How to make salad less healthy in 8 days

We're all busy. I get it.

I certainly understand the appeal of bagged salads. You cut open a bag, dump it into a bowl, and -- voilà -- there's your salad in seconds.

No cutting. No washing. No mixing. None of it. And it's all perfectly healthy.

Or so you'd like to think.

A new report in the New York Times shows how all that convenience can add up to less nutrition. Chopping, washing, bagging, and refrigerating salad greens causes water-soluble nutrients to leak out and vanish.

The result? You end up sacrificing some of the very vitamins that make greens such a healthy choice in the first place!

In just eight days of refrigeration, bagged spinach loses about half its folate.

That's not eight days after taking it home.

The clock starts ticking the moment it's cut and bagged in the factory.

Similarly, spinach can lose 80 percent of its vitamin C in just three days of storage, with baby spinach losing between 25 percent and 40 percent.

Different greens lose different nutrients at different rates. But overall, bagged salads will have fewer nutrients than a fresh one you make from your favorite hand-selected veggies.

There's also another difference.

These studies don't get into flavor, but we all know that a sad sack of wilted greens that's been sitting in the supermarket for days loses more than just some vitamins.

It also loses TASTE.

And those aren't the only problems with bagged salads. They might not even be the biggest problems.

Every step of processing -- even if it's chopping, spraying, and bagging -- is a chance for germs to climb into the veggies.

The bags might say "washed" or even "triple-washed"... but studies show bacteria such as Salmonella can still get inside, leading to several recalls of bagged and "washed" salads.

You might think you can still buy bagged salads and just rinse them yourself.

But here's the thing: Running these greasy greens under your tap for a few minutes really won't do much to make them any cleaner.

Salmonella is especially tough to rinse off, as it forms a biofilm, a sticky layer that locks it into place -- so it won't come off even if you spray it, wash it, or soak it.

You're best off buying whole, fresh veggies -- ideally organic -- and then peeling and/or washing them yourself at home.

You'll not only get cleaner veggies.

Your food will also be fresher, which means it'll be loaded with more of the essential nutrients you're looking for.