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Mad Greens tosses out custom salads perfect for vegetarians and vegans

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The biggest misconception about a vegetarian diet is probably that it consists of salad, salad and more salad. And although these Veggie Girl posts have showcased the wide range of dishes available to vegetarians, the truth is that when you stop eating meat, your tastebuds can change -- and you actually start to crave foods you would have previously dismissed as fare for rabbits.

Given Colorado's penchant for quick service and healthy foods, it's no surprise that someone would come up with a fast-casual salad concept. Mad Greens started with one store in Lone Tree and has since branched out into eleven metro locations.

The purple-and-green decor doesn't make Mad Greens stand out from any other fast-casual joint, but the setup is still comfortable enough that you can sit for a meal and a chat -- if you can find a table, since all of the locations are pretty busy during lunch and dinner.

There are more than a dozen already-built salads on the menu, plus some rotating seasonal options, soups and paninis. But we like Mad Greens for its build-your-own salad capabilities. There are three lettuce bases available (romaine, spring mix or baby spinach) and tons of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly additions to spice things up.

We like to add black beans, grilled onions, roasted corn, avocado and tofu with roasted red-pepper dressing (pictured above); the tofu is organic, so you don't have to worry about any GMOs in your healthy meal. You can also get almonds, apples, asparagus, broccoli, cannellini beans, carrots, celery, chick peas, couscous, Craisins, croutons, cucumbers, edamame, eggs, green onions, green peppers, jalapenos, kalamata olives, mandarin oranges, mango, pears, potatoes, red onion, roasted beets, roasted red peppers, sesame seeds, sliced mushrooms, portabella mushroom, sugar snap peas, sun-dried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, bacon, pumpkin seeds or walnuts. And if you eat cheese, your choices include cheddar, feta, jack, blue cheese, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese and parmesan.

For the meat-eaters, Mad Greens carries anchovies, several preparations of chicken, tuna, flank steak and salmon. But with all those veggies, we know you won't even miss the meat if you decide to skip it.

Visit www.madgreens.com for a full list of locations and hours, plus allergen and nutritional information.

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