Julia Westbrook

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, hot dogs are a cookout staple. So if you're in charge of the shopping, here's what to keep in mind to pick franks that are reasonably healthy and tasty and buy the best hot dogs. The biggest stumbling block is sodium. We found several dogs with over 600 mg-and that's before the bun and condiments. Plus, know the terms on the package, as there's a whole host of confusing ones.

No Nitrates or Nitrites Added means that synthetic nitrates or nitrites aren't used to cure your hot dog, but instead natural nitrites, such as celery powder are added.

Must read: Are Uncured Hot Dogs Healthier?

No Byproducts signals that animal parts that Americans don't typically eat, like kidney, liver and heart are not present. Franks made with these parts must be labeled "with byproducts" or "with variety meats."

Natural indicates no artificial ingredients, added color or synthetic preservatives and minimal processing. Curing uses synthetic nitrates; only uncured hot dogs are "natural."

No Fillers signifies that nonmeat ingredients that hold the hot dog together and improve texture, such as tapioca starch, cornstarch and maltodextrin, aren't used.

Mechanically Separated Meat and Poultry is the remaining meat from the bones of animals after the primary cuts are processed. This is only used in pork, turkey and chicken products (never beef).

Our Favorite Franks:

♥ Applegate Naturals Natural Stadium Uncured Beef and Pork Hot Dogs

♥ Wellshire Premium All Natural Uncured Beef Franks

♥ Thumann's All Natural Chicken Franks

♥ Trader Joe's All Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dogs

Numbers to Look For

Amount Per Serving (about 50 g)

Sodium ≤ 370 mg

Calories ≤ 170

*For jumbo hot dogs (serving size ≥75 g), aim for under 555 mg sodium and under 225 cal.

Watch: How to Make Vegan Carrot Hot Dogs