What to Eat at Costco Food Court: Healthy Menu Choices and Nutrition Facts

Costco exterior

 Slobo / Getty Images

In This Article

Costco is a warehouse club where members can purchase products in bulk for slightly discounted prices. The first location popped up in Seattle in 1983. Since the late 1980s, the Costco food court has been the home of affordable, quick, and classic American comfort foods

Their well-known menu items include the beef hot dogs, chicken Caesar salad, pepperoni pizza, and nonfat frozen yogurt. As any Costco customer would expect, the food court prices are too good to pass up, especially considering the hefty portion sizes

In recent years, changes to the Costco food court menu have been controversial. Polish hot dogs and the berry sundae, two long-time crowd favorites, were removed to make room for healthier options. Shortly after the changes, Costco introduced açai bowls and vegan al pastor salads in attempts to add healthier options to its quick-service food stand.

With more than 700 locations around the world, you’re bound to end up at a Costco food court at some point. When you do, you can attempt to build a healthy meal that meets your dietary preferences. Be cautious of the menu items that are high in sodium and sugar. If you give in to the temptation of pizza and hot dogs, don’t beat yourself up. You can always try again on your next shopping trip.

What Experts Say

Costco food court items are best eaten only on occasion. Pizza, sausage, and French fries are rich in fat, sodium, and carbs. One item Costco offers with vegetables is the chicken Caesar salad. If you choose it, aim to get the dressing on the side to reduce added sodium and fat. —Barbie Cervoni, RD, CDE

Navigating the Menu

At first glance, Costco’s menu seems pretty straight forward. With giant pictures of mouthwatering pizza and hot dogs, it may seem like nothing on the menu aligns with your idea of healthy. Whether you want to treat yourself or stick to your clean eating plan, there are a few options you can feel good about ordering.

There are about a dozen items on Costco’s menu, though it can vary per location. The menu can be divided into hot food, cold food, drinks, and dessert. Here’s everything on the menu divided into categories:

  • Hot food: All-beef or Polish hot dogs, chicken bake, hot turkey and provolone sandwich, BBQ beef brisket sandwich, and whole or sliced pizza
  • Cold food: Chicken Caesar sandwich and al pastor salad
  • Drinks: 20-ounce fountain drink, berry smoothie, latte freeze, and mocha freeze
  • Dessert: Gelato, açai bowl, very berry sundae, nonfat frozen yogurt, hand-dipped ice cream bar, and twisted churro

Most Nutritious Options

  • Acai bowl

  • Al pastor salad (with less dressing)

  • Latte freeze

  • Berry smoothie

  • Chicken Caesar salad (with less dressing)

  • BBQ beef brisket sandwich

Lease Nutritious Options

  • All-beef hot dogs

  • Polish hot dogs

  • Chicken bake

  • Hot turkey and provolone sandwich

  • Pizza

  • Mocha freeze

  • Berry sundae

If you’re looking for the healthiest meal at Costco’s food court, the chicken Caesar salad’s nutrition profile makes it the best choice.

Hot Food

Costco’s hot food selection is infamous for its single-serve pizza slices and ready-made hot dogs. The menu also features hot sandwiches and a chicken dish.

Most of the hot food at Costco’s food court is high in calories and sodium. This is the part of the menu that has the least nutritious options to choose from. Since these options are heavily meat-based, they tend to be high in cholesterol and saturated fat.

Since the portion sizes are so large, you can cut the calories in half by splitting the food item with another person. You can also consider ordering just one slice of pizza rather than getting a whole pizza to go.

Most Nutritious Option

While not the most nutritious option on the menu, the option that has the least calories and saturated fat is the BBQ beef brisket sandwich. It has 610 calories, 34 g fat (52%DV), 11 g saturated fat, 54 g carbohydrate (18%DV), 27 g protein, and 1310 mg sodium (55%DV).

Least Nutritious Option

Being white meat, turkey is usually associated with being a healthier option. However, at the Costco food court, the hot turkey and provolone sandwich is among the least nutritious. This menu item contains 740 calories, 34 g fat (52%DV), 12 g saturated fat, 49 g carbohydrate (16%DV), 43 g protein, and 1710 mg sodium (71%DV).

Cold Food

Costco’s food court cold options contain most of the nutritious options overall. This small category contains two salads. For vegans and vegetarians, one of the options in this section is plant-based. Both options are especially friendly to people following a low-calorie diet. When ordering either salad, be sure to get the dressing on the side and use less than recommended.

Most Nutritious Option

When using a fraction of the dressing that comes with this menu item, the vegan al pastor salad can be the least in calories and cholesterol. At the most, this salad contains 750 calories, 56 g fat (58%DV), 8 g saturated fat, 59 g carbohydrate (27%DV), 32 g protein, and 3270 mg sodium (142%DV). However, cutting back on the dressing improves this nutrient profile. Without the dressing, the salad is closer to 330 calories.

Least Nutritious Option

Like the al pastor salad, the chicken Caesar salad can be a nutritious option when using less of the salad dressing. However, when eaten as it comes, the salad contains 650 calories, 40 g fat (62%DV), 9 g saturated fat, 34 g carbohydrates (11%DV), 40 g protein, and 2450 mg sodium (102%).
Despite seeming like a healthier option, the chicken Caesar salad has the highest sodium content on the whole menu. It also contains 120 mg cholesterol (40%DV).
To make this salad one of the most nutritious on the menu, use a fraction of the salad dressing and order without the croutons. When you make these modifications, the chicken Caesar salad goes from being one of the least nutritious options to one of the healthiest.

Drinks

Costco has a simple selection of cold drinks to choose from, many of which are soda. Customers can help themselves to the fountain, which contains various types of Pepsi beverages. Other options include the berry smoothie, latte freeze, and mocha freeze. 

A common theme among Costco’s drink selection is that they tend to be high in sugar. To reduce your sugar consumption, opt for the latte freeze. If calories are a concern, Costco also offers diet Pepsi.

Most Nutritious Option

The latte freeze is any iced coffee lover’s drink of choice. Fortunately, it’s lower in calories and sugar than the other beverages. A 15-ounce serving of the latte freeze contains 190 calories, 7 g fat (11%DV), 5 g saturated fat, 19 g carbohydrate (6%DV), 12 g protein, and 160 mg sodium (7%). It also contains only 30 mg cholesterol (10%DV).

Least Nutritious Option

It’s very easy to mistake the latte freeze for the mocha freeze. However, that would more than double your sugar consumption. A 15-ounce serving of Costco’s mocha freeze contains 310 calories, 6 g fat (9%DV), 4 g saturated fat, 52 g carbohydrate (17%), 11 g protein, and 180 mg sodium (8%DV). This drink alone also packs 46 g sugar.

Dessert

Costco is almost as famous for its frozen yogurt as it is for its hot dogs. However, dessert can be the most difficult food category to find a healthier option. At Costco, your best bet is most likely the acai bowl, though it’s more of a breakfast or snack than a dessert. The other options, which are mainly ice cream or frozen yogurt, are higher in calories and sugar. 

Most Nutritious Option

As part of Costco’s initiative to introduce healthier options, the acai bowl was added to the menu. Though customers weren’t initially thrilled with the addition, the acai bowl does make for a healthy dessert after a long day of shopping.

Each acai bowl contains 330 calories, 10g fat (15%DV), 0 g saturated fat, 50g carbohydrate (17%DV), 10g protein, and 0mg sodium. It also contains 30g sugar, which likely comes from the natural sugar in fruit.

What makes this option stand out is that it’s free of saturated fat and sodium, yet it contains 9g fiber. If you shop at Costco in the morning, the acai bowl can make for a healthier breakfast rather than dessert.

Least Nutritious Option

The fan-favorite berry sundae is a delicious dessert, but not a great source of nutrition. A 13-ounce serving contains 480 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 107 g carbohydrates (36%DV), 45 g protein, and 260 mg sodium (11%DV). It also contains a whopping 83 g sugar compared to the acai bowls’ 30 g sugar.

Diet-Specific Options

Eating out with dietary restrictions or food allergies can be challenging. Typically, with a few modifications, you can continue on with your meal. At most restaurants, accommodating all dietary patterns is nearly impossible. Costco’s limited menu makes this even less likely. However, some menu items are compliant or can be modified to suit several dietary preferences.

Costco’s food court offers choices for gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and low-fat diets, but could improve its low-carb, low-FODMAP, diabetes-friendly, and low-sodium selections.

Gluten-free

  • Berry sundae
  • Nonfat frozen yogurt
  • Acai bowl
  • Berry smoothie
  • Chicken Caesar salad (order with no croutons)

Though Costco’s gluten-free selection isn’t certified gluten-free, they have a decent selection. If you order a salad, order it without croutons. You can also order a hot dog without the bun.

Low-carb

  • Latte freeze
  • Fountain drink

One place where the Costco food court menu falls short is with low carb options. Many of the meat-based food items, such as hot dogs and sandwiches, contain simple carbs in the form of bread. You can order hot dogs with the bun for a truly low-carb meal, though you’ll still need to be mindful of cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium. When in doubt, order a drink to hold you over.

Low-FODMAP

  • Chicken Caesar salad (order with no croutons, no cheese, and no dressing)

People following a low-FODMAP diet to alleviate their digestive system have very slim pickings at the Costco food court. Your safest option is a salad, though you have to remove several of the toppings.

Diabetes-friendly

  • Chicken Caesar salad

Many people with diabetes follow a strict diet with many non-compliant foods. These diets may be low in carbs, sugar, and processed foods. Since Costco’s food court is highly processed, the choices for people with diabetes are very slim. The salad is a viable option. Depending on which diabetes-friendly diet you follow, you may want to remove some of the toppings.

Low-fat

  • Berry sundae
  • Nonfat frozen yogurt
  • Acai bowl
  • Berry smoothie

Low-sodium

  • Berry smoothie
  • Acai bowl

Vegetarian

  • Berry smoothie
  • Acai bowl
  • Al pastor salad
  • Cheese pizza
  • Berry sundae

Vegan

  • Berry smoothie
  • Acai bowl
  • Al pastor salad
  • Fountain drinks

Food Allergies and Safety

Costco has increased its selection of dairy-free and plant-based options. However, people with severe food allergies should be cautious of potential cross-contamination as food is likely prepared on the same equipment or surface. 

People with allergies to soy, egg, fish, and nuts should be able to find a safe option on the Costco menu by asking to remove potential allergens.

Many of the menu items can be made dairy-free by omitting the cheese, though several of the frozen drinks and desserts contain milk by default. People with gluten or wheat allergies may be confined to chilled drinks, desserts, and salads.

A Word From Verywell

Costco is a beloved retailer with hundreds of locations internationally. Its reasonable prices and vast inventory draw customers in, and the quick-service food court invites customers to grab a bite to eat before and after their shopping trip. If you find yourself being lured into Costco’s food court, treat yourself to a tasty meal.
When in doubt, the acai bowl and salads with less dressing are among the most nutritious picks. If you can’t resist the other menu items, simply enjoy them in moderation.
Generally, you are bound to make a sacrifice when you opt for take-out. In the case of Costco, the food may be fast and affordable, though it tends to be higher in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar. If you know you’re going to Costco ahead of time, you can try to work these percentages into your daily nutritional breakdown.

Was this page helpful?