As summer draws to a close, many of us are scrambling to get the most out of every cookout and barbecue before the chill of fall. Enter hot dogs, an admittedly delicious summer staple that isn’t so good for us. Filled with sodium, fat, and nitrates (which are linked to cancer), hot dogs don’t exactly have the best reputation.
But exactly how many hot dogs is too much? We spoke with nutritionists, and here’s what they had to say about hot dogs and some healthier alternatives.
How unhealthy are hot dogs, anyway?
The short answer, unfortunately, is that a traditional hot dog – think rough hot dog – is very unhealthy.
“Traditional stage dogs tend to be very high in sodium (over 500mg in a hot dog), which can contribute to high blood pressure,” explained Jenna Stanland, dietician and co-founder of A4 Health who is also the Minnesota Timberwolves’ team dietitian. “The quality of the meat can make a hot dog unhealthy, and often that’s because hot dogs aren’t 100% beef, chicken, or turkey – they’re processed meats and may contain what’s called MSM. .”
MSM is mechanically separated meat, Stangland explained, which means the hot dog is a combination of meat, veins, tendons and skin.
“Processed meats can also contain added nitrates which, when combined with protein, can form a compound that has been linked to certain cancers,” Strangland continued. “You want to look for a 100% meat (or veggie) hot dog that isn’t processed, salted, or with added fillers.”
Another unhealthy component of the hot dog is fat, she said. “Hot dogs can be high in saturated fat, and it’s a fat that may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
If you like hot dogs and you’re going to eat them anyway, how much is too much?
There’s no exact number, but try to think of a traditional hot dog as a “sometimes” food instead of an “everyday” food.
“I would say this is an occasional food that would fall into the once a month category, especially for people with high blood pressure or at increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Maggie Michalczyk, dietitian and blog founder Once upon a time there was a pumpkin.
Fortunately, there are a handful of healthier hot dog options that you can eat more frequently, but probably not every day.
“There are absolutely ways to look for a healthy dog and be able to enjoy a grill party,” Stangland said. “You want to look for an unsalted hot dog without nitrates, 100% beef (grass fed is even better), chicken, turkey or pork, and usually water listed as the next ingredient. You want to find a label with sodium content below 450 mg and saturated fat content as low as possible.
If you’re aiming for a hot dog within these parameters that incorporates healthy toppings, this is one way to enjoy hot dogs in moderation throughout the summer months. And while there are “healthier” hot dogs (or hot dog-like items), some of them are just as processed as traditional dogs – so be sure to choose wisely.
Which hot dog options are the least unhealthy?
The Healthiest and Least Healthy Hot Dogs
“For a choice of chicken sausages, Applegate makes great Organic Chicken Sausage or Thin n Trim Gourmet Chicken Sausage,” Stangland said. “Very lean choices and no processed meat, just 100% chicken.”
For a plant-based dog, Strangland recommended Jack and Annie’s Applejack Sausage, with whole ingredients, including jackfruit. Plus, they’re not too high in sodium and still deliver great flavor. Yves’ Tofu Dog is the lowest in sodium and is another good plant-based option if you like tofu.
If you’re thinking of ditching hot dogs altogether on a grill night, Strangland has suggested other great grill choices: chicken skewers, or chicken or turkey sausages.
“These are lean meats, so you get a lot less fat, more high-quality protein, and no fillers or preservatives,” Stangland says. “You can make a bun with a choice of alternative proteins like seafood – lobster roll or shrimp roll – or a vegetarian dog by simply stuffing the bun with beans, cabbage, onion and mustard. It would be another way to eliminate saturated fat while having a bun full of delicious food inside! »
Although you shouldn’t eat a traditional hot dog every day, having one once in a while is probably okay. And there are plenty of other great late summer options.