Costco’s a great spot to shop for food, but some of their food options are definitely better for you than others!
Healthy: Fresh and frozen fruits and veggies
Whether fresh or frozen, Costco’s fruit and veggie selection hosts plenty of fibre and vitamins, and they’re convenient for the price. Meg O’Rourke, RD-LDN, specifically likes Kirkland Signature Three Berry Blend. It is a great source of vitamin K, fibre, and antioxidants. “They are the perfect addition to smoothies, yogurts, or even my personal favourite, as a frozen treat for the summer,” she says.
Dr. John La Puma, nutritionist and author of ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine, likes to avoid this aisle altogether. Everything looks so delicious, but most of the bread products Costco sells are low in fibre with only a few exceptions. Most of the bread is incredibly processed and has high calories, with little to no dietary benefit.
Healthy: Whole grain bread
The exception? Whole grain bread! Rachel Fine, registered dietician and founder of To The Pointe Nutrition, loves Dave’s Killer Bread, an organic, whole grain option that is both delicious and healthy.
Unhealthy: Processed snack foods
Top on licensed dietician and nutritionist Amanda Kostro Miller‘s list of unhealthy foods to limit or control from Costco? Any of their processed snack foods. Most contain lots of fat, sodium, and sugar and not a lot of nutrition. Some of her picks for the worst offenders: cheesy puffs, peanut butter cheese crackers, cheesy or caramel popcorn, and chips. Instead, opt for these guilt-free snacks to curb your cravings.
Healthy: Nuts and seeds
A great substitution for those unhealthy snacks is one of Costco’s massive-sized bags of nuts! One of the most affordable ways to buy some of the pricier nuts is in bulk, which is why almost all the nutritionists we spoke to mentioned them. Nuts are full of fibre, protein, and healthy fats, all of which will work together to keep your hunger at bay. Fine added that she likes to stock up on pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds from Costco as well.
Unhealthy: Bakery items
Unfortunately, the pre-made bakery items are also on top of the unhealthy list. O’Rourke specifically points out Kirkland Signature Butter Croissants, which are 45 percent fat and tout only a single gram of fibre.
Healthy: Fresh whole cuts of meat
The good news? That entire section of fresh, whole cuts of meat is fair game! A huge source of protein, iron, and vitamins, just about anything from Costco’s huge selection of fresh meat at bargain prices is a great choice! While it’s usually cheaper to buy in bulk, sometimes a little extra saving can go a long way.
Unhealthy: Processed meats
You know the drill. The more processed a food selection is, the more additives it has. And while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it generally means more fat, more sodium, more nitrates, and more preservatives. A few to steer clear of: bologna, salami, and cured deli meat.
Healthy: Canned tuna, chicken, and salmon
While more processed than the fresh whole cuts, canned tuna, chicken, and salmon still host enough benefits to outweigh anything negative that is being added in the processing process. The protein and convenience offered with these options made Kostro Miller give them a thumbs up. Find out what nutritionist-approved canned foods should be a staple in your pantry.
Unhealthy: Pre-made pantry goods
Pre-made/processed pantry goods like canned ravioli, Hamburger Helper, or box goods that have pre-made, powdered sauces tend to have a lot of fat, sodium, and preservatives. Besides, with all the fresh food Costco offers at affordable prices, it can be easy and inexpensive to make your own! Not everything at Costco will save you money, however.
Healthy: Pre-made quinoa and brown rice
The trend has been pretty obvious thus far. If it is pre-made or too processed, you’re probably going to want your cart to steer clear of that item—but Costco’s quinoa and brown rice are an exception! Carla Schuit, MPH, RD, LDN, a licensed dietitian at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, always stocks up on these staples when she goes to Costco. “So easy to use as a base and toss some convenient protein in, such as grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp,” Schuit says. “Add a scoop of already made quinoa or brown rice and you have an easy complete meal. I always have two bags on hand.”
Unhealthy: Giant cookies
If you’ve ever seen one of these monstrosities in person, you probably saw this coming. However, Dr. La Puma notes that the reason these delicious desserts are so bad for you isn’t necessarily what’s inside them; it’s their size. You can still enjoy the chocolate chip goodness by cutting the cookie into quarters and savouring the flavour over the course of several days, he says.
Healthy: Greek yogurt
Healthy and delicious! Greek yogurt makes a great snack or the perfect base for a delicious smoothie. Combine with fruit, raw honey, or just eat plain, and you’ve got a nutritious and delicious snack.
And no, we’re not just talking about the food court by the checkout. Kirkland Signature Cheese Pizza is high in fat and very high in sodium. While most foods can be fit into any diet in moderation, in this case you’d be much better off picking up one of Costco’s new cauliflower crust pizzas or flat-out making your own.
Healthy: Olive oil
According to Fine, Costco’s olive oil, in particular, received a thumbs up from Consumer Lab‘s independent testing. While we all know that olive oil is rich in healthier fats and a great way to cook food nutritionally, many brands of olive oil come tainted with additional oils mixed in. Kirkland’s, however, completely passed testing.
Unhealthy: Pre-made desserts
They are delicious, but Costco’s pre-made desserts are primarily pure white flour, sugar, butter, and stabilizers. Not exactly what you could call nutritious. One of our favourites, the Kirkland Signature 12″ Cheesecake, unfortunately has 11 grams of fat in a single slice and very little nutritional value to offset the caloric intake.