Quick and Balanced Meal Planning with Trader Joe's

Updated: Jul 22

For busy people, who have minimal time to cook!



As a dietitian, with a passion for all things food - I spend a good amount of time coming up with ways my clients can integrate more balanced meals at home. I personally love cooking, but many of my clients don't, or don't feel they have the time. Trader Joe's is one of my favorite places for these clients to shop because of their wide selection of semi-prepared food options. They make meal prep SO much easier for these clients.


I thought I'd share a few tips for creating quick meals, and easy meal combinations from Trader Joe's.


When picking meal combinations, I like to start with a good quality protein, then pick a vegetable to add in, followed by some kind of carbohydrate. You don't really need to focus on getting fat sources in, because typically we will find those in some of these foods already, or you'll add some in for flavor.


I do recommend reading ingredient lists, and looking for foods with simple, and easily recognizable ingredient lists.


I rarely write down specific portions of these foods, because everyone is different! I would typically recommend most clients hit at least 20 g of protein per meal, and at least 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables per meal.


Here are a few of my favorite meal combos (as of Summer 2022 because we all know Trader Joe's mixes things up).


Pesto Chicken Ravioli

Buy:

Chicken Ravioli

Zucchini

Pesto

Optional: Feta/or mozzarella/cherry tomatoes


Directions:

  1. Dice zucchini, then cook in a pan with a little oil, mixing every so often until lightly browned. (If you'd like you can also cook some tomatoes)

  2. Cook TJ's chicken ravioli according to package instructions.

  3. Mix zucchini, and ravioli together, stir in pesto and top with cheese.

The Trader Joe's Chicken Ravioli has a decent amount of protein - but if you're shooting for a higher protein goal, just add some of their precooked chicken breast, or chicken sausage!



Chili Bowl

Buy:

Turkey or Chicken Chili Use a can of TJs Turkey or Chicken Chili

Cauliflower Rice, frozen

Crackers

Optional: Avocado


Directions:

  1. Pour chili into a microwave safe bowl, and mix in cauliflower rice. Heat in the microwave, stirring occasionally until fully heated through.

  2. Serve with crackers, and optional avocado slices on top.

Remember that canned soups/or chili in this case, are typically higher in sodium. Other than the high sodium, these Trader Joe's chili's have very reasonable ingredients.



Quick Corn Tacos

Buy:

Corn Tortillas

Chili Lime Chicken

Salsa

Shredded Green Cabbage

Optional: Greek yogurt, A Dozen Cousins Mexican Cowboy Beans, Hot sauce


Directions:

  1. Toast tortillas in a pan with a little oil or butter.

  2. Heat chili lime chicken, and add chicken to each tortilla.

  3. Add a little green cabbage to each tortilla, and salsa.

  4. Enjoy!

To add a boost of fiber, and flavor, use A Dozen Cousins beans in each taco.

To add a little more protein, opt for some greek yogurt in place of sour cream.

If you need more heat, use a little hot sauce!

If you want more vegetables, make a side salad using the extra cabbage, with whatever vegetables you'd like to add, and a mix of salsa and greek yogurt (with a pinch of Everything But The Elote) for dressing.


Roasted Rosemary Chicken

Buy:

Roasted Rosemary Chicken

Frozen Broccoli or Mediterranean Salad Mix or some kind of vegetable (at least 2 cups per person)


Directions:

  1. If you pick a veggie, steam it or cook it in a pan with a little avocado oil.

  2. Heat your Roasted Rosemary Chicken, add the vegetable in, and enjoy.

The Roasted Rosemary Chicken will say on the back of the package that it is 3 servings. This is ridiculous, I would recommend eating at least half of the package per person. If you divide the package in half, you get 25.5 g protein per serving, so you're hitting your protein goal, and it does provide a reasonable amount of carbohydrates. It seems low in vegetables on it's own, so I just recommend adding some to bulk it up.


It's also a little lower in fat, so if you feel like you'll be hungry, feel free to add some sliced avocado - or even a little brown rice - as it just contains a moderate portion of carbohydrates.



Balsamic Chicken Pita

Buy:

Balsamic chicken, precooked

Whole Wheat Pitas

Arugula

Carrots

Avocado / Hummus


Directions:

  1. Toast your pita, and add in balsamic chicken for protein, some arugula (and possibly shredded carrots) for vegetables and texture, and a little hummus or avocado for healthy fat and flavor.

  2. Serve with extra carrots and hummus on the side.

The Trader Joe's Whole Wheat pitas are awesome for stuffing with SO many things. I also love them with hummus, sprouts, and TJ's smoked salmon, canned in olive oil.


Teriyaki Chicken Bowl

Buy:

Teriyaki Chicken (Frozen)

Brown Rice (Frozen)

Broccoli (Frozen)

Optional: Carrots / Avocado


Directions:

  1. Heat teriyaki chicken, brown rice, and broccoli. Steam carrots if you like and add them to your bowl. Serve with avocado sliced over the top.


Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Buy:

Steamed Lentils

2 Red Bell Peppers, chopped

¼ c. Sweet onion, chopped

½ c. Feta chunks

¼ c. Pepperoncini peppers, chopped

¼ c. Apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste (also great with Trader Joe’s Alium Salt)


Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together, and enjoy! Serve this hot or cold, or stuffed in a toasted whole wheat pita with some greens.

Lentils are a great source of plant-based protein, and add a reasonable portion of fiber and resistant starch to your plate! Wonderful for feeding those healthy gut bugs.


Simple Glazed Salmon

Buy:

Salmon

Mushroom Risotto (frozen)

Mushrooms

Broccoli/Asparagus (or some kind of vegetable you enjoy)

Balsamic Glaze

Avocado oil


Directions:

  1. Spray salmon with a little avocado oil, then top with salt/pepper or TJ's alium salt.

  2. Cook salmon however you prefer! I love using the air fryer, or pan frying it.

  3. Cook mushrooms in a skillet with a little avocado oil for a few minutes. Then add in mushroom risotto, with 2 tbsp. water. Allow this mixture to cook for 7-10 more minutes.

  4. Serve salmon with your mushroom risotto, and at least 2 cups of nonstarchy vegetables (steamed broccoli etc). Drizzle balsamic glaze over your salmon and vegetables to add flavor.

  5. Enjoy!

Fatty fish are some of the healthiest foods you can include in your diet on the regular basis. SMASH is the acronym used to help us remember what these are - Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, and Herring!



Mediterranean Lentil Salad Pita

Buy:

Whole Wheat Pita

Lentil salad (either the steamed lentils or the one you made above using them)

Hummus

Mixed Greens

Carrots, Cucumbers, Celery etc. (vegetables you enjoy)

Simple Cooked Chicken Breast


Directions:

  1. Cut the pita in half and toast each half.

  2. Stuff the toasted pita with hummus, lentils, greens etc.

  3. Serve with extra veggies and hummus on the side.

If you want more protein, add one of Trader Joe's precooked chicken breasts!



Lentil Pasta Salad

Buy:

Red Lentil Pasta (bag from Tj), Cooked

Apple Cider Vinegar

Olive Oil

Cucumbers

Red Bell Peppers

Feta

Arugula

Optional: Trader Joe's Alium Salt


Directions:

  1. Cook lentil pasta according to package instructions.

  2. Allow pasta your pasta to cool. Chop vegetables.

  3. Mix pasta with vegetables, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, feta and alium salt to taste.

  4. Enjoy!

(I will typically use 1/2 bag of TJ's lentil pasta, 2 tbsp. ACV, 1 tbsp. Olive oil, 1 large english cucumber, 1 red bell pepper, 1/4 c. feta, and 2 c. arugula - and have no idea how much alium salt I add in)



Veggie Pasta

Buy:

Red Lentil Pasta

Zucchini

Sweet onion

Fresh Spinach

Grape Tomatoes

Parmesan

Sauce of choice (pesto, marinara, bruschetta etc)


Directions:

  1. Wash and chop vegetables.

  2. Heat a little avocado oil in your pan, then add in onions first. Cook until fragrant, then add in all other vegetables.

  3. Cook pasta to package instructions. Add vegetables into your pasta dish. Top with sauce of choice and parmesan.



I hope you enjoy these quick, simple meal ideas!



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