Prepackaged salad mixes are the ultimate in mealtime convenience. The greens are already washed, chopped, and sometimes even packaged with salad dressing and a crunchy topping. But are these products actually healthy?
Produce is one of the biggest means by which people contract food-borne illnesses like E. coli and salmonella. However, this category includes some of the healthiest foods we can eat. In order to make the safest and smartest choice when it comes to salads, stay right here to learn how the bagged version compares to those made fresh from whole produce at home.
The question of nutrition
We all know from middle school science class that food is best when served at the “peak of freshness” shortly after it is harvested. As soon as it is picked (or butchered), all food begins to slowly lose nutrients. So it’s easy to assume that perhaps bagged salads, which are processed heavily before they hit shelves, lose more nutrients than food left whole.
However, manufacturers of these products typically strive for a fast turnaround from field to store, even within 24 hours. And, the very packaging may also help prevent excess nutrient loss. Most manufacturers use a process called modified atmosphere packaging, which reduces oxygen exposure to the food. This can slow the rate at which critical nutrients are lost, especially vitamin C and folate.
An additional bonus of this type of packaging is that the color and crisp texture of the food lasts longer, giving you a bit more time to enjoy that salad. Ultimately, nutrient loss in a bagged salad as compared to a whole head of lettuce is pretty similar.