Label.ology: Bagged Salad
In this feature, we’re taking labels…and ingredients apart.
It’s important to understand all the stuff that’s in what you buy. Then and only then can you can decide if you want it in your food, on your body or in your home.
So I decided to put all my years of label reading to good use.
Why label.ology? Well, the definition of ‘-ology’, that’s why: “the scientific study of a particular subject.”
It’s amazing to me how ingredients we might not want to consume are cloaked in complicated names; and with nutrition panels that read like a Russian novel, you have to be a detective to decipher what’s in your food.
Not anymore! I give you…label.ology
While not an actual ingredient, as spring approaches and we begin to think serious salad thoughts, I wanted to address some very real concerns when it comes to the convenience of those delightful pre-washed, pre-torn, pre-packaged salad greens.
I have been a devoted salad lover for most of my life…and not just because it’s good for me. I have always loved salads especially when there’s yummy olive oil and balsamic vinegar involved. But I have to admit that I never really understood the whole bagged salad craze that has seemingly taken over our salad consciousness. I love nothing more than taking crisp salad greens, washing them gently and whipping them around in a salad spinner before combining them with any number of ingredients to make a salad.
But bagged salads have made it so much easier for us to make…and eat salads. But at what price?
Research has shown that techniques (called modified atmosphere packaging) used to keep the greens crisp and fresh-seeming, results in the decreased concentration of vital nutrients and protective antioxidants and vitamin C, along with p-courmic acid and quercitin.
So if you’re relying on pre-packed leaves to help you get your recommended servings of veggies, you might be selling yourself short.
While the greens usually appear particularly crisp and fresh, and supermarkets often offer an array of more unusual leaves, including lamb's lettuce, baby arugula and radicchio, as well as baby kale, the shelf life is extended in a less-than-natural technique that creates a balance of gases to retain moisture in leaves and prevent browning.
Triple washing, while sanitary and better insurance against scary contamination results in a staggering use of water.
Then there’s the packaging itself and the electricity needed to put the salads in the bags which end up in the landfill.
My recommendation is to purchase only organic salad greens; purchase them whole and prepare them yourself by washing the leaves as you need them to retain freshness and nutrients.
In the end, packaged salads may not be the worst thing for our health, but it isn’t the best for the planet…or for our quest for nutrient density in foods…so dust off the old salad spinner and get to work.