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A Breakdown of How ‘Healthy’ Trader Joe’s Frozen Food Really Is

Mother Jones Food Smackdown

It’d be nice if we could cook a gourmet meal for ourselves every night, but most times that ain’t happening. Quick and easy is always a solid go-to, and if you hit up a local Trader Joe’s, you’ll come across tons of delicious options. But how do these frozen dinners stack up nutritionally? Kiera Butler of Mother Jones has the answers for a few popular picks.

In her latest “food smackdown,” Butler tackles pre-made grub like potstickers, mac ‘n cheese and pad Thai, giving us a general nutrition and taste test breakdown. Here’s  a peek at some of the frozen grub below:

The Chicken Burritos are no doubt delicious and fare well in the calorie department, but they’re pretty heavy with salt.

Trader Joe's Frozen Meals

The veggies on this pizza add some great nutritional value, but again, lots o’ salt isn’t so great.

Trader Joe's Frozen Meals

A solid amount of protein and less salt than other frozen meals make the Chicken Potstickers a guiltless and tasty option.

Trader Joe's Frozen Meals

The polenta is a decent choice considering it’s low-cal and doesn’t contain much sodium, but notice the serving size — it’s really tiny.

Trader Joe's Frozen Meals

Despite its fat content being on the high side, TJ’s Mac ‘n Cheese isn’t as salty as other options here, and word on the street is it’s pretty delicious.

Trader Joe's Frozen Meals

Check out the full breakdown in the video below:

PicThx Mother Jones

By Cameron Simcik

Cameron is a Philadelphia native who is borderline obsessed with chocolate, coffee and sushi. She writes for TheFW and The Daily Meal, and making a mean chocolate chip cookie is her specialty. She also tries pizza everywhere she travels in hopes someday she'll become one of those cool pizza snobs.

6 replies on “A Breakdown of How ‘Healthy’ Trader Joe’s Frozen Food Really Is”

Great post! The only problem with those pot stickers is they’re so dang good it’s hard to not eat the whole bag. If you do more reviews of Trader Joe’s frozen stuff, try to include the chimichurri rice! We’re absolutely addicted to that stuff.

I’m surprised, frankly, that only the polenta got a special mention vis-a-vis serving size. Yes, the 1/3 polenta serving is *ridiculous*; it’s far smaller than the serving most people would present even as a side-dish when part of a much larger meal. But trust me, no one eats one of those burritos; many customers eat the entire package at a sitting, which goes for the popular mac-n-cheese offering too. The *real* (as opposed to posted) calorie and salt counts are far worse than this article implies.

Trader Joe’s has built a brand that encourages its legion of fanatical fans to overlook issues like its disingenuous labeling. I examined exactly how the company did that in my book, “Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s”. Suffice to say, even this apparently unbiased assessment actually treats TJ’s with kid gloves.

Are the prepared meals tasty? Often. Healthy? Rarely. And there are other issues, too, of packaging waste and carbon footprint. Naan Bread shipped frozen from India? C’mon.

The fast food industry employs a number of tried-and-true things to get you addicted to buying their crap: (1) intensely strongly tasty (2) XSSFF [excess sugar/salt/fat/flour] (3) crunchy texture (4) sensual mouthfeel. They know *all* the hooks!

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