All photographs by Claudia Gavin
Confession: I’m a health coach that hates to cook.
I used to think that in order to have a healthy toned body, I had to cook 80 to 100 percent of my food—and for a while I did just that. I used to spend six hours on a Sunday shopping, chopping and cooking all my food for the week because I never had the time during the work week to cook a healthy, elaborate meal that didn’t taste like cardboard.
Guess what? This got old very quickly. I prefer eating food rather than making it. And unless you’re a Powerball winner and rolling dough, you can understand why eating out at the healthiest farm-to-table restaurants every night of the week isn’t an option, either.
So I was determined to find a solution that would save me from slaving away over the stove for hours but that didn’t force me to give up eating the foods that were good for me.
And that’s when I discovered this secret: the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s. Seriously, it’s one of the best places to find healthy “fast food” (i.e. food that doesn’t take 100 years to make)—you just have to know what you’re looking for.
Now keep in mind, when it comes to healthy fast food, there are pros and cons. It’s hard to be completely clean, but you can find things that aren’t pumped with preservatives, stuffed with sodium, or loaded with lard. (Sorry, TJ’s frozen mac and cheese is not one of them.)
Here, six of my favorite healthy frozen items at Trader Joe’s, for when you’re just too darn busy to cook:
1. Trader Joe's Chili Lime Chicken Burgers, $3.49.
These are a great staple to have in your freezer at all times. Forget about eating a hockey puck on a bun; these are packed with flavor and have only nine simple ingredients. With 19 grams of protein in one little patty, it’s a great way to stay lean and full and keep your blood sugar stable (which is a secret to slimming down). Skip the cheese and top it with avocado.
2. Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice, $3.49.
If you’re rolling your eyes thinking that this is too simple and plain, guess again. Pop one of these two-serving packets of brown rice in the microwave and in three minutes—presto!—you’ve got yourself perfect, healthy brown rice. No need to soak or scrub sticky rice from a pot again.
3. Frozen Tilapia Fillets, $5.43.
Trader Joe’s has quite the selection of frozen fish. I always pick up their tilapia; it's thin, which makes defrosting quick and easy. If you think of it, take it out of the freezer the night before and pop it in the fridge to defrost while you hustle at work. That way, it’ll be ready for dinner time. Crack the package and pop in your oven on 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes. For some flavor, I top mine with an herb seasoning with that I picked up last summer at the Head House Farmers Market. This is great to pair with your organic brown rice and one of TJ’s many frozen veggies.
4. Trader Joe's Frozen Kale, $1.79.
Speaking of frozen veggies, TJ’s has a ton. While the pickins' for organic veggies are slim, they allow you to save time, money and a boatload of kitchen stress. Grab their frozen kale, one of the most nutritionally dense foods, to keep in your freezer. Add it to a smoothie to get in some greens or toss a handful in a skillet to add to your din din.
5. Organic Superfood Pilaf, $3.99.
Can I get a high five that this is organic? When I found this gem I literally jumped up and down in the aisle. Luckily, TJ’s is so packed with people who are trying to get in and get out that no one saw and no one will see when you do the same. This pilaf makes a great comfort meal without packing on the pounds. Quinoa, sweet potatoes, kale and carrots—a healthy dose of veggies and protein, clean ingredients, AND it’s a one pot meal taking no more than 10 minutes on the stovetop. Win!
6. Trader Joe's Gone Bananas, $1.99.
I L-O-V-E dessert. And I’m here to tell you that you CAN have dessert and be healthy, too. My clients will often hear me say, “Sacrifice only guarantees a binge later on, so eat dessert my friend.” Just make sure it’s one of the lesser evils. I love TJ’s slices of banana dipped in chocolate. Pop a few in your mouth after a meal for something sweet without the sin.
Jessica Procini is a certified holistic health coach and weight-loss expert, speaker, and founder of the web TV series called J-CiniTV. She’s on a mission to support women in losing 20 pounds in 90 days without starving themselves, giving up chocolate, or worrying about silly things like calorie counts. Instead she teaches women how to Laugh Themselves Skinny. As a talented comedian, Jessica brings her humor and ability to find fun in all things to her clients so they can have a freakin’ blast while slipping back into their skinny jeans.
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