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Wellness For the Family: Spicing Up Memorial Day Food

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Hot Dogs 5

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and today we were joined LIVE by registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Shanthi Appelo who gives us tips on how to spice up your hot dog.

Here are some of her tips on spicing up a summer BBQ classic – the hot dog.

Three Ways to Spice Up Your Dog

We’re not here to solve the condiment debate, but we do have some easy recipes to elevate the flavor of hot dogs and provide much-needed nutrition.

From the ballpark to outdoor get-togethers, hot dogs are a quintessential American summer staple. Hot dogs are a food the whole family can enjoy. However, it can leave shoppers wondering how to pick the healthiest choice. 

Choosing the healthiest hot dog

Hot dog ingredients may seem like a mystery, and that’s partly because ingredients come from a cocktail of meat trimmings, fillers and preservatives. An aisle full of hot dog choices with packages boasting health claims and “all-natural ingredients” can be confusing. 

It’s worth noting that hot dogs are a processed meat product, classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning they are considered . While keeping processed meat intake to a minimum is the best idea, here are some things to keep in mind when choosing the healthiest hot dogs:

  • Ingredients. Look for items with fewer ingredients on the list. Moreover, scope out grass-fed beef options as these are better for heart health – containing more healthy omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fat.
  • Sodium. Sodium intake adds up quickly, and just one hot dog tallying 500 mg of sodium may send someone over their recommended limit. Aim for choices that are lower in sodium.
  • Additives. Choosing uncured hot dogs is a good way to go to avoid nitrates and nitrites, ingredients that may form nitrosamines, a cancer-linked compound. Pro-tip –All organic hot dogs are uncured.
  • Veggie dogs. Veggie dogs are a great option for vegans or those trying to reduce their animal protein intake. Like their meaty counterpart, veggie dogs are often highly processed and high in saturated fat and salt. Choose the option with the fewest number of ingredients for the healthiest choice. 

Don’t forget the condiments

Among all the condiments, ketchup is part of a longstanding, mostly friendly, debate about whether it belongs on a hot dog. Like ketchup, most condiments are culprits for adding excess sodium to many diets. When choosing hot dog condiments like relish, ketchup and mustard (especially honey mustard), aim to choose options with the least amount of added sugar, sodium content and the fewest ingredients. Moreover, consider choosing whole wheat hot dog buns to add more nutrients and fiber to the meal.

We’re not here to solve the condiment debate of whether ketchup goes on a hot dog, but we do have some easy recipes to elevate the flavor of hot dogs and give them some much-needed nutrition:

Greek Dog – Serves ~8 hot dogs



  • 1 cucumber 
  • Salt for sprinkling 
  • 2 large cloves garlic 
  • 1 ½ cups Greek yogurt 
  • ¼ cup olive oil 
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced 
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped


  1. Grate the cucumber into a sieve over a bowl. Sprinkle salt over the cucumbers to help draw out excess moisture, and let sit for 15 minutes. Press the cucumber to squeeze out excess water, then dry with a paper towel.
  2. Grate, finely chop or use a garlic press for the garlic. 
  3. In a bowl ,combine garlic, Greek yogurt, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. The flavor will continue to develop when stored in the fridge.
  4. Add 2-3 tablespoons to each hot dog and top with diced tomatoes and red onion if desired.

Elote Dog – Serves ~8 hot dogs


  • 2 ears fresh corn, husked
  • Spray olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. light mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 2 green onions, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp. queso fresco or cotija cheese
  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Optional. Grill corn until lightly charred. Remove corn from the cob.
  2. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together and add 2-3 tablespoons on each hot dog. Enjoy!

Tropical Dog – Serves ~8 hot dogs


  • 1 cup pineapple, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp. red onion, finely diced
  • 1 Roma tomato, finely diced
  • Salt to taste


  • Optional. Before dicing, grill pineapple and jalapeno until lightly charred.
  • In a bowl, mix all ingredients together and put 2-3 tablespoons on each hot dog.