As the end of school draws near, everyone I know feels frazzled and rushed. Mealtimes, even for an avid and enthused cook like me, feel like little more than yet another to do. As such, my love affair with our grill has rekindled to a mighty degree, as it does each May, and I am reminded that grilling is really a tremendously simply, tasty way to enjoy dinner and reclaim a heck of a lot of time from its prep.
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Andrea Donsky, nutritionist and part of the impressive Naturally Savvy team, a website dedicated to more natural, organic eating. She's also written the book, Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks, and is an enthusiastic spokesperson for Applegate Natural and Organic Meats.
I wanted to talk to her about hot dogs, a food my children and husband love but which I hold at arm's length. I don't recall ever enjoying hot dogs, although corn dogs smothered in mustard were a youthful favorite. I happen to only buy Applegate's Great Organic Beef Hot Dog's for my family because they're antibiotic- and hormone-free and made with 100% grassfed beef which is important to me from both an animal welfare (cows were meant to eat grass, not corn and grain) and human health standpoint. Antibiotic overuse is rampant in the States and is responsible for a huge degree of the scary antibiotic-resistant bacteria that make so many folks sick.
But, is any hot dog healthy? It seemed a good question to ask as summertime kicks in and our grill will be fired up on the regular.
Not only are Applegate's dogs antibiotic- and hormone-free, they are also lower in fat than most brands (8 grams per dog compared to an average of 15 grams per link found in most brands), contain no fillers and are lower in sodium than other brands. Applegate also offers tasty chicken and turkey hot dogs if you want variety, prefer those flavors, or want to avoid red meat all together.
I serve my boys' hot dogs on whole grain buns which, not surprisingly, Andrea endorses, and I use organic, low-sugar ketchup which is devoid of the high-fructose corn syrup found in most ketchup brands on the market. Andrea suggests wrapping your dogs in cabbage or lettuce leaves if you want to avoid carbs, but we are a carb-loving family so plan to stick with whole grain buns.
All in all, I do feel better about the health aspects of the dogs I'll be grilling my boys this summer. Slice a few steam vents in the top before grilling, and don't let the dogs burn as char can contain carcinogenic material. Grilling a hot dog takes about three minutes, and with some fresh watermelon or berries, and boiled corn on the cob, tossed salad, or steamed edamame (also about three minutes each to prep), you've got a healthy summer dinner lickety-split.
Other favorite grill-based meals include pizza loaded up with summer veggies;
grilled hamburgers (regular beef, turkey, these delicious chicken ones, or my kofta variety);
salmon burgers which are easy and sublime;
and grilled vegetables of all stripes - eggplant, zucchini, sweet onions, yellow squash...