I meet with clients every week who tell me they struggle with meal prep and staying on track when life gets in the way. When we don’t have a meal plan for the week, we lack consistency and don't get the results we want. Coming home after a long day at work with no idea for dinner means mindless snacking. Skipping meals leads to overeating and binging on the weekends. I always have foods like these on hand, so I can whip up a meal in ten minutes or less.
How to Read a Nutrition Label
I’m a huge label checker. Just because it’s from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, does not mean it’s healthy. Here is the easiest test to decide if a food should make its way into the cart:
Ingredient list – When you flip the product over, you should be able to pronounce every single ingredient. The less ingredients the better, 80% of the foods I eat are single-ingredient unprocessed foods. Our bodies are designed to digest real food.
Low calorie density – We want to eat as much volume as possible for as little calories as possible. Foods that are lower in calories help promote fat loss while still keeping us full and satiated. This is why vegetables are a magic foods for getting in shape. High calorie density foods like bacon and anything processed tend to make us gain weight.
High nutrient density – Put simply, food is medicine. Every single food we eat has an effect on our body. Eating a variety of foods high in micronutrients, phytochemicals, fiber, and protein is the best way to boost health, energy and performance. Most of these foods will be plant-based. Vegetables are a more bang for your buck food when it comes to nutrients than processed foods.
Added sugar – unless it’s dessert, I avoid any added sugar. A serving should have 5g or less of added sugar. Sugar is hidden in everything from yogurt to cereal. I always check labels. It took me years to overcome my sugar addiction, and while I still enjoy a treat here and there, I do not need it sneaking into my diet on a daily basis.
Trader Joes Haul and Simple Meal Prep
These are my all-time favorite finds at Trader Joe’s, and they are all absolute meal prep stars. I'm going to walk you through an entire day of eating using these five items with two different lunch and dinner options.
Gluten-Free Rolled Oats
My day often starts with these gluten-free and non-GMO rolled oats. While all oats are technically gluten-free, they’re usually cross-contaminated with gluten grains. I recommend a mostly gluten-free diet to my clients. From working on dozens of client nutrition plans, the less gluten a person consumes the better their digestion, the less bloating and more energy they experience. The trick to cooking these oats is to add water (1 cup water for 1 ½-cup serving of oats), stir, microwave for 2 minutes, and let sit an additional minute. I also make overnight oats in a mason jar so I can grab and go in the morning. Oats are a good source of fiber, help control insulin levels, and keep us energized and full all morning.
Lentil Soup with Ancient Grains
This hearty and flavorful soup is the closest thing I have found to homemade. With all good ingredients, you can’t go wrong. There are two servings per container, which will get you through two lunches or an extra long workday.
A crunchy blend of brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage makes the perfect salad base. Cruciferous vegetables are known for their disease-fighting phytochemicals and detoxifying properties. I usually dress them with a simple homemade tahini dressing (tahini, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice). Add a protein like grilled chicken and a healthy fat like sliced avocado or pumpkin seeds and you have a nutritious lunch.
Sugar Snap Peas
When the afternoon hits and you're craving something crunchy, try these paired with nuts, hard boiled eggs or hummus for the perfect snack. They're also great in salads or stir fries.
Organic Red Lentil Pasta
Lentil pasta? Ok, hear me out. With an impressive 13g of protein per serving, you don’t even need to add additional protein, but if you want you can add turkey meatballs, and then sautéed vegetables, and marinara sauce (when it comes to jarred sauce, my favorite is Raos) or pesto. It only contains a single ingredient, organic red lentil flour, and will lose most of the red color when it’s fully cooked.
Thai Red Curry Sauce
Weeknight dinners are ready in a flash. Cook up fresh or frozen stir fry vegetables, your choice of protein (chicken, tofu, or chickpeas work well) and top with this flavorful sauce. Serve over brown rice or quinoa. Trader Joe's sells frozen rice and quinoa that can be ready in just 3 minutes.
So there you have it, my favorite go-to meals from Trader Joe's. Comment below with your favorites, hearing what you all come up with and trying new foods!