This is a great place to stock up on alternative flours if you are trying to reduce your wheat consumption or refined carbohydrates. Look for almond flour, coconut flour, and quinoa flour.
Whole Grains and legumes
The only thing healthier than legumes is sprouted organic legumes. This is a total score:
I’ll also grab one of these sprouted rice and quinoa mixes. My kids like rice more than quinoa, so this is a good compromise and ups the protein delivery in being sprouted:
You’ll find Bob’s Red Mill products at great prices here.
Oats (steel cut and regular) are a must for me for breakfasts and baked goods (pulse in a blender for a few secs to make oat flour and use instead of wheat flour if you want gluten-free baked goods)
This Kirkland almond butter is pretty much my boyfriend:
and it’s so much cheaper to get it at Costco than my local. A tablespoon of this on an apple is my go-to snack. You can also get peanut butter, tahini, cashew butter and coconut butter there are great prices.
Costco is an awesome place to stock up on non-dairy milks (oat milk is my current fave – so creamy and the best option for the environment ). Make sure you double-check for the sugar-free varieties:
I also stock up on kefir. Kefir is a fermented dairy drink (tastes like thin yogurt) and one of the most powerful probiotic sources you can get.
I use it as a smoothie base and also buy a flavoured version to give the kids as an after-school snack (for me, the sugar is worth getting all that good stuff into them).
I’m really into this right now as my youngest is on a long course of antibiotics so I’m trying to replenish his gut with the good bacteria that will keep him healthy!
Have you heard the news that your olive oil is probably fake?
However, the Costco organic brand passed the test with flying colours.
A lot of people tend to use olive oil as the default for everything but you want to diversify all your foods for the broadest spectrum of nutrients.
Avocado oil is a great alternative to olive oil – especially for cooking due to it’s high smoke point.
And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about coconut oil as half of the internet is already dedicated to coconut oil worship.
You can score a vat of it at Costco so you can use it for everything from shaving your legs to muffins and be right on trend:
If you are trying to avoid processed sugar, that’s awesome. But let’s not kid yourself that you are going to want some sweetness in your life.
My favourite sweetener is maple syrup. (By the way – if you guys think I’m all healthier-than-thou, check out my sister, who spent last weekend making her own maple syrup. Like – from TREES:)
If you are too lazy to spend your weekends boiling down maple sap to get 1 cup of syrup for 40 cups of sap, then get your disgraceful self to Costco and buy this:
You can also get a great deal on honey and dates ( you can add softened date mush to baked goods instead of sugar) as well as unsweetened apple sauce for school lunches or for sugar-free baking recipes.
Yes, you can also get all this stuff at the bulk barn, but if you are into one-stop shopping (as I am), these are fantastic deals and great to stock the pantry:
I always have a stock of raw nuts in my pantry. I add to salads, smoothies, and sauteed vegetables for healthy fats and extra deliciousness. Almonds, pecans and walnuts go in almost everything.
Seeds are a total bargain at Costco!
I use pumpkin seeds to give a nice crunch to salads (great source of zinc).
I add chia to my smoothies every morning, which adds tons of nutrients and fibre, keeping me full until lunch.
I add hemp hearts to salads, soups, smoothies, sauteed vegetables and yogurt for an extra protein kick.
Flax seed is an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids (especially for my vegetarian family, that doesn’t get it from fish).
My favourite is wild blueberries. Blueberries are a superfood – full of antioxidants.
And – very importantly – they cover the green colour so I can sneak kale into my kids’ smoothies.
One of my meal planning rules is to start with the vegetables. It took me a while to shift my thinking on this.
I used to start every meal with the meat (I’m having chicken. How should I make it and what should I put on the side?).
Then when I went vegetarian, I started with the starch (do I want rice, pasta, tortillas..?)
Now I start with the vegetables. I will first do an inventory of what is about to go bad in my fridge and then think about what is in season and what my kids might eat and then build the meal out from there.
When the goal is to first always fill half my plate with vegetables, it’s good to have extras on hand. And especially during the winter months in Canada – frozen vegetables (frozen at peak ripeness) are a healthier and cheaper option.
I love a bowl of salted edamame left on the kitchen table for high-protein after-school snacking. And the kids love popping the peas out of the pods.
We only stock sprouted bread at our house. The deal with sprouted bread is that it always uses the whole grain (so you get the endosperm, which is where all the nutrients are at).
Also – the sprouting process breaks down the proteins and carbohydrates in the bread, making it lower on the glycemic index, higher in protein and more digestible for people who have trouble with grains. It doesn’t contain any preservatives, so you have to look in the freezer section.
Healthier Snack Foods
See all those jumbo bags of candy close to the checkout? You WALK PAST THEM and grab these instead:
Read the label for no sugar added, and do your best to avoid the ones with chocolate.
Also, remember that trail mix is awesome but calorically dense. Meant for people who are hiking trails, right? Not surfing the net. Just sayin’.
Watch the portion sizes here or help yourself out by buying individual servings (or give the environment a break and bulk buy and make your own custom mix and put in individual bags for later.)
Now, some of my clients will balk when I suggest they replace chips with seaweed (um…understandably), but these really are delicious. They satisfy the need for something greasy and salty, and they are no-carb, low-calorie and full of healthy minerals.
These are some of the cleanest crackers on the market – with no hydrogenated oils or trans fats. Plus they are packed with seeds for healthy fats.
Emergency energy bars
Lara bars are just fruit and nuts and seeds, so they are super ‘clean’.
Keep in mind, though, that they are primarily simple carbohydrates with a bit of healthy fat. They would also be a good pre-workout snack if you need something between work and the gym to keep you going. As a general snack, fresh-cut veggies or whole fruit is better, but it’s not a bad idea to keep a stash of these (in your bag, in your car) for those times when it’s a choice between this or a doughnut.
I can’t personally vouch for any of it, but I’m told that Costco is a great place to buy grass-fed beef and organic or wild-caught fish, which would be your best options for animal protein.
We don’t buy a lot of produce at Costco because we generally won’t get through it before it goes bad.
However, these are the few items we’ll tear through with no problem:
These are on the Clean 15 list, so usually, it’s not worth it to buy them organic. Costco is a bargain, so why not?
I don’t worry about over-buying because the black bananas will freeze and be delicious in smoothies or banana ice cream (frozen banana – puree it with a hand blender until it gets really creamy. It’s a life-changer for those nights when you want a little treat after dinner. Go on an add a chocolate chip or two if it’s your birthday.)
I throw handfuls of spinach into everything, and if it starts to look a little wilted, I’ll just sautee it and use it in frittatas, etc.
I’m someone who cares about where my food comes from but I have to admit I always pause in front of the egg section of the grocery store because organic, free-range eggs are TWICE the price of the other ones. And we plow through eggs in my family. Costco actually just released an article on its organic eggs, which I think are fab:
Essential Costco Shopping Tips!
Never shop hungry:
Just because you HAVE a lot of it, doesn’t mean you need to eat it all now:
And for the love of your bank account, shop with a plan:
Oonagh Duncan is a multi-award winning personal trainer and regular fitness expert on various media. She’s an acclaimed speaker in the corporate sector, educator for new fitness professionals and founder of Fit Feels Good, Inc.
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