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Can one live on Trader Joe's alone?

We have a young, Russian contractor in our office. He almost lives in the office. Sort of like Bartleby, Scrivener. He is here at all hours. As far as I can see he only leaves to play tennis and to sleep.

He takes all of his prepared Trader Joe's microwave meals in the office. I never see any fresh fruit or vegetables. Today I saw a chub of salami.

Will he get supersized? Malnutrition? It doesn't seem to affect his programming. He is super smart, but also super willful.

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  1. There is all you need for a balanced diet at Trader Joe's. Guess this guy is just making bad choices and ignoring all the fresh and prepared fruit and vegetable options.

    1. Not only live, but live well. Sure, there are a lot of misses along with the hits, but TJ does offer a lot of health-oriented products. I wouldn't mind (wouldn't choose to) eating only things from there. Heck, it'd give me an excuse to buy all their frozen desserts that I've been dodging.

      On fresh produce, from what we "know" of our nutritional needs, there's nothing in fresh fruits or vegetables that we need. Course, we really don't know all that much. There are compounds beyond vitamins and minerals that fresh produce have that are good for us, we just don't know enough to set a recommended amount and stuff.

      15 Replies
      1. re: ediblover

        There isn't a food group you can't find at TJs. And if you have no cooking facilities, they have proteins of all kinds ready to eat from their chilled case. I consider fruit and vegs to be an important part of my diet but of course you are free to make you own decisions, we're all different.

        1. re: escondido123

          There's a difference between "important" and necessary. There is no human requirement for anything other than protein and fat. That's not to say there's no good reason to eat veggies, but you can be very healthy without them.

          1. re: mcf

            Without fruit and vegetables I don't feel well, so they are both important and necessary for MY health. Others, of course, will make their own choices.

            1. re: mcf

              I'm right there with you, escondido. My body feels sluggish if I don't get some fruit/veggie cellulose.

              1. re: mcf

                Really? Have you heard of scurvey? In the age of sailing ships, sailors who were fed a diet of dried beef and hard tack biscuits for months at a time would die from the lack of vitamin C.. First you get sores, your teeth fall out, the bones fail and then you die. You need fruits or vegetables to get vitamin C (unless of course you're taking some supplement or pill). You can get protein and fats from fruits and vegetable but I don't think there is any vitamin C lurking in your steak.

                1. re: Bkeats

                  Then you'd be wrong. The DRIED meat was the problem. The drying.

                  1. re: mcf

                    Ummm, did you stay awake in biology or history? Scurvy is caused by a deficiency of ascorbic acid which usually comes from vit C. Drying meat has nothing to do with whther meat has vit C or not. These days, almost everything is fortified but if you stick will an all animal protein based diet, your gums will get sore pretty quickly.


                    1. re: Bkeats

                      It's not a simple matter. Raw meat contains some Vitamin C but you need to eat it raw. Drying or cooking does reduce the Vit C content, processing often wipes it out completely. Animal organs contain much more Vit C - livers especially - and if you want to subsist on a pure meat diet you would need to eat (preferably) raw animal organs/offal since it is unlikely you - as a normal human primate - would eat enough raw muscle meat alone to get your DRI of Vit C.
                      Vit C DRI: http://iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/S...

                      Vit C content - meats:

                      Eskimos, whose traditional diet WAS essentially all meat, ate their meat largely raw or lightly cooked and also consumed offal/livers:

                      In addition to their eating the raw meat & organs of their animal prey, NON-PRIMATE carnivores (meaning NOT you or me, nor apes, monkeys, etc) also have the ability to synthesize their own Vit C due to their possessing a functional gene for the enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase. Primates have a non-functional gene for this enzyme - which is why Vit C is an essential nutrient for you and me but, as it happens to be, not also your kid's hamster.

                      p.s. Dogs/canines are omnivores. Cats/felines are obligate carnivores - in the wild they would consume all/much of their prey, organs & stomach contents included; domesticated cats need supplementation of Vit C and other essential nutrients as they don't make enough Vit C on their own.

                      1. re: huiray

                        You do not need to eat it raw; look up the content of even stewed meats.

                        1. re: mcf

                          True, but then you would need to be sure to consume sufficient animal organs (liver, etc) rather than just muscle meat.

                          "Stewed meats" have other stuff added in. "Stewed meat" in those tables cannot mean the plain muscle meat stewed in its own juices without anything added, since the Vit C content of the raw meat, low to begin with cannot increase by an order of magnitude or so just by stewing it in its own juices. For example, raw beef of various cuts has more-or-less 0 Vit C in it, whereas "Beef stew, canned entree" has 10.2 mg Vit C/cup. Look at entry 22905 and the following entries for beef (raw) in this (better) publication: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp... . I imagine that canned beef stew probably has carrots and potatoes and oil and stock and thickening/flour in it, which add Vit C. (...and you would need to eat **9 cups** of it to get your DRI of Vit C)

                          From that same table, the values for pork varies from 0 to 1 mg Vit C per 3 oz portion - the highest being pan-fried bone-in pork loin chops, separable lean [entry 10176] - meaning it was fried in oil.

                          Compare with the daily recommended intake of 90 mg of Vit C for an adult male (for example) in the table I linked to in my previous post (http://iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/S...


                          The same situation broadly applies to chicken & fish.

                          Only when you eat the organs/offal, whether cooked or raw (better) do you begin to get larger amounts of Vit C. See the USDA table in this post again. So if you want to be purely carnivorous, you should eat a fair amount of animal organs.

                          1. re: huiray

                            Correction: In the second paragraph
                            "Look at entry 22905 and the following entries for beef (raw) in this (better) .." should read:
                            "Look at entry 22905 and the following entries for beef (cooked) in this (better)..."

                            1. re: huiray

                              According to study of the Inuit, eating dried meats (not the ones we're eating, except maybe char) and being certain to consume the broth that meats are stewed in supplies adequate vitamin C status, even without mention of organ meats, which are certainly useful. One can eat meat alone and remain healthy; the arctic explore experiment at Bellevue demonstrated this as well. But one has to choose sources well.

                        2. re: Bkeats

                          It is available from fresh meat sources in the amounts required to prevent scurvy, along with the mean for biosynthesis.

                          1. re: mcf

                            "...along with the mean for biosynthesis."
                            Do you mean "means" or "meat" ? In any case, as I mentioned above, primates lack the ability for biosynthesis of Vitamin C. We (humans) simply don't have the expressed functional enzyme in our bodies to make Vitamin C.

                    2. re: mcf

                      I eat boatloads of veggies, and modest amounts of fruit occasionally. I don't know anyone who eats close to the amount of veggies I do, low carbing. But there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate in human biology. That doesn't mean there aren't benefits from the good ones.

                2. Just thinking over what's available in TJ's prepared-foods/convenience foods section alone, a person could probably live reasonably well just on those. Probably not some overweight 70-year-old with gout and high triglycerides, but a fairly hale young guy, sure. If his teeth start falling out you might offer him some citrus …

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Will Owen

                    But Will, there's prepared chicken and fish in the cool case, all sorts of whole grain breads, brown rice and lentils in pouches, and full selection of produce. I think that 70 year old could do just fine too.

                    1. re: escondido123

                      Well, he does do just fine, but he has to cook this stuff (ask me how I know!) . Some people, such as our Russian friend, do not consider actual cooking to be an option; this includes nuking something and adding it to something else you've nuked. This person wants to put one package into the microwave oven, hit the button, and get his dinner. Anything more complicated is too complicated.

                  2. I will say yes. Is he getting the frozen microwave meals or the refrigerated microwave meals? I guess it doesn’t really matter.

                    One could get a prepared leafy salad to get that sort of thing. Most of them are miles ahead of anything a typical grocery store sells. They might be a little short on soups in the refrigerated area.

                    And snacks. Don’t get me started.

                    On a side note: every Thanksgiving I always proclaim you can have a wonderful (absolutely wonderful!) Thanksgiving with just TJ.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: FireFlyFiftyFive

                      Yes, he is getting the frozen microwave meals or the refrigerated microwave meals. Only prepared meals. Nothing involving separate ingredients. Aren't they basically glorified TV dinners? He is not the type to take advice on sports injuries, nutrition, or system design.

                      1. re: chocolatetartguy

                        He would do well to take some B complex supplements. And eat an orange.

                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                          If he's an adult, guess he gets to make his own decisions.

                      2. Could you invite him over for a home cooked meal, or at least to a restaurant that you feel has good wholesome food?

                        I would guess that the guy is away from home, maybe under pressure to get a lot work done, maybe lacks cooking skills or maybe has budget considerations (any or all of the above). Then there are those "eat to live' types who just don't worry about food.

                        He could do worse than TJs fare.

                        1. Sodium may become a problem....

                          1. My guess would be that you can certainly live on microwaveable meals, but that it's probably not a healthy choice in the long term.

                            Based on my observations of young programers who practically live in the office, though, he's on the healthier end of that diet range. At least he's not living off of coke, instant noodles and potato chips.

                            1. How often does he play tennis chocolatetart guy? Does he get a really good workout a coupla times a week do you think? Might make a huge difference.

                              1. I may be finding out real soon--most of the big chain grocery stores have voted to strike (again). TJs, here I come.

                                1. Just logged in to give you lots of credit for the Bartleby the Scrivener reference. Seriously.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: fullyfunctional

                                    i would prefer not to.

                                    to keep on topic, one *could* live on Trader Joe's if one varied selection... well actually, the question is really can one live *healthfully* on TJ's alone... some of the frozen and some of the fridge meals aren't unhealthy; some and some are. i gather however that he isn't getting salads and the "just chicken," and assembling balanced combos. as mentioned there are plenty of nutrient rich products, to name a few - the lentils, steel cut oats, salads, just chicken, egg white salads, baked eggplant parm, etc. of course, the mac'n'cheese, orange chicken, fettucini alfredo, chicken marsala, etc are high in fat, sodium, yadda yadda yadda...

                                    as an exercise in discussion, yes he *could.* however, are you asking for concern, or just out of sheer marvel?

                                    1. re: Emme

                                      Virtually anything you can find in a regular supermarket you can find in TJs, except for Coke and a lot of other brand names. They have all different produce, meats, seafood, nuts, grains, baked goods, dairy, cheeses, tofu, vegan, wine, beer.... I truly can't imagine what you would want you can't find at Tjs as long as you aren't looking for brand names.

                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        no coke??

                                        count me out of going to trader joes then....

                                        1. re: srsone

                                          There selection of meats is too limited for me, but I stopped drinking Coke so that's not a problem. They do carry many kinds of soda in all sorts of interesting flavors, but not the standard national brands. My husband loves their root beer by Hansen's.

                                      2. re: Emme

                                        "...one *could* live on Trader Joe's if one varied selection..."
                                        But I presume you would prefer not to.

                                        1. re: huiray

                                          ,,,oh I prefer! Just pretty sure our OP's Scrivener-sky prefers not to.

                                    2. since there are no Trader joes anywhere near me ...
                                      i would starve.......

                                      1. He's not hitting up fast food places for all his meals, which shows he's not American. So that's a plus. ;o)

                                        1. Probably better than living on fast food, which is what a lot of people who don't (or won't) cook do.

                                          1. Your Russian friend sounds very .... Russian.

                                            The Russian diet is heavy on meats and starches with little fresh vegetables or fruit.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Roland Parker

                                              My 14 year old son (American) can do a very good Russian accent. Think his veggie- and fruit-free diet has anything to do with it? ;)

                                            2. It never even crossed my mind to even think about being able to live on Trader Joe's alone.

                                              1. TJ's has good stufff. So does WF. In the Bay Area, Andronicos has good stuff. Costco has some good stuff. Farmer's markets have good stuff. You just have to figure out what you need, and shop around. Growing your own stuff is good too.

                                                1. It's quite possible to have a healthy and varied diet living only on food from TJs. I've done it for maybe a month, because I had gift cards, and not much money (college student). Is he eating the foods that lead to a balanced diet? Sounds like a no, although you can do far worse than TJs microwaved meals. Perhaps try to offer him fruit and vegetables, but he should probably be reasonably okay.

                                                  I will say that everything one would like is not necessarily at TJs. The most annoying item I couldn't get there was yeast. I asked someone who worked there, because I couldn't find it, where it could be. I was informed that yeast is a seasonal item. Bah. I was very annoyed.

                                                  1. A lot of the microwave meals at Trader Joes seem to be of better quality than, say, Lean Cuisine or other brands. He may just eat them at work for convenience.

                                                    Aside from frozen meals, TJs also sells things like packets of rice or lentils that you can heat up in the microwave, or the packet Indian meals. So compared to a lot of grocery stores, the prepared foods seem to be a lot healthier.

                                                    Of course if he's just eating frozen mac & cheese all the time that's a different story.

                                                    1. TJ's sells fresh meat veggies and fruit. Just because he don't eat those don't mean TJ's are not healthy. At least I hope he don't drink 2 buck chuck, does he?

                                                      1. We have a friend who rented a cottage near us and she invited us to the cottage for dinner. She had mentioned that she got some pizza already to serve that night. I love to cook and I love to entertain and I thought "She's serving us frozen pizza for dinner?" Anyway, everything she served was from Trader Joe's. Corn and some veggies which she grilled, some pizzas, I forget what else but at the end of the night I thought 'It was not that bad!"

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Alica

                                                          It's certainly much better than eating what a bad cook serves. Whenever we have friends come over, my mom tends to serve them that sort of stuff, because it's generally tastier and less work than her actually making something.

                                                          1. re: celesul

                                                            Another good point! She is someone who truly cares for her guests!

                                                          2. re: Alica

                                                            If you want to cook from scratch, TJs has most everything you would need--though they don't carry everything. But as far as fresh fruits, vegetables, protein, grain, dairy--they've got you covered.

                                                          3. re Vitamin C - see above in this thread
                                                            I am reading this thread with amazement! I was attracted to Trader Joe's by the low price of Orange Juice, when due to raising Gas prices, every store in my region jacked up theirs to above 4 or 5 $ /half gallon, TJ sold it then for 1.99 $ and it is still the cheapest around now!
                                                            There are several Fruit and Vegetables isles. The stuff may not be to everyone's liking, but I would think it is impossible to avoid Vitamin C (and other Vitamins) when shopping at the Trader Joe's in my region.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: RUK

                                                              I don't think anyone here is saying that you can't get your dose of Vitamin C from eating only foodstuffs from Trader Joes.

                                                              The Vit C discussion above related to a poster's insistence that a normal (average?) human can do just fine and be completely healthy from eating only protein and fat (his words). I might note here that "protein" doesn't even necessarily mean "meat", let alone "muscle meat" like beef or "organ meat" like livers, let alone "stewed beef" or "stewed meats".