Buying in bulk can save you cash, but narrowing down the options at warehouse stores like Costco can feel as overwhelming as trying to steer one of those supersized carts through the winding aisles.
And while the typical Costco store has about 4,000 products to choose from (compared to your average supermarket's 50,000 or so), it can still be daunting to decide which of the jumbo products won't have an equally jumbo impact on your waistline.
However, Costco is home to many healthy foods, especially under its dedicated Kirkland Signature brand. Next time you're shopping for the healthiest finds at Costco, jot down these eats, hand-picked by Rachel Fine, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of the nutrition counseling firm To The Pointe Nutrition.
1. Kirkland Signature Organic Ancient Grain Blend
Ideal for everything from stir-fries to faux fried rice recipes, both of these power grains trump white rice. Both brown rice and quinoa are packed with more fiber, protein and vitamins than standard white rice or other more highly-processed carbs.
"This ancient grain blend makes for a great side dish to pair with a protein like chicken or fish," Fine recommends. "It's a bit high in sodium, so I recommend adding volume and a dose of potassium — which helps the body balance out excess sodium — with extra veggies like sweet potatoes and mushrooms." Try this whole-grain blend in our Quinoa "Taco" Bowl.
- Nutrition facts per serving (1 cup): 220 calories, 5 grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 300 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbs (7 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar), 8 grams of protein
2. Kirkland Signature Creamy Almond Butter
Kirkland's almond butter, made in a peanut-free facility, is ideal for those with peanut allergies — and for those who want more fiber and vitamin E from their nut butter.
"Almond butter is a household favorite for me! It's high in vitamin E, an antioxidant, and omega-9 monounsaturated fats, both of which work to protect our hearts. Use it as a swap for peanut butter on your favorite whole-grain bread or spread a tablespoon on a banana for a balanced snack," Fine says. And if you dig nut butter for breakfast, you'll drool over these Mini Banana-Almond Butter Sandwiches.
- Nutrition facts per serving (2 tablespoons): 210 calories, 18 grams of fat (1.5 grams of saturated fat), 0 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of carbs (4 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar), 7 grams of protein
3. Kirkland Signature Shelled Pistachios
You can crunch on 30 pistachios for just 100 calories compared to 10 almonds, cashews, walnuts or 16 peanuts for the same number of calories. So feel free to go nuts.
"Pistachios are a nutrient-packed option that offers a balance of protein, fiber and healthy fats all in one," Fine says. "Sprinkle these on your salad for a boost in heart-healthy fats or pre-pack into homemade trail mix baggies alongside pretzels and dark chocolate chips for a satisfying afternoon snack. You can also try them in our recipe for Apple Rounds With Goat Cheese and Pistachios.
- Nutrition facts per serving (¼ cup): 170 calories, 14 grams of fat (1.5 grams of saturated fat), 160 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of carbs (3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar), 6 grams of protein
4. Kirkland Signature Organic Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Rich in flavor, but not in calories, balsamic vinegar isn't just for Italian recipes. (Hey, it would be perfect drizzled over that brown rice and quinoa blend above!)
"Balsamic vinegar is a great option for marinades and vinaigrettes. Mix it with extra-virgin olive oil and season to taste for a DIY dressing," Fine says. "It's an easy way to rid your meal plan of excess added sugars and salt, which can lurk in some pre-made marinades and vinaigrettes."
- Nutrition facts per serving (1 tablespoon): 30 calories, grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 5 milligrams of sodium, 7 grams of carbs (0 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar), 0 grams of protein
5. Kirkland Signature Extra-Virgin Italian Olive Oil
Speaking of those vinaigrettes and marinades, this healthy fat would be the perfect purchase partner next to that balsamic. Since it's extra-virgin, it meets higher standards than regular olive oil — and likely contains slightly more vitamins and minerals.
"This is a gold star winner," Fine raves. "The olive oil industry has received some bad press over the years due to contaminated products. However, Consumer Lab's independent testing labeled Kirkland as one of their top picks for EVOO." Besides drizzling it on salads, get creative in the kitchen by whipping up Rosemary and Olive Oil Almonds for a healthy midday snack.
- Nutrition facts per serving (1 tablespoon): 120 calories, 14 grams of fat (2 grams of saturated fat), 0 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar), 0 grams of protein
6. Kirkland Signature Almond Flour
No wheat, no problem. "Almond flour is a great baking alternative for those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance," Fine says. Kirkland's version is made with just blanched almonds, deeming this a wonderful option for those avoiding gluten.
In place of all-purpose, try swapping in up to 50 percent almond flour for best results without sacrificing texture. This scrumptious Mixed Berry Avocado Toast on Almond Bread is a great place to start.
- Nutrition facts per serving (¼ cup): 180 calories, 15 grams of fat (1 gram of saturated fat), 0 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbs (3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar), 6 grams of protein
7. Kirkland Signature Ground Saigon Cinnamon
Consider this spice cabinet favorite your own culinary magic dust. Sprinkle the anti-inflammatory seasoning on anything and everything from baked sweet potatoes to oatmeal to coffee drinks and even this Sunrise Cinnamon Spice Shake.
"Some research, though limited, suggests that cinnamon may help with blood sugar control, too," Fine says. Interestingly enough, Saigon cinnamon (the variety used in Kirkland's product) contains more cinnamaldehyde, the compound associated with the spice's anti-inflammatory properties, than other cinnamon types, per March 2015 research in Food & Function.
- Nutrition facts per serving (¼ teaspoon): 0 calories, 0 grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 0 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar), 0 grams of protein
8. Kirkland Signature Organic Roasted Seaweed Snack Pack
Seaweed (aka, nori) shouldn't just be reserved for Japanese joints. You can snack on it solo or add it to all kinds of recipes, like this Japanese-Inspired Salmon Bowl. Plus, seaweed packs in iodine, which is essential for thyroid and metabolism health.
- Nutrition facts per serving (⅕ of a pack): 20 calories, 1.5 grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 40 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbs (0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar), 1 gram of protein
9. Kirkland Signature Organic Raw Honey
Raw honey is a rockstar sweetener because it's less processed than processed honey and therefore retains more nutrients.
"Honey is a wise option for sweetening dishes," Fine says. "A little goes a long way since it's more flavorful than sugar. Drizzle honey on plain yogurt as an alternative to already sweetened options that often include a larger dose of sugar." Or, try it in these creamy Avocado Honey Cups.
- Nutrition facts per serving (1 tablespoon): 60 calories, 0 grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 0 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbs (0 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar), 0 grams of protein
10. Kirkland Signature Sunsweet Whole Dried Plums
Yes, these are prunes and no, they're not just for grandparents who are looking to stay regular — although they may help with that as well thanks to their fiber content. Dried plums are even linked to boasting anti-inflammatory and memory-boosting qualities, according to a May 2016 study in Phytotherapy Research.
Chop them up and stir the sweet fruit in yogurt or oatmeal (or oatmeal flapjacks like in these Four-Ingredient Daniel Fast Oatmeal Pancakes with Cherry Plum Chia Jam) as an alternative to other sweeteners, Fine recommends.
- Nutrition facts per serving (5 prunes): 100 calories, 0 grams of fat (0 grams of saturated fat), 0 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbs (3 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar), 1 gram of protein
- CNBC: “Costco: Breaking All the Retails Rules”
- Medscape General Medicine: “Vinegar Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect”
- Consumer Lab: “Extra Virgin Olive Oil Review”
- Food & Function: “Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Cinnamon (C. Zeylanicum and C. Cassia) Extracts — Identification of E-cinnamaldehyde and O-methoxy Cinnamaldehyde as the Most Potent Bioactive Compounds”
- Phytotherapy Research: “A Systematic Review on the Health Effects of Plums (Prunus domestica and Prunus salicina)”