A Nutritionist Reviews the Winners of Trader Joe’s 2020 Customer Choice Awards

October 10, 2018

Trader Joe’s just announced its 11th consecutive annual Customer Choice Awards list, which includes top entrees, cheeses, snacks, candy and more from the food store giant’s aisles. The overall conclusion? Plant-based foods performed strongly, which is in line with the overall consumer trend toward plant-based diets.

Of course, TJ’s list also includes some indulgences (hello, dark chocolate peanut butter cups!) and non-plant-based customer favorites (like Citrus Chicken). Here are all the mass market 2020 winners, along with my nutritional comments on each item.

Overall favorite: everything but the bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend.
This product often shows up in my clients’ food diaries, and I’ve found people to be very creative with its use, from egg and avocado toast to salads, stir-fries, pasta, pizza, and even the rim of a Bloody Mary cup.

Made from a blend of sesame seeds, salt flakes, dried garlic, dried onion powder, black sesame seeds and poppy seeds, it’s both delicious and healthy. A quarter teaspoon serving provides 80 milligrams of sodium (just 3% of the recommended daily maximum) and 5 calories. And with each sprinkle, the seeds increase in fiber and minerals such as manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

Try it on more whole foods, like cooked veggies, vinegar-based salads, hummus, lentil or black bean soup, roasted fingerling potatoes, popcorn in extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, cooked or boiled and cooled quinoa, and guacamole. If you’re super adventurous, sprinkle in melted dark chocolate as a dip for fresh veggies or fruit.

Favorite entree: orange chicken
If you’re unfamiliar with this product, the bag includes oven-roasted dark meat chicken pieces and a thick brown sauce. Toss the roasted chicken in the sauce heated on the stovetop and serve as an appetizer or add it to a main dish.

Here’s the nutritional profile. The batter contains eggs and wheat flour The sauce is a combination of sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and seasonings. A one-cup serving provides 320 calories, 16 grams of fat, 24 grams of carbohydrates (1 gram of which is fiber and 6 grams from sugar), 21 grams of protein and 330 milligrams of sodium, which is 14 percent of the recommended daily limit.

If you’re a fan, your best bet is to combine it with plenty of veggies, such as broccoli, kale, spinach, or a mix of greens, bell peppers, and onions, as well as noodles made from spiralized veggies. If you’re meatless or want to eat less meat, make a similar (and healthier) dish with actual citrus (juice and parts) and a bit of pure maple syrup, combined with a sauce made from brown rice vinegar, onion, garlic, fresh ground ginger, sea salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Toss on low heat with frozen lima beans, plenty of vegetable concoction or spiralized veggie noodles and top with chopped almonds or pistachios.

Favorite vegetarian veggie item: cauliflower gnocchi.
While the first ingredient is cauliflower, this TJ favorite is also made with tapioca flour and potato starch, as well as extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. The added starch bumped up the carbohydrate content, at 22 grams per cup, with 6 grams as fiber, so a net 16 grams total (about the amount in a slice of bread). One serving also provides 3 grams of fat, 2rams grams of fiber, 140 calories, and small amounts of calcium, iron, and potassium.

If you like this item, think of it as a carbohydrate meal that includes some bonus vegetables. Add plenty of extra veggies, as well as some healthy fats, such as Brussels sprouts or asparagus with vegan pesto or olive papaya sauce, or EVOO sautéed tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and onions. Add protein to round out the meal.TJ’s Steamed Lentils are a great plant-based option.

Favorite sweet treat: dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

The first ingredient in the semi-sweet chocolate that makes up these goodies is sugar, along with cocoa, and milk fat, and the peanut butter is combined with sugar, palm oil, and soy lecithin-so this candy contains eight of the most common types of allergens. A three-slice serving provides 200 calories, 12 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of which are fiber, 18 grams from sugar, 3 grams of protein, and 8% of the daily iron target.

Trader Joe’s just announced its 11th consecutive annual Customer Choice Awards list, which includes top entrees, cheeses, snacks, candy and more from the food store giant’s aisles. The overall conclusion? Plant-based foods performed strongly, which is in line with the overall consumer trend toward plant-based diets.

Of course, TJ’s list also includes some indulgences (hello, dark chocolate peanut butter cups!) and non-plant-based customer favorites (like Citrus Chicken). Here are all the mass market 2020 winners, along with my nutritional comments on each item.

Overall favorite: everything but the bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend.
This product often shows up in my clients’ food diaries, and I’ve found people to be very creative with its use, from egg and avocado toast to salads, stir-fries, pasta, pizza, and even the rim of a Bloody Mary cup.

Made from a blend of sesame seeds, salt flakes, dried garlic, dried onion powder, black sesame seeds and poppy seeds, it’s both delicious and healthy. A quarter teaspoon serving provides 80 milligrams of sodium (just 3% of the recommended daily maximum) and 5 calories. And with each sprinkle, the seeds increase in fiber and minerals such as manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.

Try it on more whole foods, like cooked veggies, vinegar-based salads, hummus, lentil or black bean soup, roasted fingerling potatoes, popcorn in extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, cooked or boiled and cooled quinoa, and guacamole. If you’re super adventurous, sprinkle in melted dark chocolate as a dip for fresh veggies or fruit.

 

Favorite entree: orange chicken
If you’re unfamiliar with this product, the bag includes oven-roasted dark meat chicken pieces and a thick brown sauce. Toss the roasted chicken in the sauce heated on the stovetop and serve as an appetizer or add it to a main dish.

Here’s the nutritional profile. The batter contains eggs and wheat flour The sauce is a combination of sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and seasonings. A one-cup serving provides 320 calories, 16 grams of fat, 24 grams of carbohydrates (1 gram of which is fiber and 6 grams from sugar), 21 grams of protein and 330 milligrams of sodium, which is 14 percent of the recommended daily limit.

If you’re a fan, your best bet is to combine it with plenty of veggies, such as broccoli, kale, spinach, or a mix of greens, bell peppers, and onions, as well as noodles made from spiralized veggies. If you’re meatless or want to eat less meat, make a similar (and healthier) dish with actual citrus (juice and parts) and a bit of pure maple syrup, combined with a sauce made from brown rice vinegar, onion, garlic, fresh ground ginger, sea salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Toss on low heat with frozen lima beans, plenty of vegetable concoction or spiralized veggie noodles and top with chopped almonds or pistachios.

Favorite vegetarian veggie item: cauliflower gnocchi.
While the first ingredient is cauliflower, this TJ favorite is also made with tapioca flour and potato starch, as well as extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. The added starch bumped up the carbohydrate content, at 22 grams per cup, with 6 grams as fiber, so a net 16 grams total (about the amount in a slice of bread). One serving also provides 3 grams of fat, 2rams grams of fiber, 140 calories, and small amounts of calcium, iron, and potassium.

If you like this item, think of it as a carbohydrate meal that includes some bonus vegetables. Add plenty of extra veggies, as well as some healthy fats, such as Brussels sprouts or asparagus with vegan pesto or olive papaya sauce, or EVOO sautéed tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and onions. Add protein to round out the meal.TJ’s Steamed Lentils are a great plant-based option.

Favorite sweet treat: dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

The first ingredient in the semi-sweet chocolate that makes up these goodies is sugar, along with cocoa, and milk fat, and the peanut butter is combined with sugar, palm oil, and soy lecithin-so this candy contains eight of the most common types of allergens. A three-slice serving provides 200 calories, 12 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of which are fiber, 18 grams from sugar, 3 grams of protein, and 8% of the daily iron target.