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Whole Foods vs Trader Joes.....

Would love to hear which people prefer....I am on a mission to find low sodium foods and I am really having a hard time...Went to the new Whole Foods yesterday and was underwhelmed...not many low sodium products and what they did have were almost 2x the price at other groceries...what am i missing????
Next I will try Trader Joe's and hope for the best!!!
As an aside,,,,is anyone else made crazy by the fact that EVERYTHING seems to have added sodium...Just having ketchup could take you a third (at least) of your way to your daily allowance.....and one wonders why heart disease is so prevalent in the US?????

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  1. Everything has sodium because everything tastes better with salt. This is culinary fact. WF is more about having whole and organic products. TJ is more about fun, tasty, pre-made stuff. You're really not going to find under-seasoned products there. A lot of products do have too much sodium (soups and sauces are probably the worst offenders), but that doesn't mean all packaged stuff is bad. A lot, like Heinz ketchup, have just the perfect amount.

    Low salt means bland food. You can toss all the spices, acids and fat you want at it, but you're not going to find a good substitute for salt. Health wise, salt is not the enemy. Neither is sugar nor fat. The problem lies with a lack of self-control and discipline; people don't eat in moderation and lack the focus to exercise. One can enjoy good, properly seasoned food, in moderation and exercise as our bodies are meant to do, or one can keep pointing fingers. For food lovers, the choice is obvious.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ediblover

      I have to respectfully DISAGREE with you on a few things:

      1) Trader Joes actutually DOES have a great array of low sodium foods available...as well as a multi page list that they give out directing you to them!!

      2) Salt IS the enemy and NOT due to lack of self control....Studies have shown most people who also salt their food consume between 6 and 8 thousand mg of sodium a day......don't use the salt shaker and most people still consume between 3 and 4 thousand mg of sodium a day. Anyone over 50 (health issues or not) should consume NO MORE THAN 1500 mg....others about 2400...
      With a pile of ketchup for your fries coming in at over 500 mg.....people are UNAWARE of the hidden sodium....not lacking self control...

      I agree tho that NOT ONE food is THE ENEMY and that everything in moderation....My concern is with all the hidden sodium that one never even thinks about...that adds up to more than anyone needs.....
      and PS....Our bodies were NEVER meant to consume processed food!!!!

      1. re: ilovesummer

        "Our bodies were NEVER meant to consume processed food!!!!"

        What does that even mean? We should just stick to caveman diets? People bandy the word "processed" around like it's the ultimate evil but it is really a meaningless term.

        1. re: ferret

          I actually agree with you on this. Even whole wheat flour has been processed! Canned beans have been processed. The very best bread you ever ate has been processed. However, most people mean largely manufactured foods when they use the term "processed food." At least that is how I interpret the usage of the OP here. We do need a shorthand term for this. Do you have a better term in mind?

          1. re: ferret

            Ah. people are idiots. if we've bred ourselves to be beer tolerant, yes we damn well have made our bodies meant to consume processed food.
            And white rice is older than large scale consumption of beer, I'm pretty sure.

          2. re: ilovesummer

            Great, low-sodium food is an oxymoron. Out of the 5 tastes, salty is really the only one that has one source (salt). It's also the one that seems to enhance the others, so it goes well with everything.

            Study this, study that. For every study that says salt is bad, there's another one that says salt isn't bad. Bringing either side up is rather pointless, unless it's just to show that we really don't know. Hard for people to be unaware of the salt in food when it's a very obvious taste/presence and it's labeled.

            Just about everything in TJ's is processed food. And, I'd love to know how anyone knows what our bodies were meant to do and not do. If you believe in evolution, it'd mean you know the full biological/behavioral patterns of man, which includes the so-called missing link. If you believe in creationism, it'd mean you know what God is thinking.

            Funny thing about basing everything on our ancestors... They were really, really active. After all, they were doing the whole hunter and gathering thing to survive. Are you as active as they were?

            1. re: ediblover

              Salt's bad for those with chronically high blood pressure and a specific genetic profile, afaik.

        2. I believe that salt restriction as therapy is losing believers these days. Better to balance everything by eating unprocessed food, and not adding salt at the table. If your family tends toward diabetes and heart disease, better to concentrate on lowering carbs and fat and get more exercise. Just my opinion.

          WF does not do a good job with low carb, low fat or low sodium. I find some things there, for my low carb eating, but it isn't a specialty of theirs. I use WF as a second source of produce, bread and some dairy. My regular grocer does a better job of stocking "diet" products.

          10 Replies
          1. re: sueatmo

            Whole Foods doesn't do a good job with low carb? Last time I checked you could buy meat and vegetables there. There's low carb.

            And no, salt is not the enemy. If you get rid of processed foods you can add salt pretty much as you like. Your body does a pretty good job of getting rid of excess sodium. If you're that worried increase your water intake.

            As for WF vs. TJ, both are expensive and overrated.

            1. re: MandalayVA

              OK. I do some low carb buying at WF weekly, including their celery, cottage cheese and ricotta and bread. However, I don't do the bulk of my shopping there, because I can find more low carb products at my regular grocer, which does a really good job with specialty foods. It is a balancing act eating low carb and low fat. I need at least 2 sources of food, plus a farmer's market this time of year. However I stand by what I stated previously, but perhaps I can say it more accurately. WF's emphasis is on organics and less processed foods. Their emphasis is not on "diet specialty" foods.

              1. re: MandalayVA

                Trader Joe's is expensive? They're known as a bargain grocery store.

                1. re: virtualguthrie

                  It's only expensive for rubes, who think that anything labeled truffle or marcona is expensive.

                2. re: MandalayVA

                  Unless you have liver or heart damage, then you should restrict you're sodium to less than 1500 mg a day.

                  1. re: thegrube

                    Medical advice is not really appropriate on Chow especially as this tidbit you offer is not necessarily true. Just FYI

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      You'll have to tell my doctor it is not necessarily true since this is her max allowed for people with the health conditions. If your going to promote low sodium items then this info is relevant to thousands of people

                      1. re: thegrube

                        Your post implies that you should limit sodium "unless you have liver or heart damage." Perhaps it's missing a word.

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          If that's how it came across then I'm sorry,I meant those with these health problems can escalate their problem with the doctors limits of sodium exceeded. Over consumption of sodium is a problem for most people now days.one entrée on most restaurant menus exceed twice the recommended limits for all people.

                          1. re: thegrube

                            Yea I wasn't arguing I was just pointing out the statement was confusing in case anyone else read it. Sodium is one of the top reasons I don't eat out.

              2. Check out Trader Joes- they have a lot of low sodium products. I like their Raisin Bran, both low sugar and sodium, which is hard to find in other brands....

                1. What food are you looking for? Canned, frozen, pre-made?

                  If all of those, probably TJ's is a bit better. If not, well, Whole Foods has a better selection of fresh produce ... so there you go. Personally, I just can't take the WF produce prices which are usually double of even the most farmers market items.

                  If looking to avoid salt, it is better to cook your own. People get addicted to salt. Until I married, I didn't even have a container of salt in the house. If you buy fresh, good-quality produce, meat and fish then when eating food with lots of salt, that is all you taste in pre-made food.

                  1. what do you mean by low sodium? advertised as such? whole foods has a lot of fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, which are low in sodium. trader joes in my area is much worse for fresh items but has really cool frozen or packaged items- such as all natural berry pies with crumb topping or bake yourself frozen croissants. the more complicated or non dessert items are pretty much all high in sodium as indicated by the nutritional info. prepared food is genrally like this.

                    1. Trader Joes does have some low sodium products, but these are eclipsed by the sheer number of foods with excessive amounts of sodium, especially frozen foods, many of which are incredibly laced with sodium. Some examples include chinese style dumplings which rack up about 500 mg sodium for 5 pieces, some of the pizzas have an entire daily allowance of sodium and are small enough to consume for one person, etc, etc. Trader Joes needs to revamp their frozen line up and get more low sodium versions in stock. They've done this already with soups, which had been the poster child for over the top sodium content. As far as a comparison between Whole Foods and Trader Joes, I find that Whole Foods blows the doors off Trader Joes when it comes to healthy offerings, including low sodium content. I do give Trader Joes credit for carrying products that do not include high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and for offering Gluten Free items, but it's not enough. They shine in their nuts, dried fruits, breads, snacks, and cookies. They fall down totally on their frozen.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: cmcc42

                        Whole Foods is better and actually less expensive than TJ for nuts and dried fruit.

                        1. re: rworange

                          You might be right about that, however I like TJ's packaging including smaller bags of nuts which I don't see as much of at WF. I see a lot of larger sized plastic containers.

                      2. Whole Foods has some great low sodium products. Some at a premium. The no salt added beans are comparable in price to other beans in Minneapolis - $ .99 on sale. Cheaper to make your own but the convenience factor has pull, too. Still, be prepared - the can is only half full.

                        The best low sodium Whole Foods items? Water Crackers. I also like the bulk herbs and spices (in MSP our co-ops have as good or better selection and price).

                        1. ilovesummer - I'm confused about what you're after here - are you looking for pre-prep'd foods (either fresh or frozen)? If you are, then neither spot is great - and really, I'm not sure where you'd turn b/c most pre-prepared foods are loaded w/sodium, as you indicate. My vote is for making your own food whenever possible, and in that case, Whole Foods wins my vote. Their produce is much better and their selection of raw ingredients (grains, nuts, dairy, etc. etc.) is more extensive. I cook mostly from scratch and we have a de facto VERY low sodium diet here. When we go out or eat take-away or prep'd foods from Whole Foods/TJ's, our constant complaint is that it's too salty.


                          2 Replies
                          1. re: gansu girl

                            Yes, WF's produce is leaps better than Trader Joes. In fact, Trader Joe's produce and fruits often has quality control problems, and represents the biggest area for spoilage in the store. Of course, that's understandable to some degree since its highly perishable but I worked there as a part timer and nobody I met was impressed with their bags of lettuce, many of which are the same you get at any chain store. Their fruit is variable and returns for spoiled or rotten produce occurs frequently.

                            1. re: gansu girl

                              Actually, I find that the best store for fruit and produce outside Whole Foods in my area is Wegmans. They carry the best blueberries I ever had, and even have things like blood oranges, mangosteen and other hard to get items. Kings isn't bad but is a rip off.

                            2. All processed foods have tons more salt in them than would occur in a homemade version. Try making your own tomato sauce and compare the amount of salt that you add to the sodium content of a commercial product. You will be shocked.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pikawicca

                                How many mg of sodium do you add to your tomato sauce? What's the conversion between mg of sodium and tsp of salt (and which kind of salt)? What should I do if I add salt by the pinch, tasting as I go?

                                Or conversely, how many tsp of salt are in a jar of tomato sauce?

                              2. Trader Joe's does a much better job a telling you which of their foods are low sodium. Here is a list on line http://www.traderjoes.com/lists/low-s... you can download it as a PDF here: http://www.traderjoes.com/pdf/lists/l...

                                Look for the Low Sodium logo (looks like a salt shaker) their products.



                                1 Reply
                                1. re: clubtraderjoes

                                  That's helpful but a bit misleading for the customer, they have gobs of stuff on the list that shouldn't be there - olive oil, as a "low sodium" product? Lol. There's so many things on that list that would of course never contain or should not contain sodium as to make it actually harder to zero in on the items you're really interested in. Having said that, a quick look at frozen tells the tale - most of the items listed as low sodium are desserts, frozen fish and frozen veg - all things you would never expect to be loaded up with sodium (or at least, hope wasn't). Absent is a huge swath of frozen prepared entrees and meals, dozens actually. This is what makes the list misleading.

                                2. Trader Joe's has some of the best low-sodium products I found in years of cooking for a heart-damaged husband. Examples: 1) Organic Marinara Sauce is very tomato-y and has 25 mg of sodium per 1/2 cup (name brands have up to 700). 2) The low-sodium chicken stock is excellent, and you can use it to make gravy. 3) Frozen entree of Orange Beef is much lower in Na than most prepared frozen items---I forget the number. And for the critics of low-sodium "because it doesn't taste good" here is reality: after a single high-sodium meal a heart patient can absolutely end up in the Emergency Room.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Querencia

                                    I actually prefer spicy to salty, and note they are of course not necessary mutually exclusive- you can get hot sauce that has sodium. However, I like pure unadulterated chilis, chili sauce, peppers, etc, and I find that often replaces the need for a good percentage of salt.

                                    Incidentally, I don't like the Orange beef because the quality of the beef in my opinion is poor- very chewy and sometimes fatty.

                                  2. If you want to control the amount of sodium you're eating, you'll probably want to just make things from scratch. Add salt, of course, but you won't add as much as a processor would.

                                    Celery, carrots, onion, garlic, chicken, steak, spinach, etc. are all low sodium foods. If it has a label on it, it probably isn't low sodium. The trick is buying real foods. Most grocery stores have real foods hiding somewhere. Whole Foods is pretty good about this, while I'm not too impressed by Trader Joe's produce and meat. Of course, the farmer's market is probably the best place to go if you want to know what's going into your body, because you can meet the people who produced the food.

                                    As an aside, it's hard to isolate sodium as the factor that contributes to heart disease in the United States. The increase in sodium intake has coincided with many other changes (more processed foods, more carbs, pesticides, corn feed beef, high fructose corn syrup, corn in pretty much every food product produced). Yes, there is a correlation, but correlation does not equal causation.

                                    11 Replies
                                    1. re: caseyjo

                                      Celery is surprisingly high in sodium.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        Talk about high Sodium look at the array of Ramen products at Whole Foods, organic, natural and HEAPS of Sodium!!!! Oh, but the packages have banners that state "No MSG", Organic, Natural, Etc, etc.Not only do you have to read labels but recognize the words and statements that are just marketing hype.

                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                          can you give some examples so those of use straying away from sodium can avoid these products?

                                          1. re: cmcc42

                                            Isn't the 'sodium' number on the nutritional label enough?

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              What I'm looking for are specific products so that I *can* refer to the label - or is 'ospreycove' indicating the entire "Ramen" product line is sodium high?

                                              1. re: cmcc42

                                                cmcc42 - pretty much any prepared ramen noodle soup I've seen at Whole Foods is extremely high in sodium . . . but with ORGANIC NOODLES! Whole Foods sells stuff w/o artificial colors and flavors, trans fats, etc. but it still sells junk food (bunnies, cookies, chips, ramen, etc. etc. etc.).


                                                1. re: gansu girl

                                                  I could go to the old-school health food store in my neighborhood and find the same kinds of things. Organic, no-MSG, no-artificial etc is not the same as having the American Heart Association seal of approval. There many 'healthy' food fads, and some are even conflicting (e.g. vegetarian v low-carb). Some even question the benefits of a low-salt diet.

                                                  Unless a store is run by someone with a strong health-food ideology, you can expect them to sell products with different, and even conflicting, health claims. They sell what the customers want, not what the store's management thinks they should eat.

                                                  1. re: gansu girl

                                                    I definitely agree with this; organic cheese puffs made with artisan cheddar are still cheese puffs. It's up to the consumer to purchase foods that fit with their lifestyle and diet.

                                          2. re: greygarious

                                            But because of it's high potassium and diuretic quality it's very heart healthy.

                                            1. re: MplsM ary

                                              Look at the nutritional info on most, if not all, Ramen Noodle dry instant, soups. You will be suprised. Salt is a diuretic........Remember as recently as the 1970s when Docs. reccommended gobbling salt pills for those who exerted themselves....no mo'.

                                        2. prefer Whole Foods/ Capers to Trader Joes.
                                          it's bigger and better, more for me to look at and enjoy.
                                          oh sure it costs more usually but I don't buy a boatload at a time.

                                          1. Old thread resurrected ...but I'll play.

                                            Grow everything yourself.

                                            Cook at home, rather than eating out or buying processed foods.

                                            What you cannot grow, buy at your local Farmers Market. You *should* be able to talk directly with the grower there.

                                            Do research on "sodium sensitivity". Guessing if you find your way to Chowhound you can do this.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: pedalfaster

                                              Grow everything yourself? This isn't a reality for many/most of us. I also try to limit sodium and eat very few processed foods so agree with that, and haven't been out to eat in longer than I can remember. I wish I could grow everything myself but it's not really a reality. The stores offer fairly unadulterated produce and vegetables but most of them are not "products" but just real food.

                                              I'm annoyed by the fact that everything seems to have sodium which is why I just gave up most of that food and cook from the basics these days. I don't feel like I'm missing out.

                                              Perhaps OP can tell us what products she is interested in in particular?

                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                "Grow everything yourself? This isn't a reality for many/most of us"


                                                1. re: pedalfaster

                                                  How does this relate to low sodium products available at Trader Joe's and/or Whole Foods?

                                            2. How is this a question? This is like comparing Mcdonalds to Next.

                                                1. Even cavemen "processed" their meat - they didn't eat it raw, they put it over a fire or in it. That's one of the telling differences between humans and other species - we cook our food. Among other things, that makes it safer to eat.

                                                  1. Whole Foods is expensive. Trader Joe's products mostly cost less than the competing national brands in the supermarket; they certainly aren't expensive. Overrated? I disagree, but you're entitled to your opinion. On what is it based, really?

                                                    1. Besides the taste aspects, remember that salt is also a preservative. Adding salt helps keep many foods from spoiling when chemical preservatives aren't added (and we don't want those, do we?). Also, as an update (food-related because many decisions and questions, like those here, can be based on salt/sodium content), salt/sodium is now being sen as not so bad as reported for most people, and there's no hard number on what to limit it to. Salt doesn't cause heart disease; it may exacerbate conditions in some people who are already afflicted. Also, the sugar in ketchup is probably worse for you than the sodium. ;)

                                                      1. I like both. I don't even think you can compare them, really, because WF has fabulous stuff at over-the-top prices and TJ's aims to provide great stuff at the lowest prices possible. If you live near both you can shop the best of both worlds.

                                                        1. My friend has heart problems and I have some liver damage both of our doctors have put us on a low sodium diet 1500 mg daily. True low salt makes food more bland and lowers it's shelf life, but it's better then lowering our life expectancy. I don't expect everyone to go to a low sodium diet but there are thousands of people that have health problems that require it.

                                                          1. Since Trader Joe's just discontinued some of my favorites such as Vintage Cola and Black Diamond Sharp Cheddar, I am now switching to Whole Foods ! Their Maine Root Cola is actually better and I love their Mild Cheddar( Whole Foods Brand).
                                                            I also can but low sodium Amy's Mac & Cheese. Plus they have an actual salad and soup bar! Goodbye TJ!

                                                            1. It's the Salt/Potassium balance that's required in foods. Prepared food companies need to invest in reducing the amount of sodium and adding potassium (which tastes a great deal like salt) so that the original, intended balance of the two is there. It's just that prepared foods have brought us way, way too much sodium. My blood pressure dropped dramatically when I started paying attention to Sodium levels. With thousands of heart attacks and strokes every year, companies need to help contribute back to society and improve our health.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: DaveFlemming

                                                                it doesn't appear that there is any legal nor economic "need" for them to do any such thing.
                                                                as a matter of fact, there is quite a bit of evidence that the people who would be helped the most by making different choices in the low cost food they choose to eat don't really want to do so.

                                                                until something changes in the national consciousness , i wouldn't hold my breath.

                                                              2. neither whole foods nor trader joe's is focused on providing low sodium food.

                                                                for low-sodium food, think of home cooking and NOT what passes for home cooking on the chowhound home cooking board.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  "NOT what passes for home cooking on the chowhound home cooking board."

                                                                  What are you trying to imply?

                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                    not implying, STATING
                                                                    that a lot of the dishes, recipes, techniques, ingredients, etc. that i normally see being mentioned, recommended, endorsed, etc. on the home cooking board are not geared toward low sodium eating.

                                                                  2. re: westsidegal

                                                                    Trader Joe's sucks if you need a high salt diet. Try their pastrami or other lunchmeat.

                                                                    TJ's knows its market is relatively upscale, and so tends to go for lower sodium products.

                                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                                      it's pretty easy to add salt to most foods in my experience.
                                                                      (for me, too easy)

                                                                  3. A lot of the sodium in packaged foods is there to mask the taste of unpleasant tasting compounds created during processing. If you made the same foods at home, and I know that it is hard and/or time consuming to make things like ketchup at home, you would use WAY less sodium.

                                                                    1. If you try foods like the Amy's reduced sodium line, after a while it tastes better than the original . However, bought some canned tomatoes with no added salt the other day at Whole Foods and i needed to put some red pepper on them because they were lacking in flavor.

                                                                      1. If you don't eat any salt you will die.