Summer’s back—and with it, your tried-and-true routine. You’ve reissued the annual open-door backyard policy to all your friends and your grilled-everything menu is ready to go. But this summer, you’re hoping to amp up the creativity and the nutrition of your usual spread.
For a delicious, nutrient-rich addition to your traditional barbecue lineup, consider a plant-based hot dog. Hear us out: There are plenty of reasons to feel good about adding plant-based protein to your plate every once in a while (no lifestyle overhaul required).
Take it from registered dietitian Leah Johnston, RDN, who’s all about finding creative, simple ways to load up on nutrient-rich ingredients. “The beauty of the flexitarian [or semi-vegetarian] way of eating is that it’s not all or nothing in terms of animal and plant proteins. It’s both!” You can reap many of the health benefits of plant-based eating—including a reduced risk of cardiovascular conditions and type 2 diabetes, to name a few—without going cold-turkey, she says.
Johnston’s biggest tip? Start small. “Begin planning your meals with veggies first, then protein, then carbs and healthy fats,” she says. “It just makes you feel better, physically and mentally.” When summer comes, she makes room on the grill for plant-based proteins like LightLife™ Smart Dogs®. These tasty franks contain eight grams of protein (or 14 grams in the jumbo version!) per serving and are low in saturated fat—so they won’t be accompanied by that post-meal sluggishness.
All those health (and taste) benefits make LightLife the no-brainer base for professional chef Carla Contreras’ plant-based dish of the summer. She tops her dog with powerhouse ingredients like miso, cabbage, and apple cider vinegar for a hardy, hand-held meal that will keep you feeling nourished and energized so you can make the most of the long summer days
The best part? You can add LightLife’s Plant-Based Hot Dogs (or bacon) to your summer rotation without any extra skill or effort required. “Cooking plant-based [meat] is easier than you might guess,” Johnston says. In most cases, “it’s a direct swap in recipes for the animal protein you may be accustomed to, and can be cooked in the same manner (but generally for less time!).”
To round out your backyard-BBQ spread, Contreras loves a creative bun station (“I like to visit a local bakery or wrap my hot dogs in a crunchy lettuce leaf,” she says) and a big-batch signature drink. This season, she’s all about a hibiscus fizz mocktail, drizzled with honey and topped with sprigs of fresh mint. Does it get more summer than that?
If you’re ready to level-up your next backyard hangout, invite your squad over and serve up these flavor-packed LightLife dogs. (Psst: Keep an eye out for their new-look packaging in the refrigerated section.) After your friends polish off a few, don’t be surprised if they throw out an MVP nom for this new summer staple.
Smart Hot Dog with Vegan Tahini Ranch Slaw
Makes 4–6 servings
1 package LightLife Smart Dogs®
1 package of your favorite buns
1 bag of your favorite chips
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup smooth, high-quality liquid tahini
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp white miso
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp fresh dill, leaves only
1 small clove of fresh garlic
6 cups cabbage, thinly sliced (1/2 of a small head or 1 bag)
1/4 tsp fine sea salt, plus more for dressing
3-4 cranks of freshly ground pepper (divided)
1 tsp avocado oil or cooking spray/oil for grilling
1. Place the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, tahini, miso, whole-grain mustard, water, fresh dill, garlic, 1/16 tsp salt (the smallest pinch), and 1-2 cranks of fresh ground pepper in a blender and blend until smooth for about 30 seconds.
2. Massage 1/4 tsp salt and 2-3 cranks of freshly ground pepper into the cabbage and let sit for five minutes. Add about 3/4 of the dressing and mix, saving a little extra for drizzling on top of the hot dogs.
3. Using 1 tsp oil or cooking spray, grill the hot dogs for 3-4 minutes per side.
4. Layer the slaw on the hot-dog buns, add the cooked dogs, and tuck a few chips inside the bun. Top with a drizzle of the extra dressing.
Don’t have a grill? No problem. To cook on the stovetop, add 1-2 tsp of avocado oil to a pan. Cook the hot dogs on medium heat for 3-4 minutes on one side, flip, turn down the heat to medium-low, and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes. Enjoy!