Nothing says summer quite like firing up the barbeque, but most of those classic grill meats have a long way to go in the health department. The classic hot dog can pack up to 188 calories, 17 grams of fat, and a whopping 650mg of sodium per link— plus there’s always more than just a frank on the plate. But turning that classic dog into a healthier one — while still getting that classic flavor — is easy. Here are our three favorite tips:

  1. Choose a healthier dog. (You don't even want to know what's in those classic hot dogs.) Go for a dog without any fillers or preservatives, and pay close attention to those labels. The shorter the ingredient list, the better. Our favorite swap? Reduced-fat chicken sausage links, totaling only 130 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 480 mg sodium, while also packing on 14 grams of protein (compared to 6 grams in the typical hot dog).
  2. Opt for a whole-grain bun.Change out that white bun for some whole-grain action for added fiber and nutrients. To save on carbs, try a whole-grain tortilla or pita pocket. Paleo peeps — wrap your dog in a piece of lettuce or kale for a grain-free experience.
  3. Go for healthier toppings. Classic ketchup comes packed with sodium and (eek!) high fructose corn syrup. Instead, opt for a homemade ketchup. And that bright yellow French’s? Try one dog with some whole-grain mustard and you'll never go back. Don't be afraid to throw some fresh veggies on the bun, either: Fresh greens or cabbage make a great bun-liner base with some added crunch, tomato and diced onion go great on top, and avocado adds an unmatched decadent texture.

Healthier Hot Dogs

Healthier Hot Dogs Serves 8

What You'll Need:

8 premade Chicken sausage (opt for a low-sodium variety) 8 whole-wheat hot dog buns or sub rolls (carb-saving trick: whole-wheat tortilla or pita pocket) 2 tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges 2 handfuls arugula or spinach 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard 1-2 tablespoons diced sun-dried tomatoes (less sodium than ketchup) What to Do:

  1. Fire up the grill and cook the chicken sausage until warmed through.
  2. While the sausages are cooking, mix together 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard and 3 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomato.
  3. Lightly toast rolls over grill.
  4. To assemble: Spread mustard mixture on bun, line with greens, top with sausage, and add 2 tomato wedges to each bun alongside the dog.

Need more recipe inspiration? Check out these three inventive healthier hot dog recipes:

Photo: A Spicy Perspective

The sweet and smooth texture of the mango and pineapple compliment classic hot dog flavors perfectly. Think of it as a fruity (and healthier) version of relish!

California Dog.
Photo by Ken Burris

Sprouts, creamy avocado, and fresh red onion add flavor and texture to this healthier hot dog recipe. We think a line of sriracha would go perfectly with this one, too.

Believe it or not, when the base is a nitrate-free, low-sodium dog or sausage, the classic toppings on a Chicago-style dog — that's pickle, tomato, onion, hot peppers, and mustard — make it a healthier choice. For more great recipes, don't miss our list of 43 healthier July Fourth recipes.

What's your favorite way to top a classic hot dog? Share with us in the comments below or tweet us @greatist!

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