With the weather showing no signs of cooling down this month, salads are a refreshing lunch or dinner option for many households.
One set of tools that make salads as a meal more accessible are pre-washed, DIY-assembly, bagged salads. Bagged salad mixes are all the rage these days. From broccoli slaw to radicchio, there seems to be a blend for everyone.
"Lettuce" take a look at what’s in most salad kits and how you can DIY to save money and calories.
Cost: Blended salad kits usually cost between $3.99 and $5.99 per bag, depending on the brand, blend, and number of servings per bag. Organic mixes tend to be more expensive.
By comparison, a bag of plain coleslaw costs about $1.69 per bag while shredded broccoli slaw runs between $1.99 to $2.99 per bag. Chopped kale can be purchased for $2.99 to $3.99 per bag. Bagged spinach or spring mix is also available for salads and will cost roughly $1.69 to $3.99 per container depending on where you shop.
Contents: The typical salad kit contains a combo platter of greens, chopped or shaved vegetables (like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage), dried fruit, crunchy bits, and dressing. The most nutritious salads often contain kale, red or green cabbage, shaved Brussels sprouts, and shredded broccoli. These provide fiber, beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, and other phytochemicals. All good stuff!
Dried cranberries seem to be the fruit de jour for most kits, with other fruit (berries or citrus fruit) typically being used in the dressing. Nuts, tortilla strips, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds add crunch to most mixes. Some salads include cheese and even bacon.
Dressings will vary from savory to sweet including Asiago, Parmesan, Southwest Ranch, poppyseed, strawberry rose, and tangerine, just to name a few. The sweeter dressings provide about 7 grams of added sugar in 2 Tbsp or roughly 2 tsp sugar per serving. Fats are primarily unsaturated from olive or soybean oil.
The sodium content of dressings varies with the type of dressing in the mix. Dressings containing cheese tend to be higher in sodium. Most range between 200 to 380 mg of sodium per serving, which can add up. Blends containing bacon bits or cheese will provide more sodium and fat in your salad.
DIY Salads: While salad kits offer a convenient way to eat more greens, you can cut costs, calories, sugar, and sodium by making them yourself.
Below are 5 simple salad ideas:
- Blend a 10 oz bag of coleslaw mix with 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup fresh blueberries, and 2 chopped green onions. Dress the salad with a blend of ¼ cup corn oil, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, and 1 Tbsp. honey.
- Combine a 10 oz. bag of chopped kale with 1/3 cup almond slivers, 1 cup fresh strawberries, and a handful of red onion rings. Blend a ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar with 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard. Dress prior to serving.
- Mix a 10 oz. bag of broccoli slaw with a small chopped cucumber, 10 halved grape tomatoes, and ¼ cup feta cheese crumbles. Whisk together the juice of 1 lime, ¼ cup olive oil and ½ tsp. cumin.
- Thinly slice one pound of Brussels sprouts and place in a bowl. Add 1 chopped honeycrisp or Fuji apple, 1/3 cup chopped pecans, and ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles. Dress the salad with ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ¼ cup canola oil, and 1 Tbsp. maple syrup.
- Add a 10 oz. bag of baby spinach leaves to 2 chopped, ripe peaches. Add 1/3 cup chopped pistachios or pumpkin seeds and ¼ cup goat cheese crumbles. For the dressing: blend together the juice of 1 tangerine, ¼ cup canola oil, and 1 Tbsp. honey.
Get creative! Use what you’ve got on hand. Try raisins, dried cherries, cranberries, chopped apricots or dates to your salad. Mash frozen or “dying” fruit into dressings. Use 1 part acid (lemon juice or vinegar) to 1 part oil then add whatever seasonings you like for dressing. Sensational salads are in your hands.
By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Free Handout: Summer Salad Handout
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati. She shares her clinical, culinary, and community nutrition knowledge through cooking demos, teaching, and freelance writing. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook, and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger, supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati. For more information, visit her website: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/