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Low-Sodium, Wheat-Free Bun Alternatives

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According to the CDC and the American Heart Association, bread products are one of the highest sodium contributors in our diets -- one slice of bread equaling more than 200mg of sodium, depending on the product. And with BBQ season in full swing, those hot dog and burger buns are no exception. But before you skip the grill, try these bun substitutes at your next gathering. And give guests low-sodium (as well as gluten-free, Paleo, and vegan) options to choose from.

Wrap It Up: Enjoy a bun-free burger with the help of sturdy lettuce, cabbage, or even collard leaves. Sometimes referred to as "protein style" (thanks, In-N-Out!), this crisp leafy "bun" actually offers more crunch than a typical roll and will hold up to all the juicy drippings from your burger. And when using cool iceberg or cabbage, you get the added bonus of its cool, fresh taste, which is especially nice on a hot day.

Pick Mushrooms: When needing a bready swap, look no further than Mother Nature's own burger bun: the portabella mushroom. Not only is it the perfect shape and size for a burger, but the natural umami found in both the mushroom and the beef will super boost the savory taste of the final dish. To prepare portobello buns, simply remove the stems and clean out the gills with a spoon. Preheat oven to 450dg F. Then rub the inside and outside of the cap with a little oil and place the mushrooms on a foil-lined baking sheet (bottom-side down) and into the oven until they've browned and crisped a bit, about 10 to 12 minutes. Then serve the burger open-faced, layered on top of a single mushroom cap. Or double it up with a mushroom on either side.

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Slice Some Fruit: A thick slice of heirloom tomato or firm stone fruit (like peaches and nectarines) makes a great sidekick to a burger. Unlike the leaf and mushrooms buns, this option requires a fork, knife, and a plate. But, the added flavor from the fruit will be worth it the extra serving ware. Simply leave the tomato as is, raw and firm. Or, for peaches and nectarines, add some smoke and caramelization to it by placing on the grill, flesh-side down, for two minutes. Then layer the burger and condiments on top and dig in.

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Try Jicama: Cool and refreshing, jicama is an often overlooked vegetable. And while it is starting to make its way to the crudite platter, it also has a place on your BBQ -- on either side of your burger, to be exact. To prepare, simply peel off the outer layer of skin and then slice into thick rounds. Use one slice for an open-face burger or two for a more traditional burger bun look.

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Make Vegetable Buns: As for hot dog buns, you could always wrap your frank with lettuce or a kale leaf, as we did above for burgers. Or, better yet, use zucchini, squash, or Chinese eggplant instead. Pick vegetables that are about hot-dog size in shape. Trim the bottom and top and then slice in half, lengthwise. Oil the flesh-side of the vegetable and then place on the grill, flesh-side down. Cook until the inside softens. about 15 to 20 minutes. Scoop out the soft flesh and save for future dips or hummus, and then fill with your low-so sausage (see note below). Or mix with some white beans or cooked, ground meat, and re-stuff the veggie buns. Top with condiments, put the two halves together, and enjoy as is. Or wrap in a sturdy lettuce leaf for extra crunch and hand-cleanliness.

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Use Cucumber Baguettes: For something really fresh and easy, simply hollow out the inside of long, English cucumbers. Then fill with your low-so hot dog and condiments. Bite in and enjoy the crunch.

Go Taco-Style: If veggie buns aren't your thing, throw small corn tortillas on the grill. Once charred and a bit crispy, wrap your low-so sausages or hot dogs inside the tortilla, top with condiments, fold together and enjoy.

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Note: As for the sausages or hotdogs themselves, yes, they contain a lot of sodium, too. Even when made with chicken, soy products, or vegetables. Often, one link will equal or exceed 400mg of sodium, depending on brand, which is almost 1/3 of the lower recommended limit of 1,500mg of sodium a day. So, for a low-so swap, either look for lower sodium options that fit within your dietary and health needs. Make your own low-sodium sausages. Or go totally veggie and try a meat-free squash dog this year.

For more low-sodium BBQ ideas, check out these Hot Tips for a Low-Sodium BBQ.