With what’s sure to make my friend Jacqueline squeal with glee (or cringe with terror, I’m not quite sure which), I’m happy to offer recommendations of the healthiest choices to make at Così. Thanks to Eating Rules reader Matthew for the suggestion!
Cosi is a fast-casual sandwich, salad, and pizza chain that’s based on a “Parisian Cafe” atmosphere. They started in 1996, and have since opened over 100 locations. I haven’t eaten at Cosi since I lived in Chicago, though next time I’m behind the Orange Curtain in Orange County, I might stop by South Coast Plaza and grab a sandwich (the only other California location is in Temecula).
The first thing I noticed when poring through the numbers, is that their bread — unlike every other restaurant I’ve reviewed so far — is impressively low in sodium. It’s also lower in calories, because it’s a flatbread and therefore the serving sizes are a bit smaller. But even so, I give them huge props for the extremely low sodium — the “Rustic flatbread” has only 82mg sodium per serving, and the “Etruscan Whole Grain Flatbread” has only 72mg!
Although I’m sure the Whole Grain flatbread is not 100% whole grain (it has only 3 grams of fiber), it’s certain to be a better choice. It’s got about 20 more calories, but you get an extra gram of fiber and an extra gram of protein… not to mention at least a little bit of whole grain goodness.
They do highlight lower-calorie items (a walk on the “Lighter Side”), but some of them are still too high in sodium, so it’s not a foolproof way to choose a better meal.
Unfortunately, the soups and salads are still high in sodium. As such, my overall recommendation is to pick one of the “best choice” sandwiches below, get carrots instead of chips on the side, and of course, drink water with your meal. If you do want a salad, scroll down to compare the dressings — none are “perfect,” but some are far better than others.
Sandwiches – Better Choices
All of the “Better Choices” are under 550 calories and 550mg sodium.
As a reminder, all of their sandwiches and melts are served with a choice of potato chips or baby carrots. Get the carrots, ok?
Fire-Roasted Veggie Sandwich
324 cal, 8g fat, 259mg sodium, 44g carbs, 4g fiber, 4g sugars, 11g protein
T.B.M. (Tomatoes, Basil, Mozzarella) – “Lighter Side” Version
372 cal, 11g fat, 342mg sodium, 50g carbs, 2g fiber, 4g sugars, 22g protein
Turkey Sandwich – “Lighter Side” Version
390 cal, 5g fat, 526mg sodium, 62g carbs, 2g fiber, 6g sugars, 26g protein
Hummus & Veggie Sandwich
397 cal, 7g fat, 532mg sodium, 72g carbs, 7g fiber, 5g sugars, 13g protein
Tuscan Pesto Chicken Sandwich
510 cal, 6g fat, 452mg sodium, 4g fiber, 3g sugars, 39g protein
Sweet Curry Chicken Sandwich
515 cal, 12g fat, 270mg sodium, 63g carbs, 5g fiber, 12g sugars, 37g protein
Chicken T.B.M. Sandwich – “Lighter Side” Version
531 cal, 17g fat, 483mg sodium, 50g carbs, 3g fiber, 5g sugars, 46g protein
532 cal, 30g fat, 225mg sodium, 46g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g sugars, 22g protein
Sandwiches – Worst Choices
I have to admit, many of these choices are still better than other restaurants’ offerings. Nevertheless, sandwiches over 600 calories and/or over 1,000mg of sodium get an .
Tandoori Chicken Sandwich – “Lighter Side” Version
376 cal, 3g fat, 889mg sodium, 50g carbs, 2g fiber, 4g sugars, 35g protein
Shrimp Remoulade Sandwich
456 cal, 20g fat, 825mg sodium, 48g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 21g protein
Cosi Club Sandwich
463 cal, 10g fat, 735mg sodium, 46g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugars, 33g protein
Sesame Ginger Chicken Sandwich
480 cal, 7g fat, 1,272mg sodium, 69g carbs, 4g fiber, 21g sugars, 35g protein
Tandoori Chicken Sandwich
541 cal, 23g fat, 819mg sodium, 48g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugar, 36g protein
Chicken Tinga Sandwich
555 cal, 21g fat, 1,193mg sodium, 59g carbs, 7g fiber, 5g sugar, 37g protein
Buffalo Bleu Sandwich
565 cal, 25g fat, 923mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 3g sugars, 36g protein
Turkey and Brie Sandwich
687 cal, 32g fat, 885mg sodium, 62g carbs, 2g fiber, 6g sugars, 38g protein
Chicken T.B.M. Sandwich
691 cal, 36g fat, 367mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 46g protein
757 cal, 42g fat, 2,210mg sodium, 49g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 42g protein
Steak T.B.M. Sandwich
829 cal, 55g fat, 453mg sodium, 46g carbs, 2g fiber, 1g sugars, 38g protein
Melts – All Worst Choices
All of the melts are over 550 calories and all but one are over 550 mg sodium. I’m listing them separately from the sandwiches (above) to drive home the point that any of the “Best Choice Sandwiches” above will be a better choice.
If you really must have a melt, get the Grilled Chicken Parm or the T.B.M. — they’re a bit better on the calories and/or sodium than the others.
Bacon Turkey Cheddar Melt
572 cal, 24g fat, 1,101mg sodium, 48g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g sugars, 45g protein
Grilled Chicken Parmesan Melt
589 cal, 21g fat, 768mg sodium, 50g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g sugars, 52g protein
636 cal, 32g fat, 472mg sodium, 49g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 45g protein
Pesto Chicken Melt
671 cal, 31g fat, 995mg sodium, 52g carbs, 5g fiber, 3g sugars, 50g protein
Chicken T.B.M. Melt
693 cal, 31g fat, 570mg sodium, 49g carbs, 4g fiber, 3g sugars, 59g protein
Steakhouse Gorgonzola Melt
752 cal, 47g fat, 963mg sodium, 49g carbs, 2g fiber, 5g sugars, 30g protein
Steak T.B.M. Melt
831 cal, 49g fat, 656mg sodium, 48g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 51g protein
874 cal, 40g fat, 1,154mg sodium, 51g carbs, 4g fiber, 1g sugars, 65g protein Salads – Best Choices
Crab Cake Melt
886 cal, 60g fat, 1,437mg sodium, 51g carbs, 3g fiber, 3g sugars, 31g protein
Salads – Better Choices
Numbers below include the default dressing.
Signature Salad – “Lighter Side” Version
371 cal, 19g fat, 485mg sodium, 45g carbs, 5g fiber, 21g sugars, 9g protein
Shanghai Chicken Salad
313 cal, 13g fat, 839mg sodium, 26g carbs, 4g fiber, 6g sugars, 26g protein
Bombay Chicken Salad – “Lighter Side” Version
188 cal, 2g fat, 810mg sodium, 21g carbs, 4g fiber, 6g sugars, 23g protein
Salads – Worst Choices
Sadly, most of the salads are very high in sodium — much worse than the sandwiches, which is even more surprising. (It’s more that their sandwiches are lower in sodium, and the salads are more typical for a chain restaurant).
The numbers here include the standard salad dressing that comes with the salad. Scroll down for just the dressings, which should help clarify things a bit.
Mediterranean Shrimp Salad
357 cal, 31g fat, 1,508mg sodium, 17g carbs, 5g fiber, 2g sugars, 19g protein
Wild Alaskan Salmon Salad
457 cal, 27g fat, 1,372mg sodium, 24g carbs, 7g fiber, 1g sugars, 35g protein
Bombay Chicken Salad
481 cal, 32g fat, 1,094mg sodium, 17g carbs, 4g fiber, 3g sugars, 25g protein
488 cal, 40g fat, 1,459mg sodium, 20g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugars, 18g protein
517 cal, 47g fat, 1,480mg sodium, 19g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g sugars, 11g protein
Cosi Cobb – “Lighter Side” Version
519 cal, 34g fat, 1,347mg sodium, 17g carbs, 2g fiber, 9g sugars, 39g protein
Tuscan Steak Salad
532 cal, 34g fat, 1,542mg sodium, 26g carbs, 6g fiber, 13g sugars, 30g protein
611 cal, 45g fat, 664mg sodium, 5g fiber, 12g protein
614 cal, 49g fat, 836mg sodium, 14g carbs, 5g fiber, 28g protein
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
621 cal, 44g fat, 1,670mg sodium, 20g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugars, 39g protein
708 cal, 55g fat, 1,328mg sodium, 2g fiber, 8g sugar, 39g protein
Salad Dressings – Better Choices
None of the salad dressings are “perfect,” but these three are head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Numbers are for a 2-ounce serving, which is about 4 tablespoons. I’m only listing the calories, fat, and sodium, since the others are relatively trivial here.
Fat-Free Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
28 cal, no fat, 302mg sodium
Still a bit high on the sodium for my preference…
Fat-Free Balsamic & Dijon Vinaigrette Dressing
29 cal, no fat, 209mg sodium
Reduced-Fat Sherry Shallot Dressing
94 cal, no sat fat, 6g total fat , 170mg sodium
Salad Dressings – Worst Choices
159 cal, 3g sat fat, 16g total fat, 557mg sodium
246 cal, 5g sat fat, 26g total fat, 378mg sodium
Sherry Shallot Dressing
283 cal, 4g sat fat, 26g total fat, 151mg sodium
Parmesan Peppercorn Ranch Dressing
321 cal, 5g sat fat, 30g total fat, 586mg sodium
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
357 cal, 3g sat fat, 39g total fat, 169mg sodium
Cosi Caesar Dressing
365 cal, 5g sat fat, 28g total fat, 794mg sodium
Cosi Oriental Dressing
76 cal, no sat fat, 5g total fat, 491mg sodium
Flatbread Pizzas – Better Choices
All the numbers below are for the thin crust pizzas. “Original Crust” will add around 200 calories (from another 40+ grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein).
Best choices are under 550 calories and 550mg sodium, like the sandwiches.
Traditional Cheese Flatbread Pizza
495 cal, 24g fat, 315mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 27g protein
Margherita Flatbread Pizza
527 cal, 26g fat, 328mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 30g protein
Flatbread Pizzas – Worst Choices
Pepperoni Flatbread Pizza
637 cal, 36g fat, 852mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 33g protein
Margherita Chicken Flatbread Pizza
653 cal, 31g fat, 440mg sodium, 48g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g sugars, 49g protein
Smokey BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza
674 cal, 20g fat, 1,315mg sodium, 80g carbs, 2g fiber, 31g sugars, 41g protein
Trifecta Flatbread Pizza
705 cal, 40g fat, 1,008mg sodium, 48g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 40g protein
Thai Satay Chicken Flatbread Pizza
726 cal, 29g fat, 1,413mg sodium, 70g carbs, 8g fiber, 18g sugars, 51g protein
Chicken Gorgonzola with Fig Flatbread Pizza
859 cal, 41g fat, 975mg sodium, 77g carbs, 3g fiber, 27g sugars, 49g protein
Soups – Avoid Them All
The sodium in these, just like almost all restaurant soups, is simply outrageous. The only soup that isn’t off the charts (clam chowder), has more calories than all the others!
The numbers here are for the “small” 10-ounce size. A “side” size is roughly half of these numbers (5-ounce), and the 15-ounce “large” adds about 50%. (The menu refers to “regular” and “large,” so I’m assuming the “small” and “regular” are synonymous here).
Pollo y Pasta Soup
138 cal, 4g fat, 900mg sodium, 14g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 11g protein
Three Bean Chili
150 cal, no fat, 1,012mg sodium, 36g carbs, 11g fiber, 6g sugars, 10g protein
Beef with Winter Garden Vegetables Soup
150 cal, 8g fat, 1,350mg sodium, 14g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 9g protein
Moroccan Lentil Soup
199 cal, 3g fat, 1,159mg sodium, 32g carbs, 7g fiber, 5g sugars, 13g protein
Chicken Queso Tortilla Soup
200 cal, 9g fat, 800mg sodium, 18g carbs, 2g fiber, 4g sugars, 11g protein
Lobster Butternut Squash Bisque
212 cal, 10g fat, 1,3250mg sodium, 24g carbs, 1g fiber, 9g sugars, 6g protein
Spinach Artichoke Soup
227 cal, 14g fat, 943mg sodium, 18g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugars, 8g protein
Southwestern Corn & Turkey Chili
295 cal, 14g fat, 882mg sodium, 27g carbs, 6g fiber, 2g sugars, 17g protein
Tomato & Basil Soup
401 cal, 36g fat, 1,140mg sodium, 17g carbs, 1g fiber, 4g sugars, 6g protein
New England Clam Chowder
440 cal, 29g fat, 625mg sodium, 24g carbs, 1g fiber, 7g sugars, 22g protein
Menu Mondays are my recommendations for the most healthful options at chain restaurants. Although it may be tough to find “perfect” options when eating out, it’s important to choose “better” whenever possible, and I hope these guides will help make that easier for you.
indicates the “best-of-the-best,” and indicates the “worst-of-the-worst,” more or less.
Photo by Sandro Cuccia