09/04/2011 11:37 am ET | Updated Nov 04, 2011

Hot Dogs For Labor Day? Here Are The Best of the Wurst!

During Hot Dog Season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs! Depending on the brand, many hot dogs can contain between 10 and 15 grams of fat. Then, many of us make the already fatty dog worse by placing it in a nutritionally-stripped white bun and loading on sugar, sodium and fat with condiments like ketchup, sauerkraut and cheese. Not only is the sugar, sodium and fat a concern, but nitrate, an ingredient found in many hot dogs, has been linked to serious health problems in certain doses.

While hot dogs are not exactly a health professional's favorite food, you don't have to ditch your dog completely this Labor Day. There are hot dog companies that are now making healthier hot dogs. These companies make hot dogs with fewer than five grams total fat, fewer than 500 mg of sodium, and no nitrates -- they're also producing soy and veggie hot dogs. Finding these healthy dogs can be easy with some smart shopping and simple label reading.

When you're at the grocery store, here are important hot dog guidelines to follow:

1. Choose a hot dog, not a fat dog. You should first look at the total fat on the hot dog's nutrition facts. If the total fat is over five grams, you might as well call that hot dog a fat dog.

2. Choose hot dogs labeled "uncured" or "no added nitrates." look at the ingredients to see if there is nitrate in the hot dog. Nitrate may be labeled sodium nitrate, nitrite or sodium nitrites, and all of these should be avoided.

3. Go for organic hot dogs. These dogs are made from organically raised animals, not treated with antibiotics or hormones. Plus they skip the nitrites and nitrates.

4. Pick sodium-smart dogs. Look for brands with 370 mg sodium or fewer. Anything over is way too much and about one fourth of the recommended amount of sodium a child or teenager should be getting in one day.

After you purchase your healthy hot dogs, don't stop there. Buy whole-wheat buns and load the hot dogs with other lower-fat foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, onions and pico de gallo. Get creative and try these healthy hot dog topping ideas:

-Wrap grilled halved hot dogs in grilled whole-wheat tortillas; top with shredded fat-free cheddar, lettuce and salsa.

-Serve boiled tofu dogs on whole-wheat buns with diced avocado and cucumber, sprouts and shredded carrot.

-Serve boiled hot dogs on whole-wheat buns with dill pickle and cucumber spears, sliced tomatoes, diced onion and yellow mustard.

- Serve boiled hot dogs on whole-wheat buns with sauteed mushrooms and onions.

Please note: The American Academy of Pediatrics state that hot dogs are the food most commonly associated with fatal choking among children. Many recommend not feeding hot dogs to children under 3. For children of all ages, cut up the hot dog to appropriate sizes and watch your child eat to ensure he or she does not choke.