A dietitian’s definitive guide to the best Trader Joe’s salads

Lunch spots that let you customize your own salad are everywhere. And some days I’m perfectly willing to drop $14 on a gourmet spinach mix with a variety of toppings straight from my imagination. Other days? Not so much. That’s why Trader Joe’s salads—most of which are just $3.99—are truly a godsend.

If you usually pass the prepared aisle at TJ’s without a second glance, please believe me (and a dietitian) when I say it’s worth your while to stop and peruse the plentiful salad options. Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, dietitian and author of The Better Period Food Solution says that each of the frugal supermarket’s salads packs its own nutritional merits. Of the many Trader Joe’s salads, I asked her to choose the option that is best for fiber, which one you should fork to refuel after a workout, and more.

A dietitian’s definitive guide to Trader Joe’s salads

Highest in fiber

Kale and Edamame Salad
“The Kale and Edamame Salad has the most fiber at 10 grams, or 40 percent of the daily serving. Insoluble dietary fibers found in edamame and kale have multiple health benefits such as increased satiety and decreased blood cholesterol,” says Beckerman.

For a kick of energy

Super Green Salad Palette
“The Super Green Salad Palette contains tons of high quality, complex carbohydrates such as edamame, kale, and avocado. This combination of foods will keep you energized thanks to the slow-digesting carbs, while delivering the body a steady release of blood sugar, keeping your energy levels stable for a while,” says Beckerman. “Plus, the fiber in the edamame paired with the healthy fat from the walnuts and avocado is a winning trio to help you stay full for hours.”

Highest in protein

Mexicali Inspired Salad
“The Mexicali Inspired Salad is packed with protein at 26 grams per serving,” says the dietitian. “With filling chicken and satisfying cheese, if you packed this salad for lunch, you will definitely be kept full until dinner!”

Lowest in sugar

Mozzarella and Tomato Salad or Caesar Salad
“The Mozzarella and Tomato Salad and the Caesar Salad are the lowest sugar salads with 5 grams of sugar per salad. Most of the sugar in salads come from dressings and added ingredients, so be sure to look for simple ingredients when it comes to your salad. When in doubt, use your own dressing for no added sugar (my fave is olive oil, lemon, garlic and garlic infused balsamic vinegar),” explains Beckerman.

For optimal brain power

Super Green Salad Palette
“The Super Green Salad Palette is packed with foods that are fantastic brain health such as nuts and seeds, kale and of course, avocado. A source of healthy unsaturated fat, avocados may support the brain by reducing blood pressure and help improve cognitive functioning,” says Beckerman. 

Best for healthy fats

Kale and Edamame Salad
“While the Mozzarella and Tomato Salad contains the most total fat, it also contains 9 grams of saturated fat which is not considered a ‘healthy fat’ and can be not so great for those with high cholesterol. Due to the low saturated fat content (3 grams) and higher total fat content of 36 grams, the Kale and Edamame Salad has the most healthy fat contained in the almond, edamame and eggs,” says Beckerman.

rich in whole grains

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Quinoa Salad
“The Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Quinoa Salad contains about 60 grams of carbs, but most of these come from the mighty whole grain, quinoa. Quinoa is naturally gluten free, high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin E. Talk about a chock full of nutrition packed into a salad,” Beckerman says.

Here’s how Beckerman shops at Trader Joe’s for just $30:

For heart health

Super Spinach Salad
The Super Spinach Salad is a heart healthy salad with tons of beans, tomatoes, whole grains and, duh, spinach! These ingredients will help lower LDL cholesterol and provide essential nutrients for heart health such as potassium, vitamin C, folate and choline,” says Beckerman.

the most antioxidants

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Quinoa Salad
“The Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Quinoa Salad contains squash, kale and tomatoes which are high in inflammation-fighting and heart-healthy antioxidants,” says the expert. “Squash is loaded with beta carotene which helps limit the production of negative free radicals lurking the body and keeps our health in pristine condition!”

To lunch for fertility

Super Spinach Salad
“The Super Spinach Salad is ideal for fertility as it contains high-folate foods such as spinach, garbanzo beans and edamame beans, which help with producing healthy eggs in women. Additionally, the beans and oil in the dressing can help regulate hormones, promote ovulation, and improve blood flow to the reproductive organs,” Beckerman explains.

best to eat if you’re pregnant

Mexicali Inspired Salad
“A calorie- and protein-dense salad, the Mexicali Inspired Salad contains extra calories needed for pregnancy and fetal growth. The grilled chicken, parmesan cheese and asiago cheeses (both hard cheeses which are safe during pregnancy) are good sources of calcium and protein which are generally needed in higher quantities during pregnancy,” says the dietitian.

For optimal post-workout fuel

Lemon Chicken and Arugula Salad
“The Lemon Chicken and Arugula Salad is a great salad to consume after that intense workout due to the high amount of whole grains and protein,” explains Beckerman. “The complex carbohydrates from couscous and red quinoa, as well as the healthy protein from chicken will break down slowly and restore glycogen stores needed for muscle and energy recovery.”

The best salad overall

Kale Edamame Salad
“The Kale Edamame Salad is the most balanced salad with high amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats and plenty of micronutrients. Even though the protein is plant-based, the edamame and almonds provide a hearty amount of energy, unsaturated fats, and essential nutrients and amino acids for a satisfying and nutrient-packed meal.”

TJ’s is a goldmine for healthy breakfasts and dinners, too.