Here’s my sort of the good, the bad and the ugly on Costco shelves—plus a bonus of 7 Costco-based quick and easy dinners. Please note that my rankings are only comparisons of what Costco sells—I’m not commenting on GMOs, organics, dairy, vegan diets, ethics of big-box stores and other controversial topics.
Most of the following follows my main 2 food rules:
- Short Ingredients List (note LIL stands for Long Ingredients List in items below)
- No Fake Colors
Grade A—excellent choices
- Any one-ingredient food (apples, melon, banana, cucumbers, eggs, milk, chicken, turkey, fish, beef, etc.)
- Fruit and Vegetables—the ideal choices are grown in your time zone rather than shipped from another continent. I love the bags of baby Persian cucumbers and baby carrots—both of which last a while in the fridge and are super easy to prepare.
- Nuts….such a great selection
- Marinara Sauce
- Chicken Broth (I get the kind in the box with the flip-top lid)
- Popcornopolis Nearly Naked Popcorn—great high-fiber after-dinner snack
- Cooked Brown Rice Bowls (microwave for 90 seconds….you may want to add a little oil or butter for extra moisture after cooking)
- Sweet Perry Orchards Almond Butter in individual servings
- Kirkland peanut butter
- Cooked Steel Cut Oatmeal—very convenient…don’t forget to add the extra 3 Tbsp of water/milk/soymilk after you cook it. Need to mix very well.
- Babybel cheese, string cheese, any cheese really
- Peggy’s Premium frozen edamame in individual steam-heating bags (the box says non-GMO verified, which is nice)
- Canned vegetarian refried beans
- Yoshida marinade—I use this to marinate chicken, turkey/beef burgers—so easy and adds a lot of flavor
- Seeds of Change Quinoa/Brown Rice Blend (shelf-stable boxes)
- Chobani and Fage yogurt
- Chocolate milk
- Frosted Mini Wheats (6 grams of fiber!)
- Frozen berries (for smoothies)
- Panko Bread Crumbs (use them all the time for breaded chicken)
- High Liner Basil Pesto Tilapia (frozen fish, real ingredients, SO YUMMY and easy)
Grade B—pretty good choices within Costco
- Nature Valley Oats & Honey crunchy granola bars
- Freeze Dried Fruit
- Stretch Island Fruit Strips, Mott’s Fruit Twists, Annie’s Fruit Gummies—all 3 are much better choices than Fruit by the Foot or other gummies. Yet they are more of a “treat” than a “fruit.” If you throw them in your kid’s lunchbox, include a fresh fruit or veggie too.
- Wheat Thins (they have more fiber now….but I wish Costco carried Triscuit Thin Crisps)
- Pirate’s Booty/Organic Animal Crackers/Graham Crackers (all fine for lunch boxes, with relatively short ingredients lists but unfortunately not much fiber)
- Fiber One Brownies and Bars—here is a case where the nutritional benefits can supersede the long ingredients list. Yes there is a long ingredients list with quite a few additives BUT….they can be so helpful for constipation. Especially for kids—I much prefer a Fiber One Brownie a few times a week than relying on Miralax.
- N.B. Fig Bars
- Outshine Frozen Fruit Bars (no fake colors)
- Aidell’s refrigerated fully cooked meatballs/sausage (shorter ingredients list than most other cooked meat products, and pretty tasty as well)
- Dino or Mickey Nuggets—I am realistic and I know many parents rely on these for quick dinners. They are fine if they are the exception rather than the rule. Use them for really busy days, when you need to get good protein into them and don’t have time to cook. BUT …if your kids are eating them 3-4 nights a week I recommend re-thinking dinner!
- Tortilla Land Uncooked Tortillas—easily warm up in nonstick pan, very yummy
- Cheddar Goldfish (I WISH they carried the whole-grain Goldfish which have more fiber)
- Roland Couscous
- Danimals smoothies and Simple Go-Gurt (not much protein and more sugar than they need BUT no fake colors and a good source of calcium—good for kids who need more calcium but don’t care for Greek yogurt or milk. I MUCH prefer Chobani Champions tubes and yogurt….but they’re not sold at Costco. I keep the tubes in the freezer.)
“Ehh”—not completely offensive but not much redeeming quality
- Corazon’s Bars—ingedients list way too long
- Nutrigrain bars—just a “blah” blend of fillers with no fiber
- All the Greek Yogurt granola trail mixes—it’s not really yogurt, otherwise it would need to be refrigerated! “Greek” blends are everywhere right now but if they are shelf stable, it’s just a more tart version of a chocolate chip with a long ingredients list.
- Whole Wheat Sandwich Rounds—I was so excited to see these, but WHY is the ingredient list so long? I don’t get it. 100% whole wheat bread doesn’t need more than 10 ingredients
- Ultimate Fish Stick—LIL in the frozen section
Please Do Not Buy
- Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Whole Grain Bread—the ingredients list is so long and filled with crap
- Uncrustables, Hot Pockets, Bagel Bites—A completely horrible category of convenience food. Instead, grab a bagel thin or mini bagel, spread a red sauce on it, top with shredded cheese and stick in toaster oven. So much better.
- Jimmy Dean Delights and Special K Flatbread Breakfast Sandwiches (instead, just toast an English muffin, stick a slice of cheese on it, and maybe add a precooked scrambled egg or a slice of ham)
- Entenmann’s mini blueberry muffin bites
- Fruit by the Foot
- Welch’s Fruit Snacks
- Eggo Waffles
- Costco muffin tray
- Froot Loops
- Turkey/Swiss Tortilla Roll-ups—Great if you love to eat stabilizers and binders.
- Prepared foods–Chicken Salad, enchiladas, meatloaf, and almost everything in that section. Unfortunately they have LIL and many weird gum and powdered additives. I know they are convenient but honestly I do not find them to be that tasty. It would be better, nutritionally, to serve the plain components (see dinner ideas below) than the pre-prepared sum of the parts.
7 Costco-Based Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinner Ideas
- Aidell’s teriyaki meatballs + rice + frozen Edamame + grapes
- Rotisserie chicken + bread or whole-wheat tortilla triangles (brush a ww tortilla with a little oil and a little butter, toast until crispy, lightly sprinkle with kosher salt, cut into triangles) + sliced baby carrots and Persian cucumbers + melon cubes
- Frozen basil pesto Tilapia + brown rice bowl with a little extra EVOO + broccoli steamed and seasoned with a little butter/lemon/salt/pepper
- Pasta with marinara sauce + sunflower seeds on side (for protein) + bagged salad + pear slices
- Ground beef or turkey (or mix half and half)—brown on stove and add Bearitos seasoning packet (Sprouts/Whole Foods item), some tomato paste and water per directions on packet + Tortilla Land tortillas + bagged salad + sliced cucumbers + apples (note you can make low-carb by putting the cooked beef/turkey with veggies instead of tortilla)
- Hamburgers or turkey burgers (just found the easiest way to shape a burger…use a plastic lid about 6-7 inches long, cover w/ plastic wrap, press meat inside to fit lid shape, then remove….marinate burger with Yoshida sauce for 30 minutes before cooking) + bun + Nature’s Sweet Sunburst yellow cherry tomatoes + sliced bananas
- Chicken tenderloins—marinate in buttermilk 30 minutes before cooking on counter, then toss in flour/salt/pepper mixture, then brown on both sides in pan with hot canola oil, then finish in oven at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes + rice + sugar snap peas + grapes
When I think of many foods at Costco I am reminded of the quote, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” When you buy a whole pre-made meal with everything included, it contains twice (or more) the ingredients you would need if you made it from scratch. They need those extra powders, colors, gums and oils to keep ingredients from separating and to ensure a quality taste over many weeks (or months?). To sum up the overwhelming array of Costco products, I’ll conclude with Michael Pollan’s wisdom: “Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.” Happy shopping (and cooking!).