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a dietitian's top 15 must-have foods from costco

If you love shopping at Costco (and who doesn’t?!?), you may get overwhelmed when you enter the grocery aisles. There are a zillion products to choose from, and of course, the added pressure that you have to commit to eating 100 servings of those crackers you've never tried.

As much as I hate the parking and the crowd, I’m a big fan of Costco. They constantly stock the shelves with innovative, nutritious and exciting products - aka what matters most to me! I'm here to help YOU feel confident your cart is filled with (a minimum of $200, let's be real) products you'll love! Read on!

protein packed

Amylu Chicken Burger: Chicken burgers are my favorite, and I love this brand because the products are made from a few simple ingredients, and the results are delicious! I love both Kale & Mozzarella and Three Pepper (not listed on site) varieties, so you can’t go wrong with either choice. Here’s the thing: some people are taken in by the product because of the health-washed labels, which have words like “paleo” or “organic.” But you know why I like them? It’s not for the clever marketing. It’s because they contain no preservatives or added sugar, are not too high in calories or fat, and have about 20 grams of protein per patty. Plus they literally take 12 minutes to cook – and convenience is crucial. 

Amylu Brand: Chicken sausage & Meatballs. While you’re sourcing your chicken burgers, add some Amylu chicken sausages and chicken meatballs to your cart too. The sausages come in so many flavors – from spicy Habanero & Tequila or Chipotle Pepper, to milder Apple & Maple or Cranberry and Cognac. Versatility is endless – they can be used beside eggs on your lazy Sunday brunch plate, can be crumbled into pasta (I like the Caprese Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato variety for that!) or lend a smokiness to a warming kale, sausage and white bean soup. The chicken meatballs easily replace beef meatballs for a classic spaghetti dish, and are equally good served on skewers and a funky little appetizer – with dipping sauce of course.   

Wild Planet Pacific Sardines: Okay – I know what you’re thinking. Sardines?!? I don't say this often for fear of judgement, but I’ve always loved sardines! They remind me of my family’s annual “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” The traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner that, in my house, always included fried smelt – and the little fish are so similar in appearance. Sardines are always on that list of fish to “choose more often” because of their high level of omega-3 fats, which are good for heart health. People overlook sardines in favor of canned salmon, but I say….try these! They are super easy to add to salads, pasta, or my personal favorite, toast with fresh tomato sauce!

Frozen meal solutions

Morning Star Black Bean Burgers: I love every product on this list, but these are the runaway favorite for their taste, nutrition and ease. I think they're the best veggie burger I've ever had. Bonus: They have 10g of fiber, and although they're higher in calories than other veggie burgers, they are heartier and make your meal more satisfying, so you're less likely to need a snack 30 minutes after dinner. And if convenience is your thing, these have you covered. You can make them in a skillet, the oven, a grill or in the microwave.  

Wild Alaska Salmon Burger – if sardines really aren’t your thing, you still need those heart-smart omega-3 fats. Opt for these delicious salmon burgers. I love both the flavor and texture of these. They are something I have often at lunch, since my boyfriend and I eat dinner together and he doesn't love fish. The burger is great atop salad greens drizzled with a ginger sesame vinaigrette (or my favorite spicy cashew dressing from Trader Joe’s), and equally good served in a whole grain bun and topped with tomato, crunchy lettuce and sliced avocado.  

Bibigo Fully Cooked Mini Wontons: Korean-style mini chicken & vegetables wontons (they also come in pork & vegetable) are amazing. I like these because of their small size, so it feels like you get to eat more of them in each serving, you know? The big benefit to having more volume is that it helps trick your brain into satiety. One serving is 13 wontons - definitely more than I would have guessed - and only 230 calories. Sounds like a snack to me? These are filled with good things like chicken, cabbage, leeks and tofu. They creep up in sodium, so maybe skip the soy sauce as a dipping option.    

Snack time!

Rambutans: Just when I thought I’d tried every fruit I could get my hands on, Costco delivers by carrying rambutans. This tropic fruit is native to Southeast Asia, and is strikingly similar to lychee. They have a funky and fancy colorful red-orange shell, which opens to reveal a tender translucent white fruit. They are juicy and sweet, and so refreshing. They kind of remind me of a skinless grape. And they pack a nutritional punch: they have soluble fiber, which forms a gel when eaten and slows blood glucose spikes. They are the perfect snack if you’re looking for just a little something to tide you over until your next meal. 

Ark Foods Shishito Peppers: Looking to add a tasty and unique vegetable to your usual repertoire? Opt for shishito peppers – they are slender green peppers with sweet and lively taste, and just a hint of smokiness. And for a super side dish, try these on the grill. Their thin walls cause them to blister and char easily, which brings out their smoky flavor and will totally entice your taste buds. I love the variety that these add to meals; they are a good way to switch up a veggie option! They come with a suggested recipe, but I find you just need half the oil and salt for them to be perfect. 

SnakYard Crispy Shiitake Mushrooms: This is it guys – the new snack I tried last week at Costco. And to think, I almost skipped it based on pure skepticism! I’m a big mushroom fan, so I took a chance – and guess what? You eat them like chips!! They are dried, crispy, and seasoned similarly to a sour cream and onion chip (definitely not the same, but that is the closest thing to comparison that I can think of!) And hello… 1/3 cup serving packs four grams of fiber! I’m so glad I tried these, and now I will definitely recommend them as a great between-meal snack. 

Kirkland Signature Mixed Nut Butter: The genius of this product is using a mix of nuts and seeds to get a unique flavor, and provide a portfolio of vitamins and minerals. Made with almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chia and flax, this nut butter has a unique crunch, and a boost of fiber. I use it as a dip for apple slices, spread it on crackers, or combine it with oats and honey to make energy bites. 

Busseto California Snackin' Packers: Charcuterie. Boards. Rule. but it’s easy to get carried away and overdo your intake of meat and cheese. I mean, that beautiful big board is right there in front of you! Solution: single serve snack packs. I’ll pair this snack pack with crackers & some sliced cucumbers when I want a portion-controlled version of my favorite indulgent meal. This isn't a snack I would recommend having everyday, but if you struggle with portion control for things like cheese plates, it's a good way to keep track of your intake. Once you’re done with the snack pack, you’re done! 

Sweets and treats

Say it with me now: it’s great to have a treat to look forward to. Eating well is all about balance, so my shopping trip is only complete when I’ve perused the treats! I’m a big coconut fan, so two of my current favorites are Inno Foods Coconut Clusters and Unreal Dark Chocolate Coconut Bars. The latter taste so good that just one bar will satisfy your sweet tooth. These ChocXO Keto Snaps are a close third!

There's nothing I love more than new products!! Find me on Instagram (@olivia.ashton.nutrition) and share your favorite Costco finds! XO

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