Are Pre-Packaged Salad Mixes Good For You?

Eat your greens! Salad can be a delicious way to get more fiber, good fats, and vital nutrients into your diet (via WebMD). As great as salads can be, however, it can feel tedious to prepare all the elements that make up a bowl of leafy green goodness. That's why many people choose to buy pre-packaged salads. In fact, over 242 million people in the United States used pre-packaged salads in 2020 alone, according to Statista.

These figures make sense. Why bother buying, chopping, and prepping salad ingredients when you can just buy a kit that's already done all the work for you? From the outside, bagged salads seem just as healthy as a regular salad minus the prep work.

There has been some debate as to whether or not this is true, however. Some argue that bagged salad loses its nutritional value thanks to the plastic packaging, while others worry about potential issues with the cleanliness standards of greens that are being produced in such high quantities (via NPR). So what's the truth? Are these handy salad kits a helpful way to fulfill your veggie quota or a hidden source of germs wrapped in a healthy-looking package?

Pre-packaged salad mixes can be good for you

As it turns out, those handy salad kits can be a healthy way to get your greens. You may have heard about concerns relating to E. coli or other illnesses stemming from bagged salads, but Trevor Suslow, a food expert from the University of California, told NPR, "Detectable contamination in both whole head lettuce and mixed salad greens categories are very, very low, typically less than 0.1% positive."

The loss of nutrients related to packaged salad mixes may be a cause for concern as well, considering the amount of time these bags may sit on the shelves. But according to NPR, reputable brands within the industry are incredibly efficient with harvesting and shipping processes, with 24 hours as a typical turnaround time. The special plastic that salad mixes are sold in, referred to as "modified atmosphere packaging," also serves to preserve freshness and nutritional value (via Cooking Light).

Not all pre-packaged salad mixes are created equal, however. To get the most out of your leafy greens, do your research before heading to the grocery store to find reputable brands with rigorous standards for cleanliness and quick turnaround times between harvesting and shipping their product.