Time is of the essence for stressed out nurses, time crunched educators or first responders on the go. Now that school has begun and schedules are getting even tighter, meal planning can be a real chore. Picking up a bag of salad, prewashed carrots or other veggies can be a real timesaver, but are we making the healthiest choice for our families?

Here’s some good news from The Cleveland Clinic. They’ve found that pre-cut vegetables are just as nutritious as whole vegetables, and even offered tips on how to pick the best bagged varieties:

  1. Make sure to buy raw, not pre-cooked varieties for the most nutrition
  2. Check that they are refrigerated for freshness
  3. Inspect labels for use-by dates
  4. Consume within a few days before vitamins break down
  5. Watch for chemicals

The Clinic does warn pregnant women to be very careful with any fresh or pre-cut foods to avoid e-coli and other dangerous bacteria.

And speaking of food safety, Dr. Stephen Swanson of the Centers for Disease Control tells Eatingwell.com that most bagged vegetables and salads may actually be safer than their raw counterparts because they are washed multiple times in a solution of chlorinated water. It’s enough, he says, to kill pathogens, but in small enough levels as not to be a consumption concern.

Cooking for the family after a hectic day doesn’t have to eat up a lot of time. Realsimple.com has a list of 20 speedy recipes that take 15 minutes or less to prepare to accompany those bagged selections:

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