Healthy Options at Così

March 21, 2011 5:36 pm
Posted in: Menu Mondays
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Healthier Options at Cosi

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

T.B.M. Sandwich
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 X.

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 X
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 X
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 X
687 cal, 32g fat, 885mg sodium, 62g carbs, 2g fiber, 6g sugars, 38g protein

Chicken T.B.M. Sandwich X
691 cal, 36g fat,  367mg sodium, 47g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 46g protein

Italiano Sandwich X
757 cal, 42g fat, 2,210mg sodium, 49g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 42g protein

Steak T.B.M. Sandwich X
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 X
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

T.B.M. Melt
636 cal, 32g fat, 472mg sodium, 49g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 45g protein

Pesto Chicken Melt X
671 cal, 31g fat, 995mg sodium, 52g carbs, 5g fiber, 3g sugars, 50g protein

Chicken T.B.M. Melt X
693 cal, 31g fat, 570mg sodium, 49g carbs, 4g fiber, 3g sugars, 59g protein

Steakhouse Gorgonzola Melt X
752 cal, 47g fat, 963mg sodium, 49g carbs, 2g fiber, 5g sugars, 30g protein

Steak T.B.M. Melt X
831 cal, 49g fat, 656mg sodium, 48g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugars, 51g protein

Tuna Melt X X
874 cal, 40g fat, 1,154mg sodium, 51g carbs, 4g fiber, 1g sugars, 65g protein Salads – Best Choices

Crab Cake Melt X X
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 X
357 cal, 31g fat, 1,508mg sodium, 17g carbs, 5g fiber, 2g sugars, 19g protein

Wild Alaskan Salmon Salad X
457 cal, 27g fat, 1,372mg sodium, 24g carbs, 7g fiber, 1g sugars, 35g protein

Bombay Chicken Salad X
481 cal, 32g fat, 1,094mg sodium, 17g carbs, 4g fiber, 3g sugars, 25g protein

Caesar Salad X
488 cal, 40g fat, 1,459mg sodium, 20g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugars, 18g protein

Greek Salad X
517 cal, 47g fat, 1,480mg sodium, 19g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g sugars, 11g protein

Cosi Cobb – “Lighter Side” Version X
519 cal, 34g fat, 1,347mg sodium, 17g carbs, 2g fiber, 9g sugars, 39g protein

Tuscan Steak Salad X
532 cal, 34g fat, 1,542mg sodium, 26g carbs, 6g fiber, 13g sugars, 30g protein

Signature Salad X
611 cal, 45g fat, 664mg sodium, 5g fiber, 12g protein

Steakhouse Salad X
614 cal, 49g fat, 836mg sodium, 14g carbs, 5g fiber, 28g protein

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad X X
621 cal,  44g fat, 1,670mg sodium, 20g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugars, 39g protein

Cosi Cobb X X
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

Aioli Dressing X
159 cal, 3g sat fat, 16g total fat, 557mg sodium

Italian Dressing
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 X
321 cal, 5g sat fat, 30g total fat, 586mg sodium

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing X
357 cal, 3g sat fat, 39g total fat, 169mg sodium

Cosi Caesar Dressing X X
365 cal, 5g sat fat, 28g total fat, 794mg sodium

Cosi Oriental Dressing X
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 X
674 cal, 20g fat, 1,315mg sodium, 80g carbs, 2g fiber, 31g sugars, 41g protein

Trifecta Flatbread Pizza X
705 cal, 40g fat, 1,008mg sodium, 48g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 40g protein

Thai Satay Chicken Flatbread Pizza X X
726 cal, 29g fat, 1,413mg sodium, 70g carbs, 8g fiber,  18g sugars, 51g protein

Chicken Gorgonzola with Fig Flatbread Pizza X
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 X
150 cal, no fat, 1,012mg sodium, 36g carbs, 11g fiber, 6g sugars, 10g protein

Beef with Winter Garden Vegetables Soup X
150 cal, 8g fat, 1,350mg sodium, 14g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 9g protein

Moroccan Lentil Soup X
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 X
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 X X
401 cal, 36g fat, 1,140mg sodium, 17g carbs, 1g fiber, 4g sugars, 6g protein

New England Clam Chowder X
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 X indicates the “worst-of-the-worst,” more or less.

Cosi Nutrition Information

Photo by Sandro Cuccia

7 Comments on "Healthy Options at Così"
  1. Comment left on:
    March 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm
    Debi says:

    If I hadn’t eaten dinner before reading your post, I’d definitely be hungry right about now. lol It looks like there is one in my cousin’s neighborhood in Chicago. We might get to try it out when we’re in Chicago next month for the Gluten-free & Allergy-free Expo!

    • Comment left on:
      March 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm
      Andrew says:

      Yup, I started getting really hungry while working on this post, too. Have fun in Chicago!

  2. Comment left on:
    March 21, 2011 at 7:06 pm
    Andrea says:

    I *adore* Cosi bread, so I’m glad to see it’s not deadly. Thanks for your research and insight!

    • Comment left on:
      March 23, 2011 at 11:54 am
      Andrew says:

      You’re very welcome! :)

  3. Comment left on:
    October 4, 2011 at 10:01 am
    Jay says:

    Thank you for posting this! Before I read this, I always order the Cosi Cob Salad for lunch, thinking it is a great choice; not anymore with the big red X you gave it. When I go back I will try one of the salads on your “Better Choice” list. I am not appreciating the amount of sodium in the cob salad, nor the calorie count! My question though is, do you pass on the bread that comes with the salad?

    • Comment left on:
      October 4, 2011 at 10:16 am
      Andrew says:

      Hi Jay – Glad it’s helpful for you! I haven’t been to a Cosi in quite awhile (not since I lived in Chicago), but I’d probably go with the wholegrain flatbread. As I wrote in the intro, their breads are surprisingly low in sodium — far better than any other chain I’ve ever seen, actually. Hope that helps!

  4. Comment left on:
    November 3, 2011 at 9:07 am
    Gina says:

    This site is great. Thank you for the information, exactly what I was looking for!

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