Trying to eat right as you grab a meal on your Costco run? You might find it a king-sized challenge. Much like the ample dimensions of the products sold in its warehouse, Costco's food court isn't known for its small portions. And with high levels of sodium and saturated fat (and a serious lack of fruits and veggies), many of Costco's meal offerings leave a lot to be desired if you're looking for a healthy lunch, dinner, or snack.
Part of the problem, of course, lies in the fact that Costco's menu is quite limited. Only a handful of entrée, drink, and dessert options are available in the big box giant's eating area. Plus, since the food court menu may vary by season or location, it can be tough to hang onto your favorite healthy choice for very long.
Still, all is not lost! A few options do contain whole food ingredients and won't set you back as much as others in terms of calories, fat, sodium, and carbohydrates. As a nutritionist, I have recommendations for five choices for healthy dining—and five to steer clear of next time you're shopping at Costco.
The 5 best Costco food court items
Chicken Caesar Salad
The Chicken Caesar Salad tops the short list of Costco food court items that feature fresh vegetables. Atop a bed of leafy romaine lettuce, you'll find grilled chicken, croutons, and shredded cheese—all of which combine to provide plenty of fiber and protein. Just go easy on the Caesar dressing to cut back on excessive fat and sodium.
Costco doesn't divulge their menu items' ingredients, so it's hard to know exactly how much fruit the fruit smoothie contains. That said, its nutrition profile is among the best on the menu. This chilly treat comes in at just 240 calories, with no fat and very little sodium. If you're watching your carbohydrates, though, just be aware that this isn't a low-carb choice. It's also not clear how many of its 50 grams of sugar come from nature and how many are added.
If you'd like a coffee to sip on while you browse for epic boxes of crackers and bags of meatballs, try the food court's hot latte. It has a mere 130 calories and 12 grams of sugar. It even sneaks in 9 grams of protein!
Chili with Beans and Beef
Surprisingly, Costco's food court chili with beans and beef is one of its lowest-calorie entrees at a modest 450 calories. Its fiber count of 17 grams also makes a sizable dent in your daily recommendation (which, for the record, is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men). The one downside here is the chili's sodium content. One bowl of the soup packs more than a full day's worth of recommended sodium.
BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich
I'll admit that this meaty sandwich has lots of sodium and saturated fat—but it redeems itself somewhat with a lower calorie total than Costco's other sandwich options. If possible, round out your meal by snagging some samples of fruits or vegetables as you mosey along with your shopping.
The 5 worst Costco food court items
Costco's pizza may be legendary for its size and taste, but it doesn't earn many points for healthiness. A single serving of the pepperoni persuasion provides a rather high 710 calories and 13 grams of saturated fat. My advice: if you're craving pizza, purchase a Kirkland frozen variety from the Costco warehouse and bake it at home.
Just like at any other restaurants, don't forget that at Costco's food court, you can always split or take home part of your order. That's a great idea if you opt for the chicken bake, which not only has 770 calories per Hot Pocket-style hand pie, but also harbors over 100% of the daily sodium recommendation.
Hot Dog and Soda
You probably wouldn't expect Costco's hot dog and soda option to be a slam dunk for health—and you'd be right. The classic dog and drink combo doesn't have much to offer nutritionally. Its white flour bun provides only 1 gram of fiber, and the sugar in your choice of soda (plus the excessive sodium and saturated fat in the hot dog) won't do your cardiovascular system any favors.
Costco's Polish sausage is neck and neck with the hot dog and soda combo—and not in a good way. Just like the hot dog, the Polish sausage contains 32 grams of fat (12 of them saturated), and almost the exact same amount of sodium and calories as the hot dog. Since research has linked a diet high in red and processed meats to colon cancer, it's best to choose foods like sausage sparingly anyway.
A turkey wrap sounds like a healthy choice on paper, but Costo's food court version is a far cry from a low-calorie sandwich you'd make at home. Though it boasts a sizable 53 grams of protein, this lunchtime go-to contains 101% of the daily sodium recommendation and 80% of the daily recommendation for saturated fat. In fact, the turkey wrap has more saturated fat than any other item on the food court's menu.