How Trader Joe’s Fucked Me Over

Trader Joe’s.

Affordable. Convenient. Fresh. Environmentally-chic. Local. Organic. Healthy.

Back up.

Healthy? Not so much.

In a day and age where young, hard-working professionals like myself rely so heavily on convenience, affordability and now — thanks to whatever industry pushes it so severely upon us — organic, healthy and local foods, I did what most people my age do. I turned to Joe’s. Trader Joe’s.

Joe truly has it all. Each store is an oasis of freshly prepared, pre-made meals all waiting in their pretty little packaged glory for someone to scoop them up and take them home to devour. I personally fell victim to the salads. Gorgeous leafy greens, bright veggies, gem-like dried fruits, nuts (healthy fats!) and proteins of all sorts. And the variety! Greek salads, Mexican salads, BBQ chicken topped salads, turkey salads, veggie salads. It was endless. The options! Oh, the options. And the best part? The price. So affordable. Each Sunday, I grabbed five different salads for lunch that week. I never had to lift a finger in the kitchen!

Now, I must take a brief detour and mention a parallel issue to healthy, organic, local, etc. etc. etc. food: body image. We’re constantly inundated with advice and how-to articles from all angles: “Don’t Count Calories,” “Fats Are Good!” “Eat What You Want,” “Nutrition Over Cals!” and more. The script is changing. No longer are “they” telling us to cut out fats and obsessively weigh food and count calories, they’re promoting the opposite. I followed suit and stopped obsessively looking at food labels. It was freeing! And even better, it worked for me! I ate what I want, stopped when I was full, and never looked back.

So when I saw the shelves of salads at T. Joe’s, I didn’t have to think twice. Salads are so healthy! Thanks, Trader Joe’s. Convenient and affordable, too!

Then one day, my curiosity got the best of me. Weeks after I started the salad routine, I noticed I felt sluggish, bloated and never quite satisfied after lunch. So, I did the unthinkable. I flipped over the beautifully wrapped salad bowl and saw something I never imaged.

Holy mother of hell.

My Harvest Turkey salad had 600 calories and 45 grams of fat. That’s a shitload of calories and fat coming from a bed of lettuce, some roasted veggies, turkey and dried cranberries. What the…? Then I realized the culprit (duh). The dressing. THE SMALL AMOUNT OF DRESSING PROVIDED CONTAINED 22 GRAMS OF FAT AND NEARLY 300 CALORIES. I was being sabotaged and I was too dumb to notice because I was being “good” and not counting calories anymore or obsessively checking labels. For weeks I was consuming more fat, calories and sugar at lunchtime than if I had gone to In-N-Out and ordered a cheeseburger and fries. I was living a lie, and it felt horrible.

Okay, okay. I’ll admit — I may be blaming my own personal oversight on an entire grocery chain that doesn’t even promote health (why did I think it did?!). So what is the ultimate lesson and takeaway (pun intended) here? A few things:

- Fuck advice (except mine): READ THE LABELS. READ ALL THE LABELS. DEAR GOD. READ THEM.

- In-N-Out is a healthier and more satisfying lunch option than any Trader Joe’s salad (proven scientific fact here).

- An In-N-Out meal is cheaper than a Trader Joe’s salad.

- In-N-Out wins.

I finished off my last week of Trader Joe’s salads with a feeling of regret and defeat (I would rather get fat than waste my food). I’ve since moved on to burgers for lunch.