Bagged lettuce may seem like one of those true conveniences of modern life. You want to eat more salad, but don’t want to spend time washing, tearing and chopping. But is eating bagged lettuce as healthy for you as a good old head of lettuce?
This week on “Take Care,” Kerri-Ann Jennings, a registered dietitian and freelance nutrition writer, answers that question for us. Jennings contributes to WebMD, FoodNetwork.com and other publications.
Jennings says bagged lettuce, and lettuce that comes in those plastic “clam shell” containers, is a great convenience. It’s a good way to get vegetables in your diet if you don’t have time to prepare and wash a head of lettuce, she says. But…
“A head of lettuce is always going to be a bit healthier,” Jennings said.
That’s because the less processed the food is, the healthier it’s going to be, says Jennings. So a head of lettuce is going to be a bit fresher than bagged. There’s a shorter food chain from the field to your table.
But, as Jennings points out, it’s still lettuce. Jennings says she uses bagged lettuce at home herself.
Another question many consumers have is whether or not they need to still wash greens that come in a bag. Many packages are labeled “pre-washed” or “triple washed.”
Jennings says the answer is no. First, it might make things worse. You can introduce new contamination when you’re washing it at home, says Jennings. Second, it may not help. The problems with bagged lettuce that have made the news is when its been contaminated with bacteria like listeria. That can’t be simply washed off with water, Jennings says.
Jennings’ tips when buying bagged lettuce:
- Always check the expiration date and buy the bag with the date that’s farthest away. That way you’ll get the freshest lettuce possible.
- Look at the leaves through the bag or plastic container. If the leaves are sticking to the bag, that means they are getting overly moist and starting to degrade.
- There’s no difference in terms of potential for contamination between organic and conventional bagged lettuce
Jennings says the most important thing with produce is to try to get it into your diet however you can. So, the bottom line: it’s better to eat bagged lettuce than no lettuce.