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 4, Day 2/Day 23

Breakfast @ 8:30 AM–1 fried egg and a Morning Star maple flavored meatless sausage plus intelligencia coffee @ 170 cals.

11:30 AM SNACK–celery sticks and a few kale chips–these are super yummy–I got the recipe here, and someone else did a calorie estimate here.

Also, FYI here’s some fun info on whether or not celery is a “negative calorie” food. I estimate 20 cals for few kale chips I had and 20 for the celery making this a 40 calorie snack.

At 12PM I had my first lunch course–the same butternut squash soup from yesterday @ 90 cals a serving.

Salad– 2 cups lettuce (20cals), 10 carrots (20 cals), 1/4 cup La Choy Chow Mien Noodles (65 cals), 1 tbsp of Kraft Light Asian Toasted Sesame dressing (30 cals), and 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Mandarin Oranges (30 cals) for a total of 165 cals for the salad.

After the salad I slowly drank a pot of Lupicia‘s Lapsang souchong (one of my fav teas) with a touch of Vanilla added to it.

3:30 SNACK 1 cup of cottage cheese @ 180 cals

4pm SNACK 2 slices Wasa Light Rye CrispBread @ 60 cals

6pm Dinner–Dover Sole sautéed in 1 tsp of olive oil, 1 shallot and 1 sliced lime for 120 cals, a serving of orzo for 210 cals because I was really craving carbs before the gym. Plus I had a little bit of butter on the orzo for another 30 cals  I tried to cook some of the spinach that has been in the freezer for a while but it was too freezer burned so I had to put it in the compost bin.  Making dinner about 360 cals.

After dinner I had every intention of going to the gym but then suddenly my stomach started hurting–probably from the huge blob of carbs I just ate–and then my partner came home with a new bottle of real “L word” wine (Yes I did just write Real L-word wine)and we had a glass. . .and it was all downhill from there.  So the wine adds 100 cals. I also had a bunch of kale chips and a bit of this sweet seaweed snack that I picked up at Whole foods, so I’m going to call it a night at 1200 cals.

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 4, Day 1/Day 22

Breakfast @ 8:30 AM–1 fried egg and a Morning Star maple flavored meatless sausage plus intelligencia coffee @ 170 cals.

Lunch @ 1pm– a serving of Pacific’s Butternut Squash Soup @ 90 cals and my self-made salad with 2 cups lettuce, 10 carrots, 1/2 a small heirloom tomato, 1 oz turkey, 1 tbsp alfalfa sprouts, 1/2 an apple, 3 peppercinis, and 1/4 c of chopped celery with a drizzle of oil and vinegar which was about 170 cals in all.

PM Snack– around 4:45 I had a Kashi Pumpkin Spice Bar for 90 cals–> 

6pm dinner–made spaghetti squash which has about 25 cals per cup, with diced tomatoes (30 cals) and 3 Trader Joes frozen meatballs (390 cals) oy–those meatballs were killer, gotta get turkey next time.  Dinner was 445 cals then. After that I headed to the gym for an hour and a half.  When I got home I had a small glass of red wine and a slice of this amazing cherry cheddar that I picked up at Whole Foods today. Today’s total: 1220 cals

Before its cooked. . .



Cherry Cheddar--YUM



6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 3, Day 4/ Day 18

I was up bright and early to head to LAX for my flight to Toronto.  I  had a cup of coffee–black–before I left the house and my partner made me an awesome breakfast–an egg and a TJ maple flavored meatless sausage patty, so I was off to a good start @ 170 cals.

I decided to pack my own lunch for the plan since I wasnt sure what would be offered on the flight to Toronto.  I packed a half a cup of rice with a cup of my ratatoulli and a half cup of some sauteed mushrooms that I made the night before.  Sometimes I have trouble getting mushy foods through security due to the no liquids or gels thing, but I figured this stuff was solid enough that they would let me through.  I also packed some Trader Joes “So This Fig walked into a Bar” bars and a pack of Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks just in case.

On the plane, when the beverage service came through I got a Tomato juice, which is a great nutritious snack that you can get for FREE on airplanes still @ 70 cals. A few hours into the flight I ate my lunch that I packed which in total was about 250 calories. I’m not sure whether I was still hungry or just bored but I ate a bar and the seaweed snack before we got off the plane as well for another 200 calories together.  When the second drink service came around I got a Diet Coke to give myself a little energy for the bus/subway ride into downtown Toronto.

My hotel was recommended by my Aunt so I didnt look into it too much before I went, but I was a little shocked to see that it was clearly an old dorm and had it not been in Canada I would have probably been scared to stay there.  When it was all said and done though it was a pretty nice place for the price (80 canadian a night sounds outrageous for what I got, but it was way cheaper than any other options).  As soon as I got to my room I felt like I wanted to get out, so I walked up Queen street to check out what was around the area.  On my walk I had the sudden urge to have some genuinely Canadian dish for “dinner” and I settled on Poutine which the internet tells me I should estimate to be 600 cals, I only ate half though @300 cals with a Canadian Moltsen Beer @100 cals. Making the day’s total 1090 cals.

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 3, Day 3/Day 17

AM–I had to drive to Santa Monica to pick up some paper work this morning and I didnt take the time to make coffee or breakfast before I left, so I had a fiber one bar  (140 cals) in the car, but I still hadnt had my coffee, so I stopped into Huckleberry for an Americano, when the guy served me he actually said “I hope this wakes you up.”  I must have looked so dead.

When I got back home I made this Trader Joes frozen Tom Yam vegetarian Soup that we picked up on Sunday, it looked really good, but once I started eating it I realized that I didnt really like it.  So I didnt finish it and I ate some of the leftover Penang Bowl from last night–it kills me that I have no idea how many calories is in it and since I really dont know what the sauce is made of its really hard to estimate, but I am going to stay that I had 200 cals worth.

Around 3pm I had a cup of cottage cheese as a snack for 180 cals.

I also had a pack of Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed, so good and only 60 calories.

Before going to the gym I decided to make some rice and eat my Ratatouille dish from yesterday over rice.  I know that its better for me to eat brown rice, but I just cant bring myself to do it–I want white rice. So I had a cup of white rice @ 200 cals and a cup of my Ratatouille dish @ 150 cals, for a total of 350 cals.

I finished the night off with a beer–Heineken 110 cals--and a Trader Joes Mocha Yogurt for 130 cals.

Today’s Total= 1,170

6 weeks @ 1200 cals

Week 2, Day 5/Day 12

After eating all that bread and cheese last night I was not hungry at all this morning.  So all I had in the morning was coffee with a splash of milk for 10 cals. I really need to get a handle on this loading up all my calories in the evenings thing and then not being hungry by day.  I also need to seriously figure out how to only eat 1200 calories and also eat generally healthy food with actual nutrients. . .not just fat/alcohol/air.

11:30 AM Snack–1 cup of the french lentil dish with a sprinkle of cheese– 120 calories.

1:30 Lunch–I made a huge salad with 2 cups of butterhead lettuce (14 cals), 10 cherry heirloom tomatoes (about 40 cals), 5 carrots (50 cals), 1/4 cup of tuna (80), 1 persian cucumber (18), 1 tbsp of sun dried tomatoes (40), and 1 tbsp of ranch dressing(70) –I regretted the sundried tomatoes and ranch dressing, the flavors were off.  The salad total was 312 cals, but I couldnt eat it all probably because of the sun dried tomato/ranch flavor, so I only ate like half so about 156 cals. . .I think.

Then I had a Reduced Guilt Brownie for 120 cals and then an hour later I had another one. . .120 more cals.

For dinner I made a serving of Whole Wheat pasta with some sauce that I concocted out of heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, capers, and olive tapenade.  It was really yummy.  Half a serving of pasta @ 210 calories, plus 10 for the tomatoes, 10 for the mushrooms, 15 for the capers and 25 for the tapenade makes this a 270 calorie dinner, yay!

Post dinner and post gym, it was off to Silverlake for another evening of birthday party fun.  First stop Barbarella,  where I had some delicious fruity beer that I cant remember the name of but based on a quick review of this handy list I am going to estimate 170 calories for this fruity goodness. After one beer we moved on to Little Temple bar/club where I had two Blue Moons (170 each) and a Gin and Tonic (170) while alternating between dancing in the Latin music room and the hip hop room.  I like this place–It was really fun!  So the nights booze total comes to 680 calories, which is a lot for the day especially because I know I am going to drink a lot while camping.  Maybe I should take this person’s advice on how to cut out some drinking calories from my life. Hey. . .at least I resisted those bacon wrapped hot dogs that they were selling outside the club, right? Today’s total = 1476 calories.