Last month’s Flourish with Food focused on hearty soups for addressing Americans’ challenge to consume enough health-promoting vegetables – an integral component of the Mediterranean way of eating. (  This month we’ll look at salad kits to increase vegetables intake and variety. 

Related research on a plant-rich diet was in the news recently. The study looked at diet’s impact on life expectancy at different ages. Note the wording “plant-rich” rather than vegetarian, vegan or meatless.

The study’s optimal dietary pattern: higher and sustained intakes of whole grains, legumes, fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, along with reduced red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and refined grains. Substantial health gains for people of all ages were found.  While gains are predicably larger for younger adults, even those 80 years old benefit also.

Bagged salads or salad kits are a great strategy for easily bumping up vegetable intake, while addressing food waste from salad makings lingering too long in the vegetable bin or on the counter.  Salad kits generally have a wide variety of pre-washed chopped greens and vegetables. 

The perks of salad kits include super convenience, prewashed and cut ingredients, flavor variety, and inclusion of nutrient-rich vegetables that may not be eaten as a prepared slide dish. Shelf life is at least twice as long as whole heads of greens due to a type of packaging that minimizes air in the bag. Oxygen is responsible for the browning and slime.

Are salad kits safe to eat? It’s important to know that all greens and lettuces - whole heads and bagged varieties – are at low risk of bacteria levels high enough to cause illness.  Food safety experts consider the healthy benefits of vegetables outweigh the risks. News outlets promptly pick up FDA’s produce alerts and recalls.

Good practices for minimizing risk and maximizing freshness:

  • Store lettuce and salad greens at 35-40 degrees F.
  • Buy bagged salad as far away as possible from “use by date” and eat within a few days.
  • Toss if beyond this date or if some leaves are looking sad.
  • Use right out of the bag without washing. 
  • Toss a dry paper towel in a partially used bag and close tightly with a chip clip.

Med approach nutrient-rich ingredients to look for:  

  • Dark greens, such as kale, spinach, arugula, endive, watercress, darker lettuce varieties like romaine, red and green leafy lettuce.
  • Cabbage, carrots, sunflower seeds, nuts, broccoli, brussels sprouts, corn, legumes, avocados, edamame, dried fruit, feta cheese, yogurt-based dressing.

The included flavorful dressings are either vinaigrette or creamy. Vinaigrettes can be thinned down with vinegar to reduce the calories and sodium content.  Don’t like the included dressing? Use a personal favorite or simply olive oil and vinegar. 

For a quick salad-as-a-meal, add leftover chicken, chopped boiled egg, rinsed canned beans, flavored baked tofu, tempeh, quinoa, or pouch salmon and tuna. Some bagged salad brands come with recipe ideas. Make bagged salads a grocery list staple for easy quick meals.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes (Target’s Good & Gather bagged Southwest Salad): Microwave or bake sweet potatoes until tender.  Split and top with warm seasoned black beans, prepared salad and chopped avocado.

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.