this Organic Watermelon Fruit Spread. Enjoy 'em sparingly because they don't quite equate to an every day indulgence. "These don't get a passing grade when it comes to containing added sugars and the ever broad 'flavored with other natural flavors,'" says John Fawkes, NSCA-Certified personal trainer, Precision Nutrition-certified nutritionist, & Managing Editor at The Unwinder. "Natural flavors can just mean so many things."

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Turmeric Ginger Coconut Beverage

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Turmeric and coconut are two buzzy words in the wellness community, so this boxed turmeric drink sounds like a healthful hit. Not so much: "The big marketing draw of this drink is that it contains turmeric, ginger and it's vegan-friendly. So, many people may think that it's healthy because it has antioxidant power and it's dairy-free, but the big turn off is that it contains 5g saturated fat," Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, and advisory board member for Fitter Living, tells Delish. "It also lacks protein and fiber, so you may not feel too satisfied after drinking it."

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Black Bean & Jack Cheese Burrito

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Grabbing an already-made burrito from Trader Joe's makes dinner super easy and super fast, which is great. But while it may be delicious, the ingredients leave something to be desired. "The label contains a whole host of unnecessary additives like monoglycerides, cellulose gum, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and powdered cellulose," says Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN, leading chef, nutritionist, and founder of the method ofCulinary Alchemy®, explains to Delish. "The high sodium levels, as well as the side effects of these additives to our digestive system, far outweigh the benefits."

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This Fruit Walks Into A Bar Cereal Bar

24 Trader Joe’s Products Nutritionists Never Add To Their Carts (9)

It's fruit and organic grains, what could be wrong with this? Apparently, a lot! "I'm not one to quickly judge, but this was a straight up no within seconds," Dr. Nadia Rizzo, N.D., tells Delish. She notes the high amounts of milk, soy, and gluten, so if you have food sensitivities to any of these things, this won't react well with you. "Soy and wheat are commonly genetically modified. If that doesn't ruffle your feathers, carry on, unless you have reason for concern when it comes to blood sugar management, weight management or energy levels," she continues. "This product is high carbohydrate and high sugar, coupled with low protein. This is a straight up no across the board."

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Mandarin Orange Chicken

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Mandarin Orange Chicken is a classic and a favorite among many Trader Joe's customers, so it pains us to say that it's not the ideal dinner for anyone who is watching what they eat. "This chicken has been coated in a refined grain flour batter and the first ingredient in the sauce for this chicken is sugar," Summer Yule, MS, RDN, tells Delish. "Speaking from personal experience, it can be very difficult to stick to the serving size on the package for this product!"

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Protein Muffins

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Muffins are not the picture of health, but "protein" is a magical word here that makes these seem much better. "While these beauties sound and taste like the most delicious seasonal treat, the dark chocolate muffin contains 13g of added sugars (totaling 26% of your recommended daily amount) and the maple version contains 14%," holistic nutritionist Jessica Groff, M.S., M.Ed, tells Delish. "And they both contain around 15% of your recommended daily amount of salt! Homemade overnight oats is a much better option."

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Chicken Pot Pie

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Another quick meal option, this Chicken Pot Pie actually seems pretty decent when you give the nutrition facts a quick glance. But look closer: "Half of this small pie is 380 calories, meaning the whole thing is over 700 calories!" Wandzilak says. " If these were nutritious calories that would be fine, but the ingredients list shows that the second most-used ingredient is pie crust (i.e. flour, vegetable shortening and oils)." Try making your own chicken pot pie in the slow cooker for a fast and healthier option.

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Coconut Cream Latte

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Many people assume that a label with splashy "dairy-free!" and "vegan!" phrases on it equates to "this is good for you!" That really couldn't be further from the truth, and these Coconut Cream Lattes are proof. "This drink is packed with sugar (9g added sugar) and saturated fat (7g)," Miller says. "It's definitely more of a dessert than a daily coffee!"

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Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Quiche

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It's just broccoli! With eggs! It has to be good for you! "Think again. This quiche packs in 460 calories and 15 grams of saturated fat (practically an entire day's worth!) in just one serving," dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies, tells Delish. "So skip this one and take home some eggs and broccoli to whip up a healthier omelet instead."

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Fully Cooked Falafel

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For vegetarians looking for a fast and satisfying dinner, these Fully Cooked Falafels are great, at least when it comes to taste. "I feel like you'd be better off getting your falafel fix from a street vendor," Jamie Hickey, personal trainer and nutritionist of Truism Fitness, tells Delish. "The fat is a killer here, with 29% of your daily recommended value of total fat, and 15% of your daily value of saturated fats. But even more despicable is the amount of sodium. These falafels pack 490 mg per serving, which is an astounding 20% of your recommended daily value. Oh, and did I mention that the serving size is only three pieces?" Let's be real: who's going to stop at three of these?

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Focaccia Primavera

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All of those veggies have got to make this one a pretty decent option, right? Wrong. "This 'Venice original' pie/pizza sounds like the perfect treat, but a third of the package contains 11g of fat (14% of your recommended daily amount) and 810mg of sodium (35% of your RDA)," Groff says. Eat this one sparingly.

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Candy Coated Chocolate Peanuts

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This is candy, so of course no one is assuming it's good for you. But the addition of peanuts may lead you to believe it's not too bad. "Sure, peanuts and dark chocolate can both offer health benefits, but this snack option is packed full of added sugar (it's the first ingredient and appears four times in various forms on the ingredient list!)," Palinski-Wade says. "So skip these guys and make your own mix of dry roasted nuts and dark chocolate instead."

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Organic Fruit Flavored Snacks

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Take note: organic does not always mean healthy. "The first three ingredients in this snack are forms of added sugar with very little actual fruit inside," Palinski-Wade says. Basically, these really are just fruit-flavored, with no actual fruit. You're better off with dried real fruit instead.

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Uncooked Grass Fed Angus Beef Burgers

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A burger is a burger, right? Nope. Hickey tells Delish that the ingredients in these frozen patties are "horrible." She explains, "For each patty, you're consuming 290 calories, 80 mg of cholesterol, and 23 grams of fat, nine of which are saturated fats. Sure, that doesn't seem too harmless right? But these numbers don't take into account the percentages of the fats in comparison to daily recommended values. These burgers not only give the consumer 35% of their daily fats, but 45% of their daily saturated fats. That's as much fat as two burgers form Burger King." You're better off with a more lean brand!

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Fresh Squeezed Lemonade

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The term "fresh squeezed" makes this drink seem a lot healthier than it actually is. "An 8oz serving of their fresh squeezed lemonade contains 28 grams of sugar!" Poon says. That's a lot of sugar for a beverage, making this more like juice. If you need a lemony fix, try squeezing actual fresh lemon into your water.

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Pita Chips with Cinnamon and Sugar

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Pita chips are often thought of as a better chip than potato chips, but that's really only if you're making them yourself and baking them. "Sure, they sound healthy, but pita chips are made from refined carbohydrates and this variety piles it on by adding additional sugars," Palinski-Wade says. "This means you won't feel satisfied for long after eating these, and they may cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar as well."

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Flavored Cold Brew Coffee

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A ready-to-go flavored canned coffee is delicious and easy to grab while you're having a busy morning. If you're going to get this, though, you may want to opt for the unflavored option. "The flavored varieties like French Vanilla and the seasonal Caramel Spice Coconut Cream boast 10 grams of sugar, 9 of which are added," Fawkes says. "You're better off buying plain cold brew, then adding your own coconut cream or milk, then mixing in some spices for a final flavor kick."


Are Trader Joe's meals ultra processed? ›

Most of the frozen entrees are super-processed and contain less than optimal ingredients. Skip them in favor of real, whole options. If you're looking for weeknight shortcuts but are avoiding processed frozen food, cooked grains are a great option. Cooked brown rice, jasmine rice, and quinoa are great choices.

Who is the director of nutrition at Trader Joe's? ›

Jamie Donovan, MBA, RDN - Director Of Nutrition - Trader Joe's | LinkedIn.

Does Trader Joe's sell healthy food? ›

There's a reason why Trader Joe's has so many devoted fans. They make fast, nutritious food that tastes great. (Don't be fooled, though; some items aren't as healthy as they seem.) To help you save time in the grocery store, we turned to top nutrition pros for their Trader Joe's shopping secrets.

Is Trader Joe's off brand? ›


By selling almost all of its products under its own labels, Trader Joe's "skips the middle man" and buys directly from both local and international vendors. While a typical grocery store may carry 50,000 items, Trader Joe's stocks about 4,000 items, 80% of which bear one of its brand names.

What are the cons of ultra-processed foods? ›

Why are ultra-processed foods bad for us? Ultra-processed foods often contain high levels of saturated fat, salt and sugar and when we eat them, we leave less room in our diets for more nutritious foods. It's also been suggested that the additives in these foods could be responsible for negative health effects.

What ultra-processed foods to avoid? ›

Examples of common ultra-processed foods are:
  • soda and carbonated drinks.
  • sweet and savory packaged snacks (e.g., chips and cookies)
  • breakfast cereal.
  • instant noodles.
  • microwave-ready meals.
  • energy bars or granola bars.
  • candy.
  • fast food.
Jun 6, 2023

What's the hype with Trader Joe's? ›

Trader Joe's has a cult-like following from customers because of how they invest heavily in customer experience. Trader Joe's is meant to be more than a trip to the grocery store, but an experience. Customers can play with products, trying any item in the store by simply asking an employee.

Does Trader Joe's have clean food? ›

Many of the nuts and seeds sold at Trader Joe's are great options in terms of clean eating, but you definitely do need to be careful. Read the ingredients to make sure that there aren't any sneaky sugars or other ingredients that you're trying to avoid.

Is Trader Joes really organic? ›

But a common yet persistent misconception is that all food sold at Trader Joe's is organic. While this would be amazing… it's simply not true. While Trader Joe's does boast that all of the ingredients used in their foods are non-GMO, most of the food they sell is not organic.

Does Trader Joe's have processed foods? ›

Trader Joe's Processed Snacks Are Still Processed Snacks

By no means am I saying you can never enjoy processed snacks or that the only reason to buy food is for its nutritional value. However, a place that is famed for its store-brand replicas of popular processed snack foods raises some red flags for me.

Are frozen dinners ultra-processed? ›

Ultra-processed foods tend to be lower in nutrients and fiber and higher in sugar, fat and salt compared to unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Some examples of ultra-processed foods include soda, packaged cookies, chips, frozen meals, flavored nuts, flavored yogurt, distilled alcoholic beverages and fast foods.

Are frozen meals ultra-processed? ›

Highly-processed or ultra-processed foods have many added ingredients, like sugar, salt, fat, and artificial ingredients. Examples of ultra-processed foods are frozen meals, soda, cold cuts, and sweets, according to Harvard Health.

Are ready meals ultra-processed food? ›

Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are items that are heavily processed during their making, such as frozen pizzas, fizzy or milk-based drinks, mass-produced packaged bread and many ready meals.


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