Leave it to Trader Joe’s to take the cauliflower craze to a new level. This fall they debuted a frozen blend of riced cauliflower with butternut squash and cheese that mimics a risotto-like preparation. I’ve tried it a couple of times as a side dish alongside a protein like turkey or pork tenderloin and it’s pretty tasty. The question is, is it healthy or not? Let’s take a look at the ingredients and nutrition info.
The ingredients are fairly straightforward and recognizable. No preservatives or artificial additives are listed.
Riced Cauliflower (Cauliflower, Water, Salt), Butternut Squash Sauce (Butternut Squash, Water, Carrots, Pasteurized Cream, Pasteurized Milk, Butter, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Onion, Salt, Grana Padano Cheese [Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Animal Rennet, Egg Lysozyme], Grated Hard Cheese [Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Microbial Enzyme], Spices, Garlic, Yeast Extract, Rosemary), Butternut Squash, Parsley. CONTAINS MILK, EGG.
The package lists a serving as 1 cup with 3 servings in the entire bag. I will say it’s pretty easy to eat more than 1 cup, my husband and I split the bag between us whenever we have it. For the sake of argument, though, we’ll go with Trader Joe’s recommended serving of 1 cup.
Nutritionally speaking, I recommend focusing on just a few lines on the nutrition facts label to help avoid information overload and increase efficiency when shopping. For patients who are preparing for or have had bariatric surgery, the key nutrition facts to look for are serving size, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, total sugars, added sugars and protein.
For a larger serving, the Trader Joe’s cauliflower version provides far less calories and total carbs and slightly more fiber than traditional risotto. It also has no added sugar and low total sugar. The traditional preparation wins on protein, presumably from all the dairy ingredients, but the high carbohydrate and calorie content does not make it a good choice.
Overall, I would recommend Trader Joe’s Riced Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Risotto as a healthy low carb side dish to pair with protein like poultry, seafood or tofu. It’s a great way to enjoy the flavors of a favorite comfort food but with better nutrition overall.