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Chili Dogs without the Heart Attack

June 5, 2008

(It has taken two days worth of attempts to get this online!  And it hasn’t been computer problems, but life problems, like a terrible two year old, and a “honey, I need” husband!)

One of the many struggles to life fit and healthy is giving up all your old favorite standards.  Most of us grew up on a typical American diet, which back in the day wasn’t as terrible because we moved more and didn’t consume quite so much.  But today, we’re fairly sedentary and have grown accustomed to super-sized portions.  And we think we can’t eat foods that are traditionally bad for us.  So here’s a new column feature of how to enjoy old favorites, but a bit healthier than we’re used to.  By no means am I saying these are healthy meals you should eat everyday!  But there are ways to incorporate the tastes of your youth without killing your waistline (or, yourself!)
This week, I was really wanting a chili dog!  Talk about a heart attack on a plate!  Hot dogs are a hot bed of who-knows-what – anyone remember the Dan Ackroyd/John Candy classic “The Great Outdoors?”  I love that movie, and one of my favorite lines is Dan Ackroyd’s character’s description of what a hot dog is made of.  Unfortunately, it’s not fit for family reading, but it’s not pleasant!  And Chili!  The only thing that keeps chili from killing you on the spot is that it’s loaded with fiber if you’re smart enough to eat it with beans.  
So how can you enjoy a chili dog without the heart attack?  First off, replace your regular funky dogs with turkey dogs.  Yes, turkey is now the Great Imitator, being manufactured into some of your favorite foods to offer up a healthier alternative.  Now, the quality of turkey dogs varies, and unfortunately, you definitely get what you pay for.  No off brands here, buy the good stuff, and you’ll be justly rewarded.
Second, (you should know what’s coming here), give turkey chili a try!  My favorite no-brainer choice here is Chili Man’s Turkey Chili with Beans.  Found at every major grocery store, and is a significantly healthier choice than most commercially made chilis.  And opting for chili with beans gives you more fiber than you’ll know what to do with at one time (that’s actually a bit of a warning!  Drink Up!)
You can forgo the extra carbs by opting to go bunless, but if that’s just not cutting it for you, pick up some 100% whole wheat hot dog buns.  They make whole wheat hot dog buns, hamburger buns, tortillas, english muffins – at this point, there’s no excuse for any refined white flours in your life!  Top off your chili dog with some shredded 2% Fat cheddar cheese, and you’ve got yourself an American classic that won’t give you a coronary!  Add some baked potato fries and some fruit-flavored water, and you have a satisfying new take on an old classic!
Now, let’s be clear – this is not a health-food meal.  Hot dogs and chili have various chemicals and fillers, not to mention the sodium.  However, this is about reinventing old favorites, so that when you are feeling like you just can’t take another grilled chicken salad, you don’t find yourself at Sonic, ordering not only their chili dog, but also a batch of chili-cheese fries and a mega-soda!  
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