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9 Worst Trader Joe's Foods to Avoid Right Now, According to Dietitians

It may have a reputation for making some of the highest-quality foods, but Trader Joe’s still has some products that dietitians say are unhealthy.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino
The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

If you're a Trader Joe's fan, we hate to be the bearer of bad news. Although the store is famous for its creative product lines and has plenty of nutritious options, the nutritional quality of Trader Joe's offerings may vary. That's why it's important to always pay attention to the ingredients and nutritional information when grocery shopping so you can make informed choices and discover foods that align with your health goals.

To assist you in making healthier choices while browsing the aisles at TJ's, we consulted with dietitians to identify the least nutritious food options at this popular grocery chain. Our experts shed light on items that contain empty calories, excessive sodium, or hidden sugars, urging you to reconsider before placing them in your shopping cart. Generally speaking, some of the least healthy options include ready-to-eat meals, frozen meals, and pre-made desserts. These foods tend to have more total calories, sugars, and added oils than if you were to make your own version at home.

Read on to find out exactly which foods our experts recommend you skip next time you're at Trader Joe's, and for more, don't miss 9 Best Trader Joe's Appetizers, According to Our Editors.

Trader Joe's Mac and Cheese Bites

trader joe's mac n cheese bites
Courtesy of Trader Joe's
PER 3 PIECES: 320 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 7 g protein

Trader Joe's Mac and Cheese Bites are considered unhealthy for several reasons. Firstly, they are high in fat, with 10 grams per serving, including 4 grams of saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease, shares Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT. Secondly, these bites are high in sodium.

A serving size of 3 pieces contains 280 milligrams of sodium, which is approximately 12 percent of the recommended daily intake for most adults. A high sodium intake can lead to increased blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease, she adds.

 11 Best Low-Sodium Snacks for High Blood Pressure

Trader Joe's Frozen Mandarin Chicken

trader joe's mandarin orange chicken
Courtesy of Trader Joe's ©2023
PER 1 CUP: 320 calories, 16 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 21 g protein

Trader Joe's Frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken can be considered unhealthy due to several factors. For a 1-cup serving, it contains 95 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 30 percent of the recommended daily intake for adults. Having high levels of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol, can lead to the formation of plaque in the arteries, Chun tells us.

Chun continues, "Over time, this can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. Each serving has 6 grams of added sugars, [and added sugar is] associated with health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease."

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter

trader joe's speculoos cookie butter
Courtesy of Trader Joe's
PER 2 TBSP: 170 calories, 11 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 55 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (0 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 1 g protein

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter is considered unhealthy due to the added sugars and unhealthy fats. For a serving of 2 tablespoons, there is 11 grams of added sugar and 2.5 grams of saturated fat, which is 15 percent of your total daily value, Chun states.

The added sugars in this spread can have negative effects on health, including an increased risk of chronic diseases and dental problems. Additionally, the Cookie Butter's high saturated fat content can raise cholesterol levels and pose a risk to heart health. Plus, this spread lacks essential nutrients such as fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, she admits.

 13 Best Trader Joe's Desserts Of All Time

Trader Joe's Honey Walnut Shrimp

trader joe's honey walnut shrimp
Courtesy of Trader Joe's
PER 1 CUP: 500 calories, 28 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 670 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (2 g fiber, 26 g sugar), 24 g protein

Although this item maybe a quick option for a weeknight meal this product is not suitable for health conscious people. One cup of this shrimp has 500 calories, 8 grams of saturated fat, 670 milligrams sodium and 23 grams of added sugar, shares Joanna Ayalloore, MS, RD, LDN.

This is nearly the total daily allowance for added sugar in one serving. Consuming increased amounts of added sugar and saturated fats can increase your risk for developing heart disease.

Trader Joe's Gluten-free Strawberry Muffins

trader joe's gluten-free strawberry muffins
Courtesy of Trader Joe's ©2023
PER MUFFIN: 380 calories, 21 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 45 g carbs (1 g fiber, 25 g sugar), 3 g protein

If you're eyeing the gluten-free strawberry muffins at Trader Joe's, think twice before adding them to your morning routine, Jessie Hulsey, RD, an Atlanta based registered dietitian tells us.  Packed with 21 grams of fat and a mere 3 grams of protein, these muffins fall short of providing a balanced start to your day. High in fat and lacking adequate protein, they can hinder your energy levels and leave you feeling unsatisfied, she explains.

 The 12 Best High-Protein Foods To Eat for Breakfast

Trader Joe's Breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds

trader joe's breaded cheese curds
Courtesy of Trader Joe's ©2023
PER 4 PIECES: 230 calories, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 620 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 9 g protein

Before indulging in Trader Joe's Breaded Cheddar Cheese Curds, let's take a moment to consider their nutritional impact. Just four pieces of these crispy treats clock in at a surprising 230 calories. While cheese can be a delicious source of calcium and protein, the breading and frying process adds unnecessary calories and unhealthy fats to the equation. Consuming such calorie-dense snacks in excess can lead to weight gain and compromise your overall health, Husley advises.

Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel Potato Chips

trader joe's everything but the bagel chips
Courtesy of Trader Joe's
PER 13 CHIPS: 140 calories, 7 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 135 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 2 g protein

Potato chips are never going to be the most balanced choice, and these potato chips are no exception from Trader Joe's. We all love the savory "Everything but the Bagel" seasoning, but these chips are likely not offering you much nutrition. In just 13 chips, you'll get 140 empty calories. Meaning, these chips won't keep you full for very long and you might have to eat multiple servings at once to feel satisfied. You might be better off using "Everything but the Bagel" seasoning that TJ's sells for your own homemade creation.

Trader Joe's Cheese Pastry Rolls

Trader Joe's 4 Cheese Pastry Rolls
Courtesy of Trader Joe's
PER 1 ROLL: 220 calories, 14 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (0 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 4 g protein

With 9 grams of saturated fat per pastry roll, these treats might be a crowd-pleaser, but they are not a great option to include in your diet regularly. Excessive saturated fat is linked to increased rates of heart disease and cholesterol. In general, these pastries likely won't keep you full very long either as they are not a great source of fiber or protein.

 Shoppers Are Reporting a Major Issue With Trader Joe's Baked Goods

Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki

Courtesy of Trader Joe's
PER 1 CUP: 280 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 420 mg sodium, 61 g carbs (3 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 5 g protein

Don't be deceived by the term "vegan" displayed on the label, assuming that its absence of meat automatically makes it a healthier choice. This particular Korean dish contains 420 milligrams of sodium, equivalent to nearly 20 percent of the recommended daily intake for individuals without high blood pressure.

Furthermore, alongside the 10 grams of added sugar sourced from tapioca syrup and brown sugar, a single serving of this dish contains an astonishing 61 grams of carbohydrates per one cup serving—that's the equivalent of what's in five slices of Pepperidge Farm Original White Bread

Caroline Thomason, RDN
Caroline is a women's health Registered Dietitian and diabetes educator based in Northern Virginia. Read more about Caroline