My Top 8 at Trader Joe’s

I once had a waiter at a chain restaurant named Tom. I asked Tom if the dressing for the salad had dairy in it. He looked up from his notepad, half smiled and snarkily replied, “Well all of our salads, including the dressings, are gluten free. It says so on the menu.”

I took a deep breath, smiled, and sweetly replied, “Yes, that’s wonderful. However, gluten free means no gluten, like wheat. Vegan means no animal products, like dairy. That steak you just brought out is gluten free.”

With that realization, he released his locked shoulders, turned beet red and throroughly apologized. Needless to say, he was super pleasant afterwards and even comped a portion of our meal.

This encounter happened circa 2013 but I still remember it like it was yesterday. Most likely because I am constantly asking, “Is this dairy free?” to this day. And as of the past few years, also asking, “Is this vegan and gluten free?”

Suffice it to say, there are some foods I have come to love that are both vegan and gluten free. While I shop at many grocery stores to fulfill my dietary needs, Trader Joe’s has some key products that have a special place in my heart. And on my palate. With that said, here are my favorite vegan and gluten free items from Trader Joe’s:

One bite of these hash browns will render every other hash brown you ever had as inferior. Seriously. I like to cook mine at 425° for 20 minutes, flipping half way through.

There must be something in the water where these are grown that make these mandarin oranges so juicy and delectable. Great for the lunch bag or just on the go.

I can feel this instantly enter my blood stream from the first couple of sips. Ok, I may be a bit dramatic but this green drink is refreshing, filling, and full of the good stuff.
Morning, noon, or night – this lentil soup is just right. Full of nutritious whole foods, this one container can easily feed three people. (Or in my case, serve as three different meals). I like to pair with white rice or quinoa.
Cold or cooked, I love the convenience of this packaged cabbage. I typically cook it up with onions, garlic, and green bell peppers.
This doesn’t really taste like Caesar dressing that I remember in my pre-vegan days. It tastes better! The ingredients may be simple, but the taste is very umami and robust.
First, don’t follow the package directions. Cook in the oven at 425° for for 25 minutes, flipping half way through. Second, enjoy plain or tossed with your favorite pasta sauce.
I love to add a little of this almond butter in my smoothies for extra protein. Alternatively, I’ll make a AB&J sandwich. Or, sometimes, I’ll just eat a spoonful from the jar. Anyway you use it, make sure to always have this in your pantry.

Habit Stacking

image source: GettyImages

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as having said, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

It safe to say the majority of us in this day and age are always trying to become a better version of our former selves. In doing so, we soon realize our day to day habits impact our life long goals.

I’ve realized however, that as best as I try, I just forget to do certain things consistently. For example, I want to ensure I am flossing every day. And no, not dancing – although movement is good for the body and soul.

I tongue scrape and brush my teeth twice daily, but I’ve set a goal to floss regularly. And I was failing until I introduced habit stacking.

Simply put habit stacking is attaching a tangible reminder of completing Task B, to Task A that you’re already doing regularly.

Since I brush my teeth in the shower (I know, I will get better with conserving water ASAP) I would forget to open up the medicine cabinet and grab my floss after my shower. Now, I keep the floss next to my deodorant in the bathroom closet.

Another habit I wanted to start was taking weekly walks outside with my children. Although they are active in sports, I want to instill a familiarity with just being in nature and enjoying the surroundings. So, I started “Walk It Out Wednesdays” where as soon as we returned home from after school pick up, we’d take a walk around our neighborhood.

Here are some other habits or cues you can stack a new task onto:

  • Stepping out of bed in the morning
  • Taking a shower
  • Making tea or coffee
  • Taking your lunch break
  • Taking a screen break
  • Getting gasoline for your car
  • Getting on the train after work
  • Putting the dishes away
  • Setting out your clothes for the next day

Since these are things most of us do regularly, stacking a new habit that we’re trying to adopt (e.g. a 5 minute stretch, reading for 10 minutes) to these examples should help us reach our goals in no time.