Hot dogs will probably never be health food. I’m cool with that. But that doesn’t change the fact that you and I will in all likelihood have a hot dog (or two, or twelve) at some point this summer.
There are a few things you can do to make your next hot dog experience a (slightly) healthier one. First, if you have the option, swap out the wiener for a veggie dog. You definitely don’t need to be vegetarian or vegan to have one! Vegetarian hot dogs have pretty much the same taste and texture as meat-based hot dogs and boast fewer calories, fat and preservatives. Just be sure to choose smaller ones and always read the nutrition information to be sure it’s actually a more nutritious option.
Another easy substitution to make is to switch out the white squishy bun for a whole grain one. Opt for smallish buns and read the nutrition facts to check that the amount of dietary fibre is actually higher than their white counterpart. Depending on the toppings you’re using, you could even sub in a less bulky whole grain tortilla to make a taco dog.
And now for the fun part: the toppings! Whatever you pile on can make or break a hot dog (or veggie dog). There are dozens upon dozens of healthier options to choose from, so you can nix some of the more traditional but less-than-nutritious condiments (like full-fat mayo, sugary relish, processed cheese) without sacrificing flavour and texture.
I restricted this post to vegetarian toppings so that if you are going the veggie dog route, any combination will be vegetarian as well. In fact, many of them are vegan. If avoiding animal products is important to you, check the ingredient list on condiments to be certain.
Most of the toppings below are whole ingredients like chopped fresh vegetables and fruit, legumes and pickled vegetables. There are also a few fermented foods in there for good measure (like kimchi) plus other fun but perhaps unexpected add-ons such as crushed nuts and hummus. Some toppings were chosen because they’re light and healthy by nature (cucumbers are mostly water, after all), while others pack extra protein (hello, Greek yogurt), fibre, vitamins, minerals and/or active plant compounds.
Whatever toppings you choose, play around with tastes and textures, mix and match different cuisine styles and then dig in!
Healthy vegetarian hot dog toppings
To set up a healthy vegetarian hot dog toppings bar, put out a selection of the following in small bowls:
- Pickled vegetables (carrots, green beans, onions, red peppers, cauliflower – oh, and of course cucumbers!)
- Hot peppers (pickled or fresh)
- Fresh herbs (cilantro, basil)
- Onions (white, red, Spanish, green)
- Artichoke hearts
- Black beans
- Coleslaw (vinegar-based)
- Shredded lettuce (iceberg, romaine) or other greens (arugula, baby spinach)
- Sprouts (alfalfa, mung bean)
- Plain Greek yogurt, Greek yogurt tzatziki or Greek yogurt raita
- Feta cheese
- Crushed nuts (peanuts, cashews)
- Mustard (yellow, grainy, Dijon, hot)
- Salsa (roasted, fresh)
- Hot sauce (Frank’s Red Hot, Tabasco, sriracha)
- Peanut sauce
Last but not least, here are my three veggie dog creations using some of the above toppings for your inspiration. I’ll post the recipes separately throughout the coming week, though you might be able to guess what I used for each based on the photos.
And now a few questions for you:
- Hot dogs vs. veggie dogs: which one and why?
- Hot dog condiments and toppings: what’s your favourite combination?
- Is my list of healthy, vegetarian toppings missing anything? Leave a comment below with your suggestions and I’ll add them!