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In Pursuit of the Healthy Hot Dog

In the 2013 hot dog season (Memorial Day to Labor Day) Americans will consume about 7 billion hot dogs, 150 million of which were eaten on July 4th alone. In all those frankfurters, is it possible to find a healthy one?

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When this article was first proposed to me I grimaced. A healthy hot dog, that tastes good – not possible. Moreover, who cares? When it comes to this most American of foods, I am a purist. I want that salty, snappy flavor and I don’t give a hoot about the ingredients – laws and sausage, and all that. Then I started to think about it. Because I am very health conscious and strict about my nutrition, it is a rare day that I indulge in this stalwart of the summer barbecue. But what if there were a healthy hot dog that could really cut the mustard when it comes to taste? I could enjoy them more often. Of course then I would have to find a healthy bun. Okay, one thing at a time.

I did a little research and narrowed my possibilities down to a manageable number and, because I am so dedicated to my craft, I decided that I must, in good conscience, personally judge the taste of each and every hot dog brand in my study. No sacrifice is too great. At first my wife seemed a little perturbed at seeing eight opened packages with seven dogs left in each. But, being a supportive partner, she just sighed, shook her head and left the room. The family dog, always loyal, stood ready to assist.

In the interest of brevity and my editor’s tearful pleas, I limited my search to beef franks only and will present my top three choices. My parameters for evaluation were: calories, total fat, sodium, gluten-free, and reduced additives. And the winners are, in no particular order:

  • Applegate Farms Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dogs (110 cal., 8g fat, 330mg sodium) All my research pointed to this frank as a prime contender and it did not disappoint. Enough of that fatty, salty flavor that makes a dog worth eating. Gluten-free, no antibiotics/hormones, no added nitrates/nitrites.
  • Boar’s Head Lite Skinless Beef Frankfurter (90 cal., 6g fat, 270mg sodium) This was a pretty good hot dog. A little bit more like bologna in taste and mouth-feel, but it held up well to a good, brown mustard. Gluten-free, no added milk products.
  • Trader Joe’s All-Natural Uncured All Beef Hot Dogs (190 cal., 16g fat, 460mg sodium) After reading the nutrition facts you may be wondering why this hot dog made the cut. Two reasons: it has no added nitrates/nitrites, gluten, fillers, preservatives, MSG, hormones or antibiotics; and, it tasted better than all of the others.

Even healthy frankfurters should be enjoyed in moderation; after all, they are still hot dogs. But, any of these three should satisfy your hot dog “jones” without making a significant dent in your diet or blood pressure. Now that you know which hot dogs to eat this summer, scroll down for some pointers on hot dog etiquette and test your hot dog IQ.

Hot Dog Etiquette, Do…

  • Serve with sesame seed, poppy seed or plain buns. Flavored buns are a hot dog taboo.
  • Eat hot dogs in buns with your hands. No utensils allowed.
  • Serve on paper plates, if possible. China is a no-no.
  • Lick condiments off of your fingers. No washing hands.

Hot Dog Etiquette, Don’t…

  • Put toppings between bun and hot dog. Always dress the dog.
  • Take more than 5 bites to finish a hot dog. 7 for foot-longs.
  • Leave bits of bun on the plate. Eat it all.
  • Put ketchup on your hot dog over the age of 18.

Hot Dog Trivia Quiz

  1. This famous cartoon character’s first words were “hot dogs”: a. Superman b. Dora the Explorer c. Johnny Quest d. Mickey Mouse
  2. This famous sex symbol’s favorite meal was hot dogs and champagne: a. Cary Grant b. Marlene Dietrich c. Marilyn Monroe d. Carrot Top
  3. This U.S. President served hot dogs to the King of England: a. Richard Nixon b. George W. Bush c. Franklin D. Roosevelt d. John Adams
  4. Americans eat this many hot dogs per year: a. 10 billion b. 1 trillion c. 30 billion d. 16 billion
  5. This man hold the hot dog eating record, consuming 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes: a. Joey Chestnut b. Paulie Walnuts c. Jimmy Bag ‘a Donuts d. Nutsy Fagin
  6. This famous movie character uttered the phrase, “Nobody, I mean nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog.” a. Rooster Cogburn b. Buzz Lightyear c. Dirty Harry d. Obi Wan Kenobi

Answers: d,b,c,d,a,c, How to Choose the Best Hot Dogs (And What To Avoid), Matthew Thompson, Retrieved June 27, 2013, Eating Well, 2011., Buyer’s Guide To Healthier Hot Dogs, Sarah Hoff, Retrieved June 27, 2013, Eating Well, 2011., Hot Dog Etiquette, Retrieved July 2, 2013, American Meat Institute, 2013., Food Facts & Trivia: Hot Dogs, Retrieved July 1, 2013., Little Known Facts About Hot Dogs, Kassidy Emmerson, Retrieved July 1, 2013,, 2007.

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