When you eat at the Costco food court every day, this happens

One of the highlights of every trip to Costco is a stop at the food court for a well-deserved reward. After slogging through those miles of aisles piled sky-high with boxes of who-knows-what that you can't help but wonder, what would happen if it toppled down and landed on your head? Well, needless to say, by the time you reach the food court, you might feel you really need that jumbo-sized slice of pizza as well as a churro and maybe some froyo.

As long as you're visiting Costco every once in a while, then you can chalk up your food court peccadilloes to a cheat meal and be done with it. If, on the other hand, the food court is luring you in day after day, well, as certified trainer and nutritionist Jamie Hickey of Truism Fitness says, "The only benefit to eating at Costco everyday would be convenience if you happened to work near or at one." If this does not apply to you, it's possible you're in need of a food court intervention.

The food court menu does have a few halfway healthy items

If you want to eat healthy at Costco's food court, you've got to make good choices. Hickey says the chicken Caesar salad "is a great way to eat lean protein and greens," but advises using no more than half the dressing packet that comes with it. If you use all the dressing, your formerly healthy salad will morph into a 770-calorie bomb with 50 grams of fat, not to mention 2,680 mg of sodium. As Hickey points out, "almost all of this is from the fatty Caesar dressing [so] this is why it's so important to only use a small amount of it."

The fruit smoothie, Hickey says, is another healthy choice, as it if fat-free and has just 270 calories and only a trace amount (45 mg) of sodium. He advises combining this with a low-calorie protein bar (assuming you've brought or bought your own) for a nutritious lunch. As for dessert, well, he says the yogurt on its own isn't so bad, since it's also fat free and has just 280 mg sodium, though a single serving does have 400 calories. The trouble with this item, however, lies in the fact that "most people aren't going to be satisfied with just a yogurt and will add calories eating additional items." (LikeĀ ice cream, perhaps?) He suggests having a smoothie with a yogurt for a 670-calorie fat-free lunch that he says will be "healthy [and] satiating," if a little...monotextural.

Most of the popular stuff isn't so great, though

And now for the bad news. Everybody's favorite chicken bake is, well, something Hickey says is "best eaten in moderation." He tells us it that while the sandwich does, in the plus column, have 27 grams of protein, its minuses include 870 calories, 28 grams of fat, and 2,310 mg (nearly a full day's worth) of sodium.

That justifiably famous Costco pizza is another "sometime food," since a single slice has 700 calories, 28 fat grams, and 1,370 mg of sodium. "The biggest problem," says Hickey, "is that most people eat 2 slices so they're now eating twice the amount of calories and sodium, which makes these nutritional values horrible." Even the turkey wrap, an item that many people suppose to be healthy, has 810 calories, 38 grams of fat, and 2,570 mg of sodium. Hickey drops some bad news for wrap fans, saying that they're not actually healthier than sandwiches and , in fact, are "normally higher in calories since fatty dressings are used to give them a richer taste."

The Costco food court is never going to be your healthiest option

So what is the nutritionist's final verdict on the Costco food court? Thumbs down. Hickey's nutritional analysis of the menu finds there to be "way more negatives that come from eating at a Costco food court on a daily basis than positives." While admitting that it's possible to get a (somewhat) balanced diet there since Costco's food court does offer vegetables, proteins, carbs, and healthy fats, "the problem," Hickey explains, "is that the cooking methods lead to foods high in calories, salt and fat." If you're ingesting such unhealthy fare on a daily basis, he says, "these nutrients will have a lot more adverse side effect than positive."

Even though Jamie Hickey is a fitness as well as a diet guru, he says that no amount of exercise will turn Costco food court items into an acceptable daily diet. He says that if you're deliberately trying to bulk up and eat a calorie surplus, the food court would certainly enable you to do so easily, but warns that even in such a case, "the amount of sodium you would be consuming would make it very hard not to become dehydrated, which can hinder muscle development." In conclusion, he told us that "Even if you're working out on a regular basis, you won't be able to outrun a bad diet," and that is exactly what you'd be getting if you only ate at Costco's food court.