You’ve probably seen the mason jar salads that have taken over Pinterest recently. Well, we couldn’t resist adapting those gorgeous layers of veggies, meats and toppings into something that would work for schools.
Why Salad Cups for Schools?
Smart Snacks and the USDA meal requirements have caused a loss in sales for school meal programs. Salad bars may seem like a good solution, but they’re expensive to maintain, students overload on dressing and cheese and waste is an issue due to spoilage from items open to the elements.
Enter salad cups! As à la carte options or part of the reimbursable meal program, they are a great way to offer students variety while remaining in compliance. They’re visually appealing with a bright fresh-made look that draws students who eat with their eyes first. Plus, the unique cup packaging is fun, easy and allows for cost control.
Salad cups can be prepared early in the week and held for up to four days in refrigeration without showing any sign of wilting or spoilage. They’re built upside down with the dressing and heartier vegetables on the bottom and the fragile components such as lettuce and meats toward the top of the cup. This packing method keeps lettuce fresh and eliminates the need for a separate dressing container which also help lower costs.
According to Mintel, packaged salad is the fastest-growing segment in the overall vegetables market. Salad companies are increasingly driving sales by playing to consumer interest in healthy, fast, and even portable products.
How to Build the Perfect Salad Cup
Start with a 20 oz. plastic drinking cup with a lid and build the salad upside down to keep the dressing away from the greens to prevent wilting.
- Pour about two tablespoons of dressing into the bottom of the cup.
- Add hearty ingredients that won’t soak up the dressing, such as carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas or chickpeas. If you’re using onions, layer them on top of the dressing to help dilute their strong flavor.
- Continue to layer the salad with remaining ingredients. Pack the layers as tightly as possible because the less air between layers, the longer the salad will stay fresh.
- Finally, layer salad greens on the top and finish with cheese and/or nuts. Seal with the lid, label and refrigerate.
Our Favorite Salad Cup Recipes
Check out our recipes for Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad Cup, Taco Salad Cup with Fiesta Salsa Ranch and more. Also check out our downloadable salad cup artwork.
Here’s how they stack up to the USDA requirements:
Daily Meal Requirement Contribution
- 1 cup of vegetables in several categories within each salad cup
- 2 M/MA provided in the protein (beef, chicken, eggs and cheese)
- The Garden Salad provides ¼ grain equivalent with the whole grain pasta
- Can be served on à la carte line as an entrée or in the reimbursable meal program if paired with fruit, grain and milk
Smart Snack Approved
- Less than 35% calories from fat as served
- Less than 10% calories from saturated fat as served
- 0 grams of trans fat as served (less than .05 grams per portion)
- Less than 350 calories as served including accompaniments
- Less than 480mg of sodium as served including accompaniments
Have you served salad cups in your school? Tell us your most popular recipe.