Summer just isn’t summer without at least one good cook out (but hopefully many more than that). Hot dogs are a staple this time of year, and let’s be honest, we all want one occasionally. However, they can be extraordinarily unhealthy, especially given the amounts of salt, fat, and carbs they introduce into your system. In addition, they tend to be deficient in useful nutrients.

There are ways to make them more healthy, however. In addition, you can make them much more interesting than just the plain ketchup-and-mustard topped atrocities we’re all so familiar with. Here are a few things to try out this summer when you’re cooking out:

    • Switch to whole wheat: Plain white buns don’t offer much in the way of nutrients. Switching to whole wheat changes that by adding magnesium and selenium to support immune system function and strengthen your bones.
    • Look for low sodium brands: “Fat-free” varieties actually tend to have the most sodium per dog, so those aren’t necessarily the way to go. When shopping for hotdogs, look at the packaging. 370 mg of sodium or less is usually best you’ll get.
    • Go poultry: Poultry hotdogs are usually lower in fat than your normal varieties, so those can be a great way to make your hot dogs easier on your arteries. You might also find that you enjoy the taste more, which is always a plus.
    • Healthier condiments: Ketchup and mustard add a ton of sodium to an already sodium-heavy dog. Rather than sticking to the generic—and unhealthy—condiments you’d usually use, try something different. Salsa, avocado, cilantro, scallion, jalapeño peppers, and red onion can add unique flavors without overloading on salt. They’ll also introduce a wide variety of nutrients too.
    • Add veggies: Onions add nutrients that help with zinc and iron absorption, scallions and hot peppers add fiber and vitamin C, and avocados introduce healthy fats to your dog. In addition, you might choose a dog that itself is vegetable-based. Veggie dogs are available, and they are even lower on fat than poultry.

 

Now, hotdogs will never be health foods, but when the occasion arises at your next cookout, you’ll be able to help yourself to one without too much fear of damaging your health. When you’re craving a hotdog, turn it up a notch by trying something new with it. After all, the usual ketchup, mustard, and relish do get old after a while, so using healthier toppings can make it a much more delicious—and teamed with herbal balance a healthy—experience.

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