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

Costco exterior

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

Its well-known menu items include beef hot dogs, chicken Caesar salad, pepperoni pizza, and nonfat frozen yogurt. As any Costco customer would expect, the food court prices are very low (and haven't changed in years), especially considering the hefty portion sizes.

In recent years, Costco introduced açaí bowls and vegan al pastor salads in attempts to add healthier options to its quick-service food stand, but offerings do vary depending on location. If you dine at a Costco food court, be cautious of the menu items that are high in sodium and sugar.

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, MS, RD, CDCES, CDE

Navigating the Menu

At first glance, the Costco food court menu seems pretty straightforward. With giant pictures of mouthwatering pizza and hot dogs, it may seem like nothing on the menu aligns with your idea of healthy. But there are a few options you can still feel good about ordering if you are looking to follow a nutritious eating plan.

The menu can be divided into hot food, cold food, drinks, and dessert. Not every location's menu is the same, but typically, you might find:

  • 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 or Al Pastor Salad
  • Drinks: 20-ounce fountain drink, Berry Smoothie, Latte Freeze, and Mocha Freeze
  • Dessert: Gelato, Açaí Bowl, Very Berry Sundae, Nonfat Frozen Yogurt, Hand Dipped Ice Cream Bar, and Twisted Churro
Most Nutritious Options
  • BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich

  • Al Pastor Salad (with less dressing)

  • Chicken Caesar salad (with less dressing)

  • Berry Smoothie

  • Latte Freeze

  • Açaí Bowl

Least 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 is famous for its single-serve pizza slices and ready-made hot dogs. The menu also features hot sandwiches.

Most of the hot food at Costco’s food court is high in calories, sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat. Since the portion sizes are so large, you can cut the calories in half by splitting your order with another person or taking half to go and eating it another time.

Most Nutritious Option

While not the most nutritious item on the menu, the hot food offering that has the least calories and saturated fat is the BBQ beef brisket sandwich. It has 610 calories, 34g fat (52% of daily value), 11g saturated fat, 54g carbohydrate (18%DV), 27g protein, and 1,310mg sodium (55%DV).

Least Nutritious Option

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 choices. This menu item contains 740 calories, 34g fat (52%DV), 12g saturated fat, 49g carbohydrate (16%DV), 43g protein, and 1,710mg 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 provided. You can also cut down the fat and calories by sharing with a friend.

Most Nutritious Option

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, 40g fat (62%DV), 9g saturated fat, 34g carbohydrates (11%DV), 40g protein, and 2,450mg sodium (102%).

It does contain 120mg cholesterol (40%DV), so to make this salad one of the most nutritious options on the menu, use a fraction of the salad dressing and order without the croutons.

Least Nutritious Option

Despite that it's plant-based and would seem like the healthier option, the Al Pastor Salad has some of the highest levels of sodium on the menu. Similar to the Chicken Caesar Salad, the vegan Al Pastor Salad can be lower in calories and cholesterol when using a fraction of the dressing that comes with this menu item. This salad is is over 800 calories, and contains 56g fat (58%DV), 8g saturated fat, 59g carbohydrate (27%DV), 32g protein, and 3,270mg sodium (142%DV).

Cutting back on the dressing improves this nutrient profile, as does sharing it with another person. Without the dressing, the salad is closer to around 330 calories. When you make this simple modification, the Al Pastor 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. 

Costco’s drink selections tend to be high in sugar. To reduce your sugar consumption, opt for the Latte Freeze. If calories and sugars are a concern, Costco also offers diet Pepsi.

Most Nutritious Option

The most nutritious option will always be a tall glass of plain water, but if you're looking to order something special off the menu, the Latte Freeze is lower in calories and sugar than other beverages at Costco.

A 15-ounce serving of the Latte Freeze contains 190 calories, 7g fat (11%DV), 5g saturated fat, 19g carbohydrate (6%DV), 12g protein, and 160mg sodium (7%). It also contains only 30mg cholesterol (10%DV).

Least Nutritious Option

It’s 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, 6g fat (9%DV), 4g saturated fat, 52g carbohydrate (17%), 11g protein, and 180mg sodium (8%DV). This drink also packs 46g 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 in which to find a healthier option. At Costco, your best bet is most likely the Açaí 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

Each Açaí Bowl contains 330 calories, 8g fat (12%DV), 4g saturated fat, 72g carbohydrate (24%DV), 3g protein, and 55mg sodium. It also contains 41g sugar, which likely comes mostly from the natural sugar in fruit. What makes this option stand out is that it’s low in saturated fat and sodium.

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, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 107g carbohydrates (36%DV), 45g protein, and 260mg sodium (11%DV). It also contains a whopping 83g sugar.

Diet-Specific Options

Eating out with dietary restrictions or food allergies can be challenging. Typically, with a few modifications, you can still safely enjoy your meal. At many restaurants, accommodating all dietary patterns can often pose a challenge. Costco’s limited menu makes accommodations tricky, but not impossible. Some menu items are compliant or can be modified to suit several dietary preferences.

Gluten-Free

  • Berry Sundae
  • Nonfat Frozen Yogurt
  • Açaí Bowl
  • Berry Smoothie
  • Chicken Caesar Salad (order without croutons)

Though Costco’s gluten-free selections aren't certified gluten-free, these options do not contain gluten ingredients. If you order a salad, ask for it without croutons. You can also order a hot dog without the bun. Of course you will still have to be cautious of gluten cross-contamination, especially if you are particularly sensitive.

Low-Carb

  • Latte Freeze
  • Fountain Drink

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, but you’ll still need to be mindful of cholesterol, saturated fat, and sodium.

Low-FODMAP

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

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

Diabetes-Friendly

  • Chicken Caesar Salad

Many people with diabetes follow a diet low in carbs, sugar, and processed foods. Since Costco’s food court is highly processed, the choices for people with diabetes are 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
  • Açaí Bowl
  • Berry Smoothie

Low Sodium

  • Berry Smoothie
  • Açaí Bowl

Vegetarian

  • Berry Smoothie
  • Açaí Bowl
  • Al Pastor Salad
  • Cheese Pizza
  • Berry Sundae

Vegan

  • Berry Smoothie
  • Açaí Bowl
  • Al Pastor Salad
  • Fountain drinks

Food Allergies and Safety

Costco has increased its selection of dairy-free and plant-based options in recent years. 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. However, it's still possible that some of Costco's menu items may have come in contact with trace amounts of these allergens. You can ask a Costco team member on duty if you're concerned about a certain menu item's ingredients.

Many of Costco's 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. The salads are among the most nutritious picks if you limit the amount of dressing you use. Enjoy other menu items in moderation.

Generally, you are bound to make a sacrifice when you opt for fast food. 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.

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Article Sources
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  1. PopSugar. Costco Added a Vegan Al Pastor Salad to Its Menu, and "It's HUGE and TASTY!" 2018.

  2. Tyler J. Costco replaced a beloved food-court menu item with new vegan options. Here's how they taste. Business Insider. 2018.