Trader Joe's is filled with some of the country's best junk food. Jars of cookie butter! Bacon-flavored popcorn! A 4lb chocolate bar you inevitably end up eating in one sitting! We're not judging, it's just that easy to eat Trader Joe's delicious snacks.
But what you might not know is that TJ's is also one of the best health food stores -- if you know what to look for. It's filled with nutritious snacks like kale chips, salsa, and much, much more. Best of all, it won't cost you a whole paycheck like that other popular grocery chain.
We walked the aisles of America's favorite specialty grocery store with a registered dietitian, Lindsay Lawes of Boulder Nutrition and Exercise, who picked out the best and healthiest snacks Trader Joe's has to offer. Take this list with you the next time you go shopping to step up your snack game -- if there is any room left in your cart between all that cookie butter and those giant chocolate bars, of course.
Zesty nacho kale chips
Dietary fiber: 3g, Protein: 6g, Carbohydrates: 11g
If you saw the words "zesty nacho" on a plastic bag, you'd probably hope the words after that were "tortilla chips." Even though this bag ends with "kale chips," it's still a more fun way of getting in your veggies than drinking green juice. Not only are they crunchy and flavorful, they are also nutritious. "There's a decent amount of fiber (3g) and protein (6g) per serving," Lawes says. The only downside is that there are only two portions in this entire bag, so you might want to pick up a couple of them for your upcoming Netflix binge.
Peanut butter with flax & chia seeds
Protein: 7g, Sugar: 1g, Carbohydrates: 7g
The reason Lawes picked this version is because "It has significantly more omega-3's than TJ's regular peanut butter." If you're not familiar with omega-3's, just know they're something you want in your diet, as they potentially help with weight loss and help you fight inflammation (and you do not want to be inflamed). She recommends staying away from Trader Joe's' peanut butter substitute, too -- it's also made with peanuts, but seems to be healthier. Even though it might look appealing because of its low sodium and calories, it "has twice the amount of carbs and half the amount of protein." Plus, when you take this extra-healthy peanut butter home and make a sandwich with it, you'll have the pleasure of eating your first ever PB&F&CS&J.
Veggie & flaxseed tortilla chips
Polyunsaturated fat: 3g, Monounsaturated fat: 2g, Sodium: 50mg
Chips are not exactly a food endorsed by super-fit people, but this Trader Joe's option managed to sneak into our healthy snack rundown. These veggie & flaxseed chips come in three delicious flavors: carrot-tomato, spinach-garlic, and beet-onion. Lawes says she likes that the chips "just have a few ingredients" -- meaning that they are not made with a ton of processed crap. She also likes that they have healthy fats. But don't eat the chips plain -- dip 'em into some fresh guac or salsa, and you've got yourself a fine snack, says Lawes.
Fire-roasted tomato salsa
Sodium: 20mg, Total fat: 0g, Carbohydrates: 3g
Where there are veggie & flaxseed tortilla chips, there must be salsa. The first three ingredients in this salsa are diced tomatoes, tomato puree, and fire-roasted tomatoes. Lawes is a fan of this salsa in particular because it's low in sodium (only 20g per serving). That's a lot less than other TJ's salsas, like the roasted garlic salsa which has 95mg, or over four times the amount of sodium. So go ahead, eat a pile of salt after having this snack! You've earned it!
Fancy nut mix
Polyunsaturated fat: 4g, Monounsaturated fat: 10g, Sodium: 0g
It's tempting to buy the TJ's nuts covered in honey or Thai spices, but this fancy nut mix is the healthiest of the bunch. "It's a great source of mono and polyunsaturated fats," Lawes says. If you weren't too lazy to click on the link there, you'd know that those fats help you get rid of bad cholesterol and increase the good kind! It also has no sugar and a "decent amount of fiber and protein." And unlike some of TJ's trail mixes, this doesn't skimp on the nuts in favor of chocolate chunks -- it's entirely made up of cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans.
Roasted seaweed snack
Sodium: 50mg, Calories: 30, Total fat: 2g
Seaweed isn't just what you eat when you go out for sushi, it's also a healthy snack! The sea plant can help boost your iodine levels (goiters can happen if you're low on this) and improves the health of your gut. "This has very few calories (30)," Lawes adds. "It's also very low in sodium (50mg)." And it's a crunchy snack that's better for you than double-fisting Pringles, as delightful as that sounds.
Five Seed Almond Bars
Calories: 110, Total fat: 4.5g, Sugar: 8g
While these are called bars, they are technically cookies. And cookies are usually filled with sugar, but Lawes says that you could get away with eating these for breakfast. "Considering it's a cookie, it's great that it only has 8g of sugar, which is a small amount, and it's decently sized." TJ's also likes to boast that the bars contain omega-3's. Remember how you were so excited about omega-3's a few paragraphs ago because they help you with weight loss and fighting inflammation? Get psyched again!
Unsweetened apple sauce
Total fat: 0g, Sugar: 11g, Added sugar: 0g
While Lawes says it's best to just eat a plain apple if you want a snack, apple sauce is another good option. And while it might be tempting to buy the cinnamon or wild berry apple sauce cups, resist the temptation! The unsweetened apple sauce, which comes in a reusable glass jar, is lower in sugar, and thus, healthier! She recommends sprinkling on some cinnamon for an added kick. And afterwards if you want to hurt yourself for the joy of the internet, you can also take that flavoring and do the Cinnamon Challenge.
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