Registered dietician Olivia Kinkade frequently shops at Trader Joe's to make cheap meals packed with nutrients.
Pasta, pre-cut veggies, and seasoning blends are at the top of Kinkade's list.
Kinkade explains how to turn these convenience foods into delicious meals.
Trader Joe's has become a staple among young professionals for its affordable, tasty products.
The chain is renowned for their convenience foods, from their glistening array of frozen foods, to pre-cut fruits and veggies, to zany snacks.
Olivia Kinkade, a registered dietician who posts on TikTok under @livkinkade, is a fan of using Trader Joe's pre-made products to make nutritious, hearty meals.
"I think a huge part of what I do is trying to make healthy eating look more accessible by using things like convenience foods," Kinkade told Insider. "There is absolutely no reason why these can't be a part of a well-balanced diet."
Here are some of Kinkade's favorite Trader Joe's products, and how she incorporates them into satisfying, nutritious meals.
Pumpkin gnocchi in a meatball sauce
Kinkade loves Trader Joe's pasta — especially their pumpkin ravioli and their pumpkin gnocchi for fall.
It only takes a few minutes to boil, and if you toss in some veggies and a protein source, like meatballs, you'll have a complete meal.
Kinkade simmers frozen veggies and turkey meatballs together in tomato sauce and then ladles that over pasta. "You have your protein, your vegetables, and your starchy carbohydrate," she explained. This meal has been a staple of Kinkade's for years, and the "number one meal" that got her through college.
Another great all-season option is Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi. The cauliflower gnocchi is "so versatile and you can pair it with so many things, while increasing your vegetable intake in a way you wouldn't always think of," Kinkade said.
Add microwaveable pre-cut veggies to risotto
An easy way to boost your veggie intake without the hassle of cutting a bunch of vegetables is by using Trader Joe's pre-cut veggie mixes. Kinkade likes their garden vegetable hash and asparagus sauté.
The vegetable hash contains cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, fire roasted corn, celery and onion all pre-cut into small cubes. Cauliflower is an excellent source of fiber, and bell peppers are high in vitamin C, according to Healthline.
The asparagus sauté contains red onions, mushrooms, and asparagus. Asparagus is also a good source of fiber, and contains vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting, helping wounds to heal.
Veggie mixes "are so quick and easy to just pop in a sauté pan or even the microwave over the course of a week," Kinkade said. They'll also "increase the vitamins and minerals at any meal that you're having."
Kinkade used the garden vegetable hash in a TikTok video she posted of her go-to pasta meal. She mixes the asparagus sauté into Trader Joe's frozen risotto along with meatballs, and also uses it as the veggie base for her wonton soup.
Seasoning blends make healthy food more exciting
"So many times, I encounter people who are like 'I want to cook more, but have no idea how to season food,'" Kinkade said. For clients like this, she recommends pre-mixed spices.
Trader Joe's seasoning blends — such as "Everything but the Elote," "Everything but the Bagel," "Taco Seasoning Mix," and "Ranch" — make healthy eating much more enjoyable, without the hassle of measuring out spices.
"I feel like these pre-made seasoning blends can be super, super helpful in starting as a foundation to figure out what flavors you enjoy," Kinkade said. "Once you take note of which spices are within those specific seasoning blends, it slowly becomes easier to branch out on your own and develop flavor profiles that you enjoy."
Insider's Ruth Kogen Goodwin reported that she loves to use "Everything but the Bagel" on avocado toast, boiled eggs, and chicken.
Kinkade posted a recipe for pressure cooker chicken that used Taco seasoning to make it extra easy to throw together — no measuring involved.
Frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh ones
The Trader Joe's frozen foods section is legendary, and Kinkade thinks more people should take advantage of frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen veggies are versatile, easy-to-use and last a long time. "The frozen section is my best friend," Kinkade said.
"A common misconception about frozen foods is that because they're frozen, they are inherently less nutrient dense," Kinkade said. But actually, fruits and veggies that are frozen are often "picked at the peak of ripeness — so when they are the most rich in vitamins and minerals — and then they are flash frozen to preserve those vitamins and minerals."
Frozen veggies make it easy to make instant ramen heartier, Kinkade said. She'll boil instant ramen noodles in chicken broth for extra flavor, and then toss in frozen veggies and an egg for protein.
Read the original article on Insider