11 Purchases at Trader Joe’s You Won’t Be Mad About

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If you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s near you, then you probably know what I’m talking about when I say it’s the most fun place to shop. Grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do in the first place, but there’s just something special about TJ’s and all their fancy treats. Living in downtown Chicago, I walk to get my groceries. This means I can only buy what I can carry. Trader Joe’s is the closest to me, so I do most of my shopping there. So much self-control not to buy the entire store! (Unless I bring my boyfriend, then a million more items are added to my *our* baskets. I have some go-to items that I always pick, but you know you can’t go there and NOT sample the treat of the day! So I usually buy whatever that is too…. Don’t you?

If I had to narrow down my list of top picks:

Just Mango Slices (dried, chewy mango with no added sugar)

 

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Creamy, no salt.

 

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It’s the same price for the individual packs. Perfect for work or on-the-go.

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I dare you not to eat the entire bag.

 

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Strawberry Austrailian Licorice

 

 

 

2 Buck Chuck- but who am I kidding, any wine will do.

 

 

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Thai Peanut Dressing (Hint: perfect for homemade pad thai)

 

 

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Baby Beets- ready to slice into a salad

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Great with the savory crackers!

 

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A slighhht waste of money since they’re gone in 2 seconds but still worth it.

Veggie and flax tortilla chips– for all chips and guac needs.

I’m not really sure there’s something I don’t like at this store. But as all groceries go, I try to stick to the perimeter of the store where the fresh and healthiest items are. Okay, and the free samples and wine. Trader Joe’s has great options for all food needs and also the coolest treats ever. Am I right?!

Why I Stopped Counting Calories

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Do you obsess over calories? Do you not care at all? Either way, calories are very real. But they are also different from one another. 200 calories of broccoli is going to treat you body much better than a 200 calorie candy bar.

I used to count calories on MyFitnessPal. It’s an awesome app filled with recipes, blog posts, and every tool you need to start a healthier lifestyle. It really helped me realize what I was eating and what I thought was a great healthy day, actually had treats and snacks that I had completely forgotten about. Go figure. Writing down what I ate gave me a great sense of my overall health and what I was putting in my body. It helped me pass up a second helping, or second treat if I had already had something “bad” that day. But it also made me completely obsessed with counting calories. On all calorie counting apps and devices, it generalizes what your body needs and how much you burn on a personal level. I was constantly worried about going over my “recommended” amount of daily calories to stay “on track”. What does that even mean? I would reach my recommended number before the end of the day, and still need to eat dinner. This would always consume my thoughts and I would worry about being in the red on my app.

I stopped tracking what I ate and stopped focusing on calories. With a much clearer head, I now focus on what I’m eating, not how many calories I’m going over my limit. I focus on eating real food, made from real ingredients. You can’t really go wrong with that. By sticking to mostly veggies, proteins and whole grains, I don’t feel the need to rack up the calorie count. I still like to use my app, to continue getting the whole picture of what I consume in a day. I don’t look at calories, but at the foods I log. It helps me stay on track and see patterns in how I feel, what food make me crave others, and what times of day I eat. Which are all helpful things to keep in mind.

If you don’t write down what you eat, try it! Without focusing on the numbers, take a look at everything you eat in a day- maybe even record how you felt that day. Were you tired? Did your stomach ache? Did you feel energized and happy? These can all reflect what you ate.  It’s fun to see the patterns and how food affects you.

Smoothie Queen

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Smoothie Queen- that’s me. I drink a smoothie almost every day. I dream about the cream and cookie shakes I used to drink when I was at the mall with my mom growing up. But these are different (and taste just as good… okay pretty close). In fact, this smoothie is very healthy and a great way to start the day. The best part is? You can’t mess it up.

This is what I use, mostly because I often have these ingredients at my house.

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¾ cup plain greek yogurt
2 cups spinach (yes, stuff it full!)
5 frozen strawberries
1 banana
1 cup Ice
½ cup water
Dash of cinnamon
Your favorite Vanilla protein powder (optional)

If you don’t have a super duper blender, blend yogurt, spinach and water first, to get the spinach reduced down all the way. Then add additional ingredients. Pour into a mason jar for easy travel or whatever protein bottle you have. This is good to make the night before, but drink within a day or two. Play around with variations of this… frozen blueberries, raspberries, freeze the banana (without the peel), chocolate protein, almond butter, chia seeds, you can’t go wrong!

A serving of protein, veggies and fruit all at the start of your day? Yes, please. I like to prep this at night so I don’t have to get all these ingredients out in the morning. Sometimes I even make a little extra and drink it for a bedtime snack or part of my dinner. I personally like to drink my spinach because, frankly, salads don’t fill me up, and let’s be honest, they taste better when someone else makes it for me. This is a great way to get in a veggie in the blink of an eye. Whichever combination you chose, don’t forget the spinach.

5 Swaps to a Healthier You

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Fortunately, there a million ways to get healthier and stay healthier. Some are harder than others, like putting down that ice cream. But most can be simple swaps that will go a long way in your healthy journey. Here are a few:

 

  1. Drink Water

This may be the most obvious swap of all, but it also makes the biggest difference. I make a point to stick to water and coffee, and an occasional sparkling water when I need some bubbly. Okay and an occasional* glass of wine. Sugar filled juices and teas are the easiest way to add additional calories and junk into your diet, and they come at a hefty unhealthy price. Stick to water only as your primary liquid, it is your friend. And makes a huge difference in your awareness, muscle performance, and overall wellbeing. I drink about 90oz of water per day, that’s about 5 plastic bottles worth. How much water do you drink a day?

 

  1. Get your Chef on

For those of you who say you aren’t good at cooking, or don’t know where to start in the kitchen, try cooking your favorite restaurant meals at home. Is your restaurant go-to chicken fingers and fries? Try panko-crusting chicken and baking it in the oven with sweet potato fries. Maybe you’re like me and can always go for the fish tacos? Think up those ingredients (tortilla, fish, aioli mayo, cabbage) and construct your own masterpiece. Cooking at home not only saves a huge penny in your bank account, but it’s also much healthier- and fun! Obviously (well, hopefully) you won’t have that greasy goodness dripping down your chin from a giant burger, but there’s something satisfying about building your own concoction in your kitchen. What? No time to chat over sangria and artichoke dip?

 

  1. Stove top

How did people live without a microwave? I try to heat all my food on the stove instead of the microwave when I’m home. Not only do I think it tastes better, but it also gets what was crisp, crisp and keeps more nutrients in the food. Overheating/cooking food removes nutrients your body needs.

 

  1. Take a Lap

No, not a nap. Take a lap- around the grocery store. I’m sure you’ve heard that the healthiest food at grocery is around the perimeter- cue the beer drinkers confirming their cooler along the perimeter is healthy. This is not just a coincidence at some stores- it’s really a thing. Try shopping only around the edges, getting fresh produces, fresh meats, dairy and deli products, skipping the very middle where the hostess snacks live.

 

  1. Oil Up

 

Swap butter for olive oil. Olive oil has more health benefits than butter, and is a more versatile ingredient. If butter is your thing, make sure it’s real butter and not margarine. As with both yummy ingredients, use them in moderation. Or if you want to get serious, try not using them at all. They are high in calories, which is okay, but neither are something your body needs. You can avoid them by steaming veggies, cooking meats in their own juices, and eating toast dry.