There's no getting through a Costco excursion without the temptation of the food court. The aroma alone is enough to start the Pavlovian drool response before you make it to the clerk who checks your receipt on the way out. With so many popular items on the menu, you might find yourself making return trips just to try everything at least once. But that would be inadvisable, considering that many of the options, though undeniably delicious, are also seriously unhealthy. The prices may be tempting compared to fast food outlets, but you also pay a high nutritional tax.
It's no great Costco secret that the food court isn't a health food restaurant. Affordability and flavor are the greatest consideration in this glorified snack bar, not nutrition, restraint, or sensible portion size. But just how unhealthy are some of the things you order, and in what ways do these tasty temptations lead you astray from your fitness goals? Read on before you eat at the Costco food court on your next shopping trip to see which options are the worst and why you might be better off saving your money and eating at home.
Read more: Every Item At The Costco Food Court, Ranked
Ah, the Costco hot dog -- one of the original food court possibilities served up by the big box behemoth in carts outside the warehouse doors. The fast food action may have moved indoors, but the popularity hasn't waned, not even after Costco replaced Hebrew National dogs with its own Kirkland brand. They may taste great after a long trek through the aisles, but hot dogs are more for baseball games, July 4th eating contests, or last-ditch dinners for kids in place of true meals; they're a squirrely foodstuff that's reserved for indiscriminate moments when there's nothing else available. The rumors about what hot dogs are made of puts them pretty much at the bottom of the nutrition list, even when there's beef added to the grinder. How good could they possibly be for you?
You may be surprised to learn that the hot dog is not the least healthy order you can make at a Costco food court, but it does come at a nutritional cost of 570 calories that brings along 33 grams of fat, 12 grams of which are saturated. This equals 63% of your daily recommended allowance, all in a single dog, with just 24 grams of protein to help compensate.
As a lean animal food source, chicken is favored over red meat for its high protein content and lower saturated fat count. Therefore, any product that includes chicken in the recipe must be a healthy option, right? Nope. Not when it comes in the form of an oh-so-delicious-but-not-terribly-nutritious Costco chicken bake. This faux burrito is essentially a Hot Pocket -- nearly a loaf of bread rolled around chunks of chicken swimming in creamy cheese sauce, with a little extra cheese toasted on the outside for good measure. While there's no denying the chicken bake tastes amazing, the micronutrients it delivers to your physiology are an entirely different story.
In the same way you wouldn't consider a calzone "healthy eating," you should consider a chicken bake a dietary mistake. This single-serving culinary log contains 769 calories and 25 grams of fat. The sodium count is a heart-stopping 2,310 milligrams, otherwise known as more than the FDA-recommended daily allowance of 2,300 milligrams. You'd be better off heading back into the store, buying a whole rotisserie chicken, and making something a whole lot healthier once you get home. Nutritionally speaking, this chicken bake is for the birds.
Pizza never tops anyone's list of mindful dining, so naturally it joins our line-up of unhealthy Costco fast food items. Portion size can sometimes help make enjoying a slice or two a workable option. But as with all things Costco, the bigger, the better, though in this case being bigger means being an epically bad nutrition decision. Set aside the prospect of enjoying something delicious for a phenomenal price -- the dietary trouble of these inexpensive eats is a pie chart filled with poor choices, no matter how you slice it.
If you stick with a single slice of basic cheese pizza, you'll be packing away 700 calories and 28 grams of fat. You also get 44 grams of protein -- a small consolation in a sea of greasy disappointment. Carb watchers will have a hard time digesting the 70 grams of total carbs, too. As bad as that seems, try doubling those numbers by committing to a slice duet, and you can see how quickly the counts get out of hand. Now, imagine taking home an entire pie and it becomes much easier to see why pizza is not your friend at the Costco food court carnival ... not even close.
Nothing made of crispy fried dough and visibly encrusted in sugar should even be mentioned in a discussion about nutrition unless it's to lend contrast to actually healthy food. These crispy wands of circus-style pastry magic may be delicious to the max, but they're nutritious to the min, offering no dietary value whatsoever. So, while you may be drawn in by that phenomenal cinnamon scent like a cartoon character drawn to a freshly baked pie, you're in for a world of hurt with your nutritionist if you follow the impulse and down one of these horizontal donuts.
How bad is bad when it comes to churro nutrition facts? It's so bad that it's 530 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 25 grams of sugar. In comparison to that tally sheet, a Dunkin' donut generally contains about 270 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 15 grams of sugar. Essentially, you're eating a double Dunkin' when you snap into a churro. It's obviously a dessert meant more for entertainment than for healthy snacking. But the physiological setback is entirely avoidable if you just keep walking after your shopping is done.
The hypnotic appeal of watching a swirling soft serve spiral down into a cup or cone is enough to mesmerize Costco shoppers into snatching up a snack whether they want one or not. And if you've seen the size of the colossal cones that can catch the creamy concoction, you know that the Statue of Liberty's torch is only slightly larger. The quantity of food alone is cause for pause, even if the contents were full-blown health food. Knowing you've got the equivalent of a small dairy wrapped in a flattened cookie should clue you in on the dearth of nutritional love you're getting every time you swirl up to the counter.
Every cone is its own creation thanks in part to the creator serving it up. The gist of the nutrition knowledge you need: a Costco soft-serve cone shows up with 510 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 39 grams of sugar. Numbers will vary depending on the generosity of your server, which means you're in for an even less-healthy time if they top you off with extra curl on the swirl. The count includes the cone, so at least you're not paying an extra penalty for that.
Nutrition isn't a food-only consideration at the Costco food station. Beverages are a big part of the experience, especially when they come in sizable 20-ounce refillable portions. Usually, your bubbly beverage is a ride along with the food you purchase, which means an extra-concentrated dose of questionable dietary consumption is in the cards. Of course, there are soda selections that can trim the gristle and bring you in at no additional calories or sugar -- they typically include the words "diet" or "zero" somewhere in their titles -- making for a mightier choice, nutrition-wise. But, setting the option of sugar-free soda aside, let's focus on the sugar-inclusive stuff and see what's what.
How flexible is the health quotient of a fountain drink that contains nearly double a single-can serving of bubbly beverage? It depends entirely on the lever you press. Different sodas will have varying amounts of calories and sugar, but if you use a full-sugar 20-ounce Pepsi as the test substance, you'll be drinking 250 calories and taking in 68 grams of sugar, all from a refreshment that's washing down an equally unhealthy dish. Compare this to a regular-sized 12-ounce can of Pepsi, which carries 150 calories and 41 grams of sugar, and you're doing almost twice the damage to your system that you would with a more standard soda experience.
BBQ Beef Brisket
Loaded with fantastic protein, the BBQ beef brisket might sound like one of the healthier orders you can make during your Costco visit. Indeed, studies have shown brisket to have high concentrations of healthy oleic acid, a helper chemical in the fight against bad cholesterol. But anyone who's sunk their teeth into a juicy brisket in any form knows the fabulous flavor comes from a fair quantity of fat in the meat. This is a sure indicator that you won't be eating healthily at the Costco food station by ordering up a mega-mound of beef on bread, even with the oleic acid in tow.
What do you get inside the foil wrapper where nutrition is concerned? A bullish 710 calories, with 33 grams of fat riding shotgun, 11 of which are saturated. The 28 grams of protein might almost make it worth taking a chance on the less healthy elements ruining your blood chemistry; however, if you can skip this tricky brisket, you'll be doing yourself a favor in the long run, no matter how exciting the idea of a food court BBQ sandwich might seem ... or smell.
Starbucks thought they'd cornered the market on frozen coffee drinks ... then Costco started serving up its delicious mocha freeze, and the Seattle super chain knew it had competition. (Maybe not direct or significant competition, but competition nonetheless.) Adding a coffee shop confection to its luscious listing meant anyone needing a little pick-me-up after coasting through the oversized aisles could catch a buzz on the way out. After all, you've had a hard hour or two of resisting the oversized holiday decorations while shopping for your enormous quantities of ketchup. That sort of determination deserves a prize in the form of a mocha-fied slush ... or perhaps you deserve something healthier?
The reality of a mocha freeze is that you're getting what amounts to a milkshake made with coffee and loaded with sugar -- a fact that Costco isn't trying to hide even a little bit. The nutrition facts reveal that you'll be consuming 310 calories that come with 6 grams of fat and 46 grams of sugar -- more than a full day's serving on a 2,000 daily calorie diet. The story of the mocha freeze doesn't come with a healthy happy ending, no matter how temporarily satisfied sipping one might make you.
Rather than beverages that should be considered nutritious by default, smoothies have long since been debunked as often unhealthy options masquerading as rejuvenating potions. Case in point: The mango smoothie. Look at the gold-orange nectar glowing on the Costco menu board, and we dare you to not be drawn into its luscious tropical splendor. It's the color of sunshine, like an exotic vacation in a cup offering a sweet escape to more desirable climates someplace where the ocean dominates the landscape. What it really is, though, is a heavy-duty dose of high-calorie sugar blended into a slushy pulp that hits your bloodstream with an insulin-spiking rush that inevitably ends in a crash that leaves you deserted on an island of nutritional misery.
So just how not cool is this frosty treat? It's enough to chill your blood. The 16-ounce cup holds an icy 360 calories, which might not be the worst if it wasn't due to a brain-freezing 78 grams of sugar they all come from. If you think you're getting vitamins and minerals along with that, think again. You'll have 1% of your daily calcium and 4% of your daily magnesium to compensate for the syrup slop sloshing around in your veins, making this one rough smoothie.
Hot Turkey And Provolone Sandwich
Shove over, Subway. Costco has a hot turkey and provolone sandwich that keeps shoppers satisfied. The wily 'wich features layers of better-than-deli slices lying beneath a melty spread of cheese, all served on a toasted ciabatta roll. It certainly sounds hearty and filling, and turkey is a healthy white meat touted as a fine replacement for red meat cold cut options. So, is this a deceptively unhealthy dish, a nutritional wolf dressed in poultry clothing, or is it an honest-to-goodness healthful choice among a menu filled with bad decisions?
Sadly, this sandwich comes with wolf teeth and a bad attitude regarding mindful eating. There are 740 calories in this bread-based behemoth containing 39 grams of fat and 51 grams of carbs. You do get a considerable 45 grams of protein, too, but that win is crossed out by the 1,710 milligrams of sodium included. Rather than thinking you're making a smooth move for your nutrition by downing one of these bad boys on your own, share it with a friend and split the difference. At least you won't be taking in as much of the bad stuff.
An item at the Costco food court that has real fruit in it? Surely, we must be getting to the truly nutritious options on the marquee, right? Whether this little cup of bliss is a Costco food court menu flop or a fabulous success, it appears to be a modest morsel, something small-ish you can snag as you head for the minivan with your purchase in tow and glide back to the golden suburbs. But maybe you want to think twice before handing your membership card to the clerk behind the counter and taking an unexpected detour through Empty Calorieville.
Yes, the sundae has berries, and yes, it's a dairy product, which tend to get hailed as a high-calcium contestant in the nutrition challenge. But in addition to 500 milligrams of calcium, you'll be taking in 410 otherwise empty calories, along with 60 grams of sugar, which is never a smart choice in a food court product. You may be thinking you could do worse, considering the much more compromising options on the list. We think you could do better by averting your eyes and making tracks to the yawning warehouse door instead.
Rotisserie Chicken Caesar Salad
Seeing the famous Costco rotisserie chicken added to a Caesar salad and sold at the warehouse snack counter makes it impossible to avoid the slow-roasted fowl no matter what corner of the store you hide in. But you're really getting into the weeds with this option, what with the dressing, the cheese, and the croutons topping your romaine and chicken blend. It would be a shame to think you were doing the right thing by ordering this tasty mix, only to discover a snare of unhealthy possibilities waiting among the leaves.
And there certainly are unhealthy possibilities awaiting you. Consider the 756 calories, the 61 grams of fat, 10.4 grams of saturated fat, and the 1,831 grams of sodium you'll be eating with this leafy health trap. The 33 grams of protein are a small consolation for all the less than desirable stuff that comes along with it. Sure, you thought you were making a good choice with something called "salad." But not all salads are tossed equally, and this so-called healthier choice is one you want to toss back immediately. Head home and make a salad of your own -- one you can truly feel comfortable courting.
Read the original article on Mashed.