Until a few years ago, I would have scoffed “don’t be ridiculous!”, but these days there are more than a few items that may make a Costco membership worthwhile for you.
Of course, the trend to carry vegan and organic items elsewhere is growing, too. Little coincidence that it was just reported that Costco has surpassed Whole Foods Market as the biggest purveyor of organic foods in the U.S.!
You may have read about my visits to Costco in my “pregan” (pre-vegan) days when I used to fantasize about Costco’s $1.50 foot-long hot dogs piled with saeurkraut, onions and relish! I can’t recall the last time I dined at their food court, but I feel sorry for those eating Costco fare because it’s the only place they can afford.
If only people would factor the cost of future medical expenses in their food budgets! Just one hot dog a day increases a person’s colorectal cancer risk by 21 percent, according to PCRM.
So, if you’re vegan or trying to eat healthier, please just forget about the Costco food court! Forget about making a meal out of all those free food samples, too. If you’re lucky enough to find a sample free of animal products, I guarantee it will be loaded with sugar, oil, salt, GMOs, or all of the above!
Fresh produce is not one of Costco’s strengths, however I have purchased their organic Power Greens on occasion for smoothies, and a net of grapefruits when they’re crazy expensive elsewhere. Occasionally, Costco has fresh organic berries on sale, too. Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are best purchased from local farmers markets and organic supermarkets. Whenever you purchase non-organic produce, try to stick to those on the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean 15″ list.
While I rarely buy packaged foods, I am pleased to see Costco’s selection of 100% whole plant-based foods is increasing. Some of them are actually pretty decent, if you’re lucky enough to find them in stock. Here are my favorites:
1. Harmless Harvest Coconut Water-I was so excited to find this at Costco! Being HPP (High Pressure Processed) and raw, Harmless Harvest is the closest to fresh coconut water you will come, and it costs half at Costco what it does in the supermarkets. While it’s priced more than double the pasteurized coconut waters (i.e. Zico, VitaCoco) Costco carries, Harmless Harvest’s fresh taste and nutrition is well worth it. Unlike cheaper pasteurized juices, Harmless Harvest can be found in the refrigerated section (near the refrigerated produce), and has a short shelf-life (about 1 month)–so drink up!
2. Suja Juice-I’ve written about Suja’s HPP juice in my recent posts. Apparently, they have produced some varieties exclusively for Costco. Look for those closest to 100 percent juice, as others have quite a low percentage (diluted with water). I found one called “Mighty Greens” recently that Costco said they were having difficulty keeping in stock due to customer demand. The base is apple juice, which was too sweet for me, so I mixed it with fresh green juice of cucumbers and celery. Not all of Suja’s juices are vegan, so read the label carefully.
3. Organic Chia Seeds-Featured in the Aztec Diet, chia seeds are famous for their omega-3s, protein, dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Although Costco’s are not raw, they are acceptable quality at quite a reasonable price. I use them daily in my mana bowl breakfast.
4. Organic blueberries (frozen)-A great source of anti-oxidants, these blueberries are another indispensable ingredient in my morning mana bowl. Many folks use them in smoothies, too-just blend with kale, spinach or other greens! Add a little Harmless Harvest coconut water to make it more special.
5. Organic grains and cereals, such as brown rice and quinoa are not bad, if your diet includes them. I like the mixture of Amaranth, Quinoa and Millet, but they didn’t have it in stock last time. Same goes for their medley of brown rice mixed with jasmine and red rice.
As a special added bonus for those who read this far, here are 2 additional (runner-up) products to look out for:
6. Organic Walnuts (Mariani brand)-I only found these one time, but I hope they re-appear on the shelves. Incidentally, I would not buy Costco’s Kirkland brand almonds, as they are not raw, but steam pasteurized or irradiated to kill salmonella. If you want to know what almonds are supposed to taste like, try these imported Spanish almonds instead.
7. LaraBars-These are the most natural (packaged) bars that I know. Some of them have as few as 2 or 3 whole food ingredients (including dates, nuts, other dried fruits and spices) and all have less than 9 ingredients according to the company’s web site. Compare these to Clif Bar and other bars at Costco containing a long list of added sugars, soy protein isolates, etc.
I hope you find these tips useful on your next visit to Costco. They may not be incentive enough for you to join, but if you are already a member, it will give you something else to hunt for. Remember my warning about avoiding the samples and the food court. If something isn’t labeled “vegan,” it almost certainly isn’t. So just stay away!
I would be so grateful if you could leave a comment below and let me know your experience if you’ve tried something listed here, or discovered another healthy reason for shopping at Costco! Please consider sharing this post, signing up to receive regular updates, clicking this post’s Google g+1 button and shopping via the Amazon links to support this blog.