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Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarianism in the News

August 1, 2018 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Costco Strikes Vegan Gold with Two New Veg Options

Al Pastor Salad Acai Bowl
It finally happened. Six years ago, we wrote to Costco asking for a healthy vegan option in their food court. We detailed the company's lack of interest in a News from the Nest article Cheap Food at Costco Is Making You Fat. They essentially told us, "We sell over 300 million items a year in the U.S., so we feel our members are enjoying our offerings." In other words, they were doing just fine in their food courts and felt no need to add healthier options. Who could argue with a Polish Hot Dog and all the soda you can drink for $1.50?

It seems that enlightning has now struck the main office. They are now proudly announcing they have two new healthy options, both vegetarian. Actually, both are vegan. Additions to the food court menu are the Acai Bowl and Al Pastor Salad, both priced at $4.99. Initially the dressing on the salad was not vegan, but it was reconfigured without egg to make it vegan.

Of course, they made one major goof. Their timing was off. At the same time they made this announcement, they discontinued the Polish hot dog, a treasured favorite and excellent seller.

Acai Bowl The howls that resulted from this move could be heard across the country. How could they take away the beloved Polish hot dog? The menu change was made to entice younger members who don't want the junk food that's been a mainstay at Costco Food Courts for years.

Al Pastor Salad was inspired by tacos created by Lebanese immigrants who came to Mexico and developed shwarma-like filling that was pork based. Al Pastor literally means "shepherd style." The flavorful $4.99 Al Pastor Salad contains marinated soy-based plant protein, chopped romaine, black beans, fresh vegetables, banh mi vegetables, and a generous cup of dressing on the side. The salad clocks in at 330 calories undressed and 750 calories with the dressing.

Some dietitians might question the "healthy" label to describe this salad. The Al Pastor Salad is blessed with 3,270 milligrams of sodium, more than their recommendation of two-day's worth (1,500 mg per day). With the dressing, the salad contains 56 grams of fat with 8 grams saturated.

Why is Costco using the acai berry as the foundation of its Acai Bowl? The acai berry is an inch-long, reddish-purple fruit of the acai palm tree found in Central and South America. Some studies have revealed that acai fruit pulp is even richer in antioxidants than cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or blueberries. Added to the acai is nutrient-rich, tropical flavored tart baobab powder from Africa's "Tree of Life."

The Acai Bowl, priced at $4.99, prominently features the acai and baobab powders prepared in in a Costco soft-serve machine and covering blueberries, strawberries, banana chips, and the company's own Kirkland Ancient Grains Granola. This combination has only 330 calories and delivers 3 grams of protein and 9 grams of dietary fiber.

Al Pastor Salad Lining the base of the bowl is the company's own Kirkland Ancient Grains Granola topped with pleasantly crunchy banana chips. Chopped fresh strawberries and fresh blueberries cozy up to each side of the generous serving of frozen acai soft-serve attractively piped into the center so it stands tall and rises above the bowl. The Acai Bowl makes a colorful presentation and easily commands attention. The dish makes an excellent choice for anyone looking for a delightful breakfast or refreshing, cooling mid-day treat.

A 3/4-cup serving of the Ancient Grains Granola contains the following organic ingredients: whole grain rolled oats, cane sugar, soy oil, KAMUT khorasan wheat, rolled spelt, almonds, inulin, rice starch, rolled quinoa, rolled amaranth, molasses, and cinnamon. The non-organic ingredients are sea salt, natural vanilla flavor, and tocopherols (vitamin E).

Dietitians might again question "healthy" because the bowl packs 41 grams of sugar, equivalent to a jolting 10 teaspoons. It's hard to know how much of that sweetener is added sugar, and how much is in the natural fruit.

The two intrepid editors of Vegetarians in Paradise decided to visit Costco and do lunch by ordering the Acai Bowl and the Al Pastor Salad. For 30 years as Costco members, we had never eaten at the warehouse store simply because their menu had no vegan offerings.

What a joy it is to know the sleeping giant has awakened with an enlightened awareness that vegan dining is a rapidly growing trend! We're delighted Costco is now aiming to feature healthier options for their customers. We say thank you to Costco for welcoming vegans to the Costco Food Court.

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