Big-box warehouse club Costco is a great place to stock up on healthy foods in bulk. However, for all the great organic and health-conscious foods on Costco shelves, there are enough beguiling junk food options to cancel out even the most wholesome shopping cart loads. And avoiding the unhealthiest Kirkland Signature products isn't as easy as simply cutting processed ingredients and sugary treats off your shopping list. Some of Costco's most artery-clogging grocery items pass themselves off as fairly benign dinner options.
So, how do you identify the unhealthiest Costco foods? Look for items with the most imbalanced macronutrient profiles. Foods with comparatively high levels of saturated fat, sodium, and sugar are obvious offenders, but calorie-dense foods can be equally bad for your waistline regardless of nutritional content. Alternatively, you can simply familiarize yourself with this list of the worst Kirkland-brand foods so you can keep it healthy the next time you shop.
Read more: 20 Frozen Foods Costco Shoppers Swear By
Kirkland Signature Cheesecake
One of the recurring themes of this list is that you'll find many of Costco's most unhealthy food items in its bakery section. The Kirkland Signature cheesecake, however, is really something else. A single serving of this cheesecake (one 128-gram slice) has 29 grams of fat in total, 18 grams of which is saturated fat. That's 90% of the daily recommended value and well over the limit suggested by the American Heart Association. A serving also has 26 grams of sugar. And when you see how small one of these 420-calorie slices is, you'll realize that this is one of the most indulgent treats in all of Costco.
If you want to stick to the suggested serving size for this incredibly rich cheesecake, you need to cut it into 16 slices. So unless you have 15 friends close by, you'll need the willpower of an ascetic monk not to have another slice a few hours later.
Kirkland Signature Lobster Bisque
If you thought all of Costco's unhealthiest foods would be baked goods, guess again. Nutritionally imbalanced Kirkland products come in all shapes and sizes, including this Kirkland Signature lobster bisque. We've warned readers about this dish before, as it is neither healthy nor delicious. But just how bad is it?
A single cup of Kirkland Signature lobster bisque (one serving) has 20 grams of saturated fat, which actually exceeds the FDA's daily recommended value. To make matters worse, it has 730 milligrams of sodium, which may give this bisque a rich, savory flavor but is also a major contributor to high blood pressure, per UC Davis Health. And at 380 calories per cup, you'd be wise to stop at just one cup. But hey, at least it's keto-friendly.
If you're looking for a healthy alternative to the Kirkland Signature lobster bisque, consider other seafood-based soups with lighter broths. Much of the fattiness of the bisque comes from its broth, which is traditionally made with cream or butter.
Kirkland Signature Butter Croissants
This is a painful one to admit. Although Kirkland's Signature butter croissants score very high on our power ranking of the best Costco bakery items, they score very low when ranked for their nutritional value. In fact, given that Costco's croissants are mostly flour and butter, they are one of the most unhealthy options in the whole store.
One serving (a single croissant) is about 300 calories, even though it is only 69 grams of food. That same serving size also contains 11 grams of saturated fat, which is over half of your daily recommended value. Despite this, it is all too easy to eat two or more croissants at once, especially since they come in 12-packs. Or worse yet, you may be tempted to use them for a breakfast sandwich or dip them in chocolate, upping the calorie count even further.
A healthy alternative to croissants would be some dark, whole-grain bread, which has more fiber, vitamins, and minerals, per Healthline.
Kirkland Signature Cheese Pizza
It should come as no surprise for anyone with a basic understanding of nutrition that Kirkland's Signature cheese pizza is about as unhealthy as it gets in terms of meal options. The dough is made from refined carbohydrates, and the cheese, while rich in calcium and protein, is also high in saturated fat and calories.
A single serving of Kirkland Signature cheese pizza is a quarter of a pizza and comes out to about 129 grams. This serving includes 6 grams of saturated fat and 790 milligrams of sodium, each of which accounts for about a third of the maximum daily intake recommended by the FDA. All of this assumes that you are eating the pizza plain and not adding additional unhealthy toppings like processed meats. As you'll see shortly, these extra toppings make things that much worse. Also, if you eat more than a quarter of a pizza (which, let's be honest, who wouldn't?), this product is an even bigger nutritional no-no.
Kirkland Signature Supreme Cauliflower Crust Pizza
We have bad news for anyone who thought the Kirkland Signature supreme cauliflower crust pizza was a healthy alternative to traditional pizza. It may replace a classic pizza's refined flour base with some healthy (and gluten-free) vegetables, but its saturated fat and sodium values are actually higher than those of Kirkland's Signature cheese pizza.
The Kirkland Signature supreme cauliflower crust pizza has an almost identical serving size to the classic cheese pizza: two slices are about 310 calories. But, paradoxically, a serving of this pizza has 8 grams of saturated fat and 900 milligrams of sodium, compared to 6 grams and 790 milligrams in the cheese pizza. Eating a whole pizza would bring you well over the daily recommended maximum for both of these nutrients.
The lesson here is to scrutinize health-focused food items as carefully as ordinary food items. Just because a product advertises a healthy ingredient substitution doesn't mean it is automatically better for you.
Kirkland Signature Muffins
Costco's beloved Kirkland Signature muffins are a breakfast staple in many households, but based on their nutritional content, they should really only be consumed as an indulgent dessert item. There are many flavor options when purchasing Kirkland muffins. But even the healthiest of these muffin options is far too sugary to be a part of a balanced breakfast.
The blueberry muffin is probably the "healthiest" of Costco's breakfast pastries. One serving has 290 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 250 milligrams of sodium, and 16 grams of added sugar. It is calorically dense but far from the worst thing on this list. The coffeecake muffin, on the other hand, is much richer. One serving has 330 calories, 9 grams of fat, 350 milligrams of sodium, and a whopping 26 grams of added sugar. Also, keep in mind that one serving of any Costco muffin (except the mantecada) is half of a muffin. If you treat yourself to a whole one, you can double all the above figures.
As for a healthy alternative, how about we start with a banana and some whole-wheat toast? Really, any standard breakfast item would be better than these sugary mini-cakes.
Kirkland Signature Mac And Cheese
Costco's deli section offers a number of readymade platters for weeknight comfort meals, including the Kirkland Signature mac and cheese. But as delicious as this platter is, it should be avoided if you have any interest in eating healthy. Between its delicious blend of Romano, Parmesan, and cheddar cheeses and its rich alfredo sauce, this mac and cheese is almost entirely empty calories.
One 128-gram serving of the Kirkland Signature mac and cheese contains 290 calories, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 410 milligrams of sodium while bringing almost nothing to the table in terms of vitamins or minerals. The saturated fat content amounts to about 84% of the maximum daily intake suggested by the American Heart Association.
Since there is essentially no alternative to fresh mac and cheese's warm, delicious flavor, we suggest making this a healthier meal by incorporating protein and/or vegetables to add some nutritional value.
Kirkland Signature Cookies
It's time to shine a light on yet another Costco bakery favorite: Kirkland Signature cookies. These delicious morsels come in many different flavors, none of which are remotely healthy. The offending flavors include chocolate chunk, white chocolate double nut, oatmeal raisin, macadamia nut, triple chocolate, raspberry walnut rugula, and chocolate rugula.
Of all the flavors, triple chocolate is probably the worst for you — at least, it's the highest in sugar. But that said, the cookie varieties are all so lacking in nutritional value that it's almost not worth distinguishing the worst offender. One serving of the triple chocolate cookie has 210 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat, and 20 grams of sugar. And that's just one 50-gram cookie. The sheer calorie density and deliciousness of cookies are what make them so dangerous.
If you simply have to have cookies, we suggest you make your own at home to better control the amount of sugar you consume when you make them. Our three-ingredient banana oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are a great option with more nutrients than Costco's cookies.
Kirkland Signature Chicken Bake
Did you know you can purchase this Costco food court favorite in a frozen take-home version? Well, you can, but don't expect it to be much healthier than the food court version. Despite minor differences in their recipes, both foods are essentially just tubes of dough, cheese, and processed meat.
A single serving, which equals one 227-gram sandwich, contains a massive 580 calories. It also contains 6 grams of saturated fat and — drumroll, please — 1,370 milligrams of sodium. That's 60% of your daily sodium value from one sandwich. According to the American Heart Association, excessive levels of sodium may put you at risk for stroke, heart failure, high blood pressure, and more. On the plus side, one chicken bake also contains 35 grams of protein, but we guarantee there are healthier ways to increase your daily protein intake.
If you've got the chicken bake itch and are in need of a healthy alternative, consider making a lean plate of grilled chicken and some broccoli as a side.
Kirkland Signature Krinkle Cut Kettle Chips
While the Kirkland Signature Krinkle Cut Kettle Chips might not be the most egregious example of an unhealthy food item from Costco, their massive package size and laughably small serving size aren't going to help anyone watch their weight. Seriously, in what reality would someone open a 2-pound bag of potato chips and only eat nine chips? That's the suggested serving size for this product.
This absolutely minuscule serving will already set you back 150 calories, or about 17 calories per chip. A serving also has 110 milligrams of sodium and 1 gram of saturated fat. So, while it's fair to say that a handful of Kirkland Signature Krinkle Cut Kettle Chips aren't quite as bad for you as a buttery croissant, the hard part is stopping at a handful. On the plus side, these chips are slightly healthier than Ruffles.
Thankfully, there are many healthier alternatives in the salty, crunchy snack department. Consider trying different kinds of vegetable chips like sweet potatoes, beets, zucchini, or kale instead of these tasty, but nutritionally-suspect, Costco snacks.
Kirkland Signature Tempura Shrimp
While it is common knowledge that health-conscious shoppers should avoid fried foods, the word tempura is the perfect smokescreen to bait unwitting shoppers into buying the Costco Kirkland Signature tempura shrimp. We suspect that fewer customers would plop this box into their carts if it read "deep-fried shrimp." And yet, that's exactly what it is.
One serving from this package equates to about three shrimp and contains 290 calories, 5.3 grams of saturated fat, and 460 milligrams of sodium. While this amounts to over 20% of the daily recommended values for sodium and saturated fat, it only gets worse when you incorporate the included dipping sauce, which isn't included in the nutritional information. It is soy sauce-based, so it will add a lot more sodium to the final count.
Seafood lovers looking for a healthy alternative to tempura shrimp are in luck, though. All you need to do is cut the oil and tempura batter out of the equation to get a wholesome and nutritious meal. Shrimp is a healthy addition to any meal as long as it isn't deep-fried (via Health).
Kirkland Signature Trail Mix
While the high caloric content of trail mix is appropriate for a hiker who plans to burn several thousand calories moving about, it is far more dubious as a snack for someone who spends most of their day sitting at a desk. And considering that the four-pound bag of Kirkland Signature trail mix has enough calories in it to power a marathon runner, it is certainly a bad idea to idly consume this food as a snack.
The primary issue with the Kirkland Signature trail mix is that it has a lot of calories. One 30-gram serving has 160 calories, which is more than the Kirkland Signature Krinkle Cut Kettle Chips without being much healthier. While its saturated fat and sodium levels are decent, one serving has 10 grams of sugar, likely thanks to the addition of M&M's. And, as is the case with other bagged snack foods, sticking to the suggested serving size requires discipline.
All this said, trail mix doesn't have to be such an unhealthy indulgence. There is no healthy alternative needed as long as you watch your portion sizes and use it for its intended purpose: fueling outdoor adventures.
Kirkland Signature European Cookies
The tin of Kirkland Signature European cookies may be a popular treat for special occasions but these cookies are in no way acceptable as a part of a normal diet. Yes, yes, we know you've heard it before. Cookies are bad for you. But we want to make sure you know exactly how bad for you they are by looking at those nutrition facts.
Four small cookies (the suggested serving size) amount to 170 calories, 6 grams of saturated fat, and 13 grams of sugar. And they don't provide any beneficial macronutrients, vitamins, or minerals, making them just empty calories. While this tin contains over a dozen different kinds of cookies, the nutritional information doesn't distinguish one from another. So, with that in mind, it's safe to assume that a serving size of four cookies is equally bad regardless of which cookie combination you consume. No matter which you choose, it's lose-lose. This is yet another reason to make your own cookies at home.
Kirkland Signature Jelly Belly Gourmet Jelly Beans
While Costco is more covert about some of its Kirkland-rebranded products, it makes no effort to hide the fact that its sugary bean-shaped confections are actually Jelly Belly Gourmet Jelly Beans. After all, how could it? This snack is downright iconic in appearance. It is also iconically unhealthy, especially when it comes in a 4-pound container.
These little sugar beans are completely devoid of any nutritional value. This is indicated by the fact that the first (and therefore most prevalent) listed ingredients on the label are sugar and corn syrup. A 40-gram serving of jelly beans includes about 28 grams of sugar, which accounts for more than half of its weight. Jelly beans also have high amounts of artificial colorings like red no. 3, red dye 40, and yellow no. 5. According to Medical News Today, these artificial ingredients have all been linked to hyperactive behavior, especially in children.
Kirkland Signature Lemonade
Just because Costco doesn't make its own generic sodas doesn't mean that this grocery giant doesn't dirty its hands by selling overly sugary beverages. Kirkland Signature lemonade is every bit as unhealthy as soda despite being made from organic lemon juice. This drink is pure sugar, so it should only be consumed on special occasions.
One 8-ounce serving contains 130 calories and a ridiculous 32 grams of added sugar. That fully exceeds the amount of sugar in an equally-sized can of Coca-Cola. And with no vitamins or minerals listed on the label, it is certainly much closer to a soda than a juice in terms of nutritional value.
Thankfully, there are many healthy alternatives to Kirkland Signature lemonade. Kirkland makes a tasty zero-calorie lemon-flavored sparkling water, as do many other brands. These are much better options for those who like to consume flavored beverages on the daily.
It can be challenging to call any food explicitly healthy or unhealthy since nutritional needs can vary vastly based on factors such as age, gender, activity level, and health conditions. To simplify our task of finding the unhealthiest store-bought foods from Costco, we used the Daily Value limits as standardized by the FDA.
The Daily Value system uses a daily intake of 2,000 calories as the baseline for its suggested nutrient values. Our primary metric by which to compare the healthiness of different foods was whether or not a food has a comparatively high level of calories, saturated fat, sodium, or added sugars in a single serving based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Read the original article on Mashed.