Trader Joe’s doesn’t make the grade for Organics. . .but its easy on the wallet


With food and nutrition it’s never easy to decide what is the best way to eat, or the best place to buy your food, because it all depends on what is important to you and your different priorities as a consumer.  Last month, in reference to a question about vitamins and supplements my doctor told me “If they don’t have it at Trader Joe’s, you probably don’t need it.”  I guess that means that my doctor doesn’t think that I need to consume organics, because Trader Joe’s leaves much to be desired with respect to healthy Organic selection. All of the food in the picture above (plus four pre-made salads for my partner) was $89.  Which sounds like a lot when you look at it, but I usually spend a lot more at TJs.  The reason that I spent so little is the small selection of organics that TJs offers (I should add that I am not eating refined grains and sugars so organic chips and cookies and all that don’t make it into the cart).  With respect to meat–they only carry organic chicken and ground beef–no organic lunch meat, pork, or any other kinds of meat, so that makes the most expensive area pretty easy, but also pretty boring if I am going to last long on this Organic kick.  For fresh veggies they also leave a lot to be desired in my opinion–they don’t have a lot of the “super foods” that I have gotten used to–Kale, Brussels sprouts (which they do carry seasonally), chard, beets, brocclini, etc.  So I went with more conventional and less nutrient dense veggies that they do offer–lettuce, corn, cucumber, and pea sprouts.  (I will have to supplement this as the way that I usually eat this won’t last me a week–which is why its great that we signed up for a new CSA!–more to come on that later) Then there’s the Organic coffee–decaf and regular because I am cutting back on the caffeine. Organic dark chocolate because some indulgences are a must. Strawberries and grapefruit as “dessert” and pickles and beef jerky as an impulse buy.  Oh yeah and I picked up this small bottle of organic olive oil for 5.99.  It’s pretty pricey, but I do sauté a lot of veggies so I will need it–and it’s still cheaper than organic butter.

So I’ve gone on and on about what Trader Joe’s has for organic offerings, but it’s still not clear why I am doing this?  I have decided to “go organic” for as long as I can for many small reasons that seem to accumulate into a big feeling that this is the right way for me to go.  First, my diet soda habit was getting out of hand, and nothing I do seems to help me curb it.  Second, I had a conversation with my friend last week about food addictions, and how are bodies are beholden to the food industrial complex–like actually addicted to it.  She told me about how she goes on cleanses as a way of resisting this food system, and taking on a new embodied approach to food and whole living.  I guess you might call going organic a “cleanse” but I hope that it lasts longer than most of the cleanses that I have done (a week)!

There are a ton of benefits to eating organic–namely you cut out lot of the chemicals that we ingest everyday in America and there is some evidence that organic food has more nutrients.  Pesticides in conventional foods have been shown to reduce fertility, so going organic is good not only for reproductive potential but with all that we are learning from epigenetic research its good for your future kids even if you’re not making them right now.  There’s some evidence that pesticides and GMOs cause weight gain.  In any case what is most important is that there is a lot of evidence that the food produced by the global food industrial complex is not good for us, so it’s probably better not to eat it!


6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 6, Day 1/Day 36

8AM early rise, but quickly out of the house without breakfast or coffee…off to a rough start.

9:30AM stopped into Coffee Bean for a medium black coffee and a banana 110 cals

11AM ravenously hungry, had to stop into Whole Foods to grab something.  I got about a half cup of food from the salad bar including curried tofu–have no idea how many calories but it felt like about 300 cals.

1:30PM Lunch Date in Santa Monica/Brentwood at Greens Up! the salads here are HUGE–I got the SPA salad and I could only eat about half of it–I think I had about 350 calories, mostly spinach.

3pm Snack–I had four rice cakes, I just couldnt stop eating them @ 140 cals and a Trader Joe’s Orange Creamsicle @ 60 cals for a 200 calorie snack.

6pm I decided to skip the gym today, for dinner I made a Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt meal–Baked Ziti with mozzarella cheese it was really good @ 320 cals

Today’s total: 1280 cals

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 5, Day 7/Day 35

I woke up this morning at 8AM because my mom called.  So I made coffee and talked her for two hours.  I had to get off the phone because my partner wanted to go for a ride on her new bike. So I quickly changed and we got on the bikes and headed to the LA River trail.

LA River Trail

Midway to the trail I realized that I hadnt eaten breakfast, but luckily last nights dinner seemed to get me through, glad I ate all that injera!  When I got home I was all distracted and ended up not eating until 2pm–I heating up some Hoppin John and a chicken breast for a lunch of about 400 calories. Then I realized its good that I havent eaten much today because we are going to the Wrap Party for Showtime’s Dexter where there is an open bar, dinner and appetizers.

The rest of the afternoon I was at a neighborhood cleanup organized by a local Rabbi.

Its so hard to figure out what I ate at these things, or at least what is in what I ate, but here is the list with my caloric estimate:

1 vodka tonic @ 150

2 mini kobe beef slider @ 200 x2=400

2 mozzarella tomato zucchini wrap @ 70 x2=140

1 crab cake with sauce @ 250

2 vodka cranberries @ 150 each=300

1 Stella beer=150

Then the actual dinner was:

2 slices of beef steak =150

1/4 c salad=70

Crab Cakes

1/4 c roasted corn=90

1/4 c cooked spinach=90

and a whole wheat roll=110


So total for the event was about 1900 calories, eek! So the day’s total was about 2300 calories, which is bad, but look how happy I am 🙂



6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 5, Day 5/Day 33

So I have been feeling terrible the past few days, like I have muscle aches, sudden chills, and just feel like I am going to die randomly and I cant seem to figure out if there is any correlation. . .other than this diet.  Could 6 weeks of 1200 calories be catching up to me??  Could whatever micronutrients I’m missing be making me have these symptoms??  I have no idea, but I cant stop now–I’m so close to the end!!!  Also, it ends on Thurs of next week just a few days shy of next week because we leave for the cruise on Friday 🙂

I woke up at 6:30 this morning on purpose so that I could work on some things before the conference since I wasnt sure that there would be time to get anything done during the day.  I got up, got dressed went down to the lobby of my lovely hotel and got some complimentary coffee with a bit of cream @ 30 cals.  I went back up to my room and worked while I listened the shark attack news!

So when I got to the conference I had a fruit plate for breakfast and you guessed it ANOTHER coffee–black.  The fruit plate was probably about 70 cals. I was invited to have lunch with the other conference participants at this very nice restaurant up the street, unfortunately I didnt get to take pictures or get the name of the place (I was sitting next to Nancy Scheper-Hughes and too embarrassed to whip out my camera and have to explain all of this to her and the others at the table. )  So the menu had an amazing selection but I decided to go with the lamb steak, a bold move for a conference lunch, but my boldness was matched by the two sitting next to me, both NSH and my friend to my right order the lamb steak after I did.  It was wonderful, cooked med-rare to perfection, served with a creme friache, quinoa, roasted cherry tomatoes and a herb sauce.  it was perfect!  My only complaint is that they never brought me my drink, but they did get slammed with huge party of somewhat rude academics at lunch time so I guess I can understand.  So lamb steak has about 150 calories per 8 oz serving, but I know this was cooked in butter and plus it was served with creme friache and an oil based herb sauce so I am going to say that the dish was closer to 400 calories total. Wish I had taken a photo it was so beautiful.

The afternoon portion of the conference was great!  After the afternoon portion we all walked up the street to a lovely reception with champagne and appetizers.  I had a small glass of champagne for round of toasts and a mini empanada, 1/4 of a bean and cheese quesadilla, and a mini tacquito de pollo, I am guessing that the appetizers were about 200 calories total and the champagne was around 150 so thats 350 for the reception.  I was actually totally full afterwards so when we all moved on to a restaurant for dinner afterwards I didnt order but just had two beers 🙂  Beer for dinner yay! @ 370 cals. Then on my way back I couldnt resist it and I got another ice cream cone–this time with only one scoop of pumpkin ice cream, sooo good @ 150 cals. Then I went back to my nice bed, did some work and fell asleep.  Today’s total: 1370 cals.

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 5, Day 4/Day 32

8AM awake and running around the house trying to pack up my stuff for my trip up to Berkeley later and I didnt get around to eating breakfast or making coffee grrrr.  So I stopped into my partners office and grabbed some coffee and a Reese’s Stick (AKA Halloween Candy) about 50 cals for breakfast before dashing off to my AM meeting–who didnt show up!?  So then I had another coffee.

1pm Trader Joe’s Chicken Mango Quinoa Salad @ 240 cals

Pirates Booty and a Coke Zero @140 cals

Plane–ginger ale–feeling icky thought it would make me feel better but I didnt end up drinking any of it

Dinner–1.5 fresh chicken tacos with nopales 450 cals @ this local all organic fresh from local farms taco place–YUM!

I also had 1 corona @ 150 nothing else would have washed down those tacos in the same way!

2 scoops of ice cream on a cone!!!!! which the internet tells me should be about 350 cals

. . .maybe I should have skipped that second scoop, but it was soooo gooood. After that it was off to bed to get my beauty rest!

@ the Shattuck Plaza Hotel Berkeley.  Total Calories for the Day: 1380 cals

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 5, Day 3/Day 31

So I already know that today is going to be a bad day.  I have a lunch date that involves an awesome meal with a heafty amount of calories guaranteed and we are going to an event with FREE FOOD AND DRINK those always kill me–I cant say no to free yummy stuff, but really why would anyone in their right mind say no to free yummy stuff even if they are on a “diet”??

8:30AM started off with my usual coffee, with a splash of milk today @ 30 cals and a Fiber One bar @ 130 cals for breakfast

Drinking orange flavored sparkling water, trying not to snack today. . .it sucks not to snack!

12:30 Lunch! So exciting. . .a contender for THE BEST SANDWICH IN LOS ANGELES

This sandwich is uber famous in LA, its been blogged about by KCRW, Los Anjealous, the delicious life,  and its on the holy sandwich grail: the Sandwich Report. Someone on the Livestrong site estimated 852 calories for this but it was on 7 grain, so since no one ever orders it on 7 grain I am not sure what to do with this estimate.  Other Italian subs from Jersey Mikes, Jimmy Johns, etc range from 330 to 950 for half a sub, so I am going to go right down the middle and say that half of this sandwich, without mayo, is probably about 640 calories.

3 PM Snack–Drinking tea from Lupicia, 2 rice cakes @ 35 each, mango creamsicle from Trader Joes @ 60 cals– 95 cals

8pm -11pm cocktails and appetizers.  The event was fun, we met some characters, saw some famous people, and mostly hung out within arms reach of the food. I had a beer, two cocktails, two mini cheese cakes, two mini quiches, and two handfuls of potato chips–I am going to estimate 700 total for all of this.  It wasnt really that good, not sure it was worth it, but then again it was free.

Today’s total: 1595 cals

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 5, Day 1/Day 29

8:30 AM–morning coffee with a splash of milk 20 cals along with a Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax Bar @ 180 cals

11am couldnt wait any longer to try the 200 cal DiGiorno pizzas that I picked up, but then I accidentally burnt it (is this a sign?) so I only ate about half of it after cutting off the burnt edges for approx. 100 cals It is Pizza Month after all!

I followed this by a serving of cottage cheese @ 90 cals and a Diet Root Beer

By 1pm I needed to get out so I walked up the street for a coffee with a splash of milk 20 cals and impluse bought a loaf of bread with which I decided to make a turkey sandwich

The particular type of bread that I got (Sarah Lee Honey Wheat) is 150 cals for two slices, lucky me.  I added about 60 cals worth of turkey to it and about 10 cals of alfalfa sprouts and tomato slices for a 220 calorie sandwich. very low cal for a sandwich and so satisfying!

Around 5pm I started to make dinner–I decided to make Roasted Beets, aromatic rice and field peas–AKA Hoppin John, and I even posted the recipe as well. I had about a cup of rice which is about 250 cals, plus the beets with the oil they were cooked in probably came to about 150 cals, and the field peas should be about 80 cals.

Dinner comes to a total of 480 cals!  But it was good and good for me too.  I had plenty of energy for my workout and had 90 calories to spare for the post-workout snack…I decided on a pumpkin beer which is 150 cals but whatever.  Today’s total comes to 1260.