Oh, you think hot dogs aren’t healthy? You don’t want to nosh on one of those scrumptious ballpark franks or state fair sausages or outdoor concert dogs? While the old rumors of where this boiled bologna came from not may be true, what is factual is that the hot dog game has really stepped up since we’ve all been trying to eat a little more mindfully.
Keri Gans, RDN, a New York City-based nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet, shares just how healthy this go-to summer barbecue favorite is and what we can do to make it even better for our bodies. One thing’s for sure: You don’t have to skip out on this all-American classic. With these tricks, you’ll be one step closer to consuming a healthier dog whether you’re sitting in the bleachers at a baseball game, in between coaster rides at the amusement park or soaking up some rays at the beach. Now that’s hot.
The nutrition breakdown
Moderation is key, obviously, but for those of us not entering a hot dog eating contest this summer, we don’t really have to worry about what’s in our links if we take a look at the label. “There’s nothing wrong with the occasional hot dog,” says Gans. “Many brands available today are made with 100 percent beef, with no fillers or nitrates.”
Your typical beef hot dog contains around 150 calories, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 450 milligrams of sodium and 6 grams of protein. So, while you might not want to down a dozen, just one won’t break your no-junk-food diet.
The grocery store refrigerator section is riddled with different types of dogs. Nope, this isn’t your all-American beef wiener anymore. You now have the hefty choice between turkey, chicken and even tofu for you veggie-loving folks. While these varieties typically have less calories and saturated fat than the original beef hot dog, sodium levels are just around the same number for any type of dog.
If you’re having a tough time deciding what to buy, turn over the package and read the label, says Gans. Look for 100 percent beef, chicken or turkey as the first ingredient, with water typically coming in second. Then, compare the saturated fat and sodium levels. In this case, lower is always better.
Top it off
Like the old saying goes: What you put on your hot dog says a lot about you. Alright, alright, so that isn’t really a thing, but you still have a lot to choose from when it comes to topping a frank. New York dogs keep it simple with sauerkraut and spicy mustard, Chicagoans go all out with tomatoes, pickles and peppers, and those from San Francisco take theirs BLT-style (yes, bacon-wrapped hot dogs are a real thing). But before you get too carried away at the topping cart, hear us out on what to say yay or nay to.
Sauerkraut is recommended, says Gans, because it’s a good source of gut-healthy probiotic. And while there’s nothing wrong with drizzling on a little ketchup, mustard, pickles and relish, these items will up your sodium content, so drink plenty of water before, during and after your feast. If you have the choice, look for a whole wheat bun to nestle your delicious dog and bountiful toppings into. And last note: Skip the cheese. Sorry to all you cheddar-lovers out there, but that yellow slice of creaminess only adds extra calories and fat. (Even though it is incredibly delicious.) “Try to stick to one serving,” Gans suggests, “but most of all, if you want to eat one this weekend, just enjoy it!”