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Healthier hot dog requires research

Published: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 1:08 p.m. CDT

We don’t often see the words “healthy” and “hot dog” in the same sentence. As a dietitian, hot dogs are not on my list of healthiest food options, but because they are associated with some of America’s favorite pastimes, I think it’s only fair to give them some attention. 

Reaching for the right brand in the grocery store can have a huge impact on the calorie, fat and sodium content of the finished product. Avoid the hot dogs labeled “jumbo”, “stadium” and “bun length” which can have double the calories. Read the nutrition facts label and look for a hot dog with 150 calories or less. Fat and sodium are also a problem with many hot dogs. It is difficult to avoid the sodium, but choosing a hot dog with less than 370 mg is best. As for fat, keeping the total fat content under 10 grams and the saturated fat less than 3 grams is a good guideline.

It may be in your best interest to choose hot dogs labeled “uncured” or “no added nitrates”. Sodium nitrates or nitrites are additives that help extend the shelf life of a product. They also may increase your cancer risk. If a hot dog is labeled “organic”, it was made from animals not given any antibiotics or hormones. Veggie hot dogs, which are soy-based, nitrate free, and low in fat are another option when purchasing hot dogs.

A few of the healthier hot dogs I have found in the store include Applegate Natural brand uncured which are low in calories, sodium and nitrate free. Hebrew National 97 percent fat-free beef franks are low in calories and fat, but slightly high in sodium. Jenny-O turkey franks are another healthier option. 

The hot dog section in the grocery store can be a little overwhelming, so give yourself a few minutes to study the nutrition labels and make your selection. 

After purchasing your hot dogs, get creative with toppings which can add flavor and nutrition. Healthy options include mustard, salsa, avocado, guacamole, hummus, red onion, and chopped cucumber. Pickle relish and sauerkraut add flavor and fiber, but are also quite high in sodium, so watch the amount added. Wrap it up in a whole-wheat bun and you’ve got yourself a healthier summer hot dog.

Healthier Summer Dog


1 cooked low-fat hot dog

1 whole-wheat bun

Toppings: Chopped cucumbers, salsa, mustard, chopped red onion, avocado slices and any other slivered or chopped vegetables. 

Assemble hot dog in bun with toppings and enjoy.

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