Trader Joe’s has a healthy reputation, and they’ve certainly earned it. Known for both their affordability and their unique selection of frozen foods and snacks, their 467 stores are perpetually packed.
But not everything that bears the Trader Joe’s label should be considered a health food. In fact, TJ’s sells some snacks that are downright detrimental to your diet. When you’re shopping their aisles, you should still be reading labels and using common sense.
First, the good news: Trader Joe’s tries
Trader Joe’s buys their products from major food manufacturers at a discounted cost by negotiating deals and then putting their own private label on the food. However, they do have a “clean label list,” which contains the chemicals and additives they deem unacceptable. You don’t find artificial colors, flavors, or harmful chemicals like BPA in their stores.
But just because the store steers clear of some harmful additives doesn’t mean they deserve a clean bill of health. These are a few of the unhealthiest snacks you can buy there.
Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips
These cheesy chips are definitely tasty — but if you’re looking for something superior to Doritos, don’t count on them to deliver. While these snacks are slightly healthier than their chemical-laden counterparts (they contain actual cheese, for one), they also have traces of MSG, they’re highly processed, and they have 240 mg of sodium per serving.
White Cheddar Popcorn
Popcorn has long been considered a healthy snack, but the Trader Joe’s version leaves much to be desired. A 2-cup serving contains 200 mg of sodium, 160 calories, and not much protein or fiber. For a slightly more nutritionally sound option, grab a bag of White Cheddar Corn Puffs. Their 2.5 cup serving is lower in calories, fat and sodium, and there is no added sugar.
Mac & Cheese Bites
It’s probably no surprise that anything mac ‘n cheese related would be considered an unhealthy snack, but the Trader Joe’s Mac & Cheese Bites are a great way to sabotage a nutritious diet. They have a whopping 430 mg of sodium and 40 mg of cholesterol per serving, and the 7 grams of saturated fat isn’t great, either.
These chips are proof that just because something has “veggie” in the title doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. These chips mainly consist of potatoes and oil, and they have the same amount of calories and fat as plain old potato chips.
If you have a chip craving, just treat yourself to regular chips (or Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Tortilla Chips) with raw veggies on the side.
Pita Chips with Cinnamon and Sugar
This news may be particularly devastating: If you skip regular chips in favor of pita chips, you’re actually not doing your waistline any favors. Pita chips typically have even less nutritional value than potato chips, and these pita chips in particular are coated in sugar. And since sugar is addictive, it’s nearly impossible to stick to one 140 calorie serving.
Dark Chocolate Covered Mini Pretzels
We must admit, these chocolate coated pretzels are delicious. But pretzels don’t have much nutritional value, and the chocolate only adds calories, fat, and sugar to the snack. This snack is high in calories, loaded with sugar, and full of saturated fat. Leave the bag out of your grocery cart.
Tempting Trek Mix
Trail mix can be a very smart snack, and Trader Joe’s aisle of nut mixes is always tempting. But the selection is hit or miss, and the Tempting Trek Mix is especially high in calories, fat, and sugar. And while you won’t find a trail mix that’s particularly low in any of these, the Oh My! Omega Trek Mix is a much more nutritionally sound option.
So what should you buy?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to avoid Trader Joe’s snacks entirely. They carry plenty of delicious and nutritious treats, like Organic Popcorn with Olive Oil, Crispy Crunchy Broccoli Florets, and raw nuts. Just read the labels and save the high fat, high sugar items for occasional splurges.