When you’re eating for metabolic health, whole foods reign supreme. But that doesn’t mean all convenience foods are off-limits. This ongoing series highlights some of the most metabolically friendly packaged foods found in popular supermarkets.
Costco Wholesale Corporation is the fifth-largest retailer globally, and the warehouse club uses its buying power to sell everything from patio furniture to electronics at deep discounts. But it also has a surprisingly diverse grocery section, including a vast selection of organic products.
Bulk buys can be cost-effective, especially for healthy items that cost a premium elsewhere, so Costco is a good resource for stocking up on some key ingredients you use a lot, like chia seeds or avocado oil, as well as minimally processed packaged foods. Here are 10 of our top picks to support your metabolic health goals.
Chia seeds are one of the best foods you can consume for metabolic health, and they’re a great addition to smoothies, salads, soup, and oatmeal. They store for 2 years in the pantry and 4 years in the fridge or freezer, so it pays to buy them in bulk, which is why Costco is an excellent place to stock up: an equivalent amount would cost $74 at Whole Foods.
Chia seeds help you feel fuller, thanks to a special kind of soluble fiber called mucilage. This is what allows chia seeds to absorb as much as 20 times their weight in liquid and form the gel responsible for giving chia pudding its consistency.
Per serving (3 tablespoons): 150 calories, 9 g fat (1 g sat), 13 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 5 g protein, 5 mg sodium
Price: $24.99* for a 2-pack of 3-pound bags
Cooking oils rich in healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats are the best from a metabolic standpoint because they promote satiety and help fight inflammation. Research shows that nearly 70 percent of the fats found in avocado oil are a heart-healthy monounsaturated kind. This neutral oil also has a higher smoke point than others, at around 500 degrees F. That means it withstands high-heat cooking methods—such as grilling, broiling, and roasting—that can destroy beneficial phytonutrients in other oils and give food a burnt flavor.
Per serving (1 tablespoon): 130 calories, 14 g fat (2 g sat), 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 0 g protein, 0 mg sodium
Price: $22.99 for a 2-liter bottle
The healthy fats in almond butter temper blood sugar while keeping hunger at bay. This spread is free from both of the usual flavor enhancers added to nut and seed butters—refined sugar and sodium—and added oils. You’d pay $10.49 for a 16-ounce jar of Whole Foods 365 brand spread.
Per serving (2 tablespoons): 210 calories, 18 g fat (1.5 g sat), 6 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 7 g protein, 0 mg sodium
Price: $8.99 for a 27-ounce jar
Hydrating with the proper fluids—preferably of the zero-calorie, zero-sugar, no-artificial-sweetener variety—may enhance metabolic functioning, according to some animal studies. This green tea certainly fits the bill and contains antioxidants that may provide an added metabolic benefit. And while caffeine has been shown to reduce short-term insulin sensitivity, studies suggest the catechins in green tea may reduce metabolic syndrome.
Per serving (1 16.9-ounce bottle): 5 calories, 0 g fat, 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 0 g protein, 75 mg sodium
Price: $15.89 for 12 16.9-ounce bottles
Grass-fed meat and dairy support metabolic health due to their concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, compounds that may play a role in preventing insulin resistance, according to research.
One study found dairy from grass-fed cows had 147 percent more omega-3s than conventional dairy. Kerrygold is made from the milk of grass-fed cows, and its high butterfat content (unique to Irish butter) makes it extra creamy. Plus, you’re unlikely to find a better price for it.
Per serving (1 tablespoon): 100 calories, 12 g fat (2 g sat), 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 0 g protein, 0 mg sodium
Price: $14.99 for 4 8-oz sticks
Thanks to healthy fats and fiber, guacamole is a filling and convenient way to top wraps, burgers, or hard-boiled eggs. Avocados are also a good source of magnesium, a micronutrient lacking in many individuals who have metabolic syndrome. Each 2-ounce serving is individually packaged, ensuring the 70-cent cups stay fresh and limit waste.
Per serving (1 mini cup): 120 calories, 12 g fat (2 g sat), 3 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 1 g protein, 240 mg sodium
Price: $13.99 for 20 2-ounce cups
Technically a nut, hemp heart seeds have a strong nutritional profile for keeping blood sugar stable: protein, fiber, and anti-inflammatory healthy fats. They also contain zinc and B vitamins, which have been shown to play a role in healthy metabolism. Sprinkle a handful over anything you want to add some plant-based protein to, from salads to smoothies to soups to stir-fries.
Per serving (¼ cup): 180 calories, 15 g fat (2.5 g sat), 2 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugars, 10 g protein, 0 mg sodium
Price: $56.99 for 3-pack of 2.2-pound bags
High-protein snacks won’t disrupt blood sugar the way carb-heavy ones will, and these discs made of 100 percent cheese have several advantages over the usual dairy choices. They’re non-perishable, so they travel well, and they’ll satisfy a salty or crunchy craving as well as any chips or crackers can. As a bonus, a serving delivers nearly one-third of the calcium you need in a day.
Per serving (about 23 crisps): 150 calories, 10 g fat (7 g sat), 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 13 g protein, 350 mg sodium
Price: $24.99 for 2-pack of 9.5-ounce bags
Sardines are a versatile, easy way to add protein to a number of dishes. They contain several micronutrients like vitamins B12 and D, and are an excellent source of inflammation-reducing omega-3s. If you buy canned (versus fresh), you want them packed in water or in olive oil, like these, instead of less healthy oils.
Per serving (1/4 cup): 156 calories, 12 g fat (3.5 g sat), 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 12 g protein, 110 mg sodium
Price: $11.99 for a pack of six
This slow-cooked, hand-pulled pork provides lots of protein with no sugar or carb-based ingredients you might find in other barbecue meats. (Just be sure not to slather it with sugary barbecue sauce.) Generally, it’s best to choose organic meats, but if you’re going to go with a prepared meat, this option comes from vegetarian-fed animals. Eat this meat as a main dish or use it to add protein to stews and chili easily.
Per serving (3 oz): 230 calories, 16 g fat (6 g sat), 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugars, 22 g protein, 480 mg sodium
Price: $10.99 for a 2-pound package
* The prices in this article reflect those listed by the retailer at the time of publication. Prices and local store availability may vary.