The Best and Worst Supermarket Hot Dogs, Rated by Nutritionists

OK, so hot dogs aren’t the healthiest food in the world, but admit it: if they weren’t on the summer barbeque menu, it would be like losing a friend.

Fortunately, with an increasing number of healthier hot dogs hitting supermarket shelves, it has become possible to indulge and still be easy on your body. You just need to know what to look for.

First things first: “Avoid traditional or stadium-labeled hot dogs”, Nicole Avena, a nutrition consultant in New York, told HuffPost. “They are generally the highest in sodium and contain the most additives and preservatives.”

All processed meats are a health risk – they have been linked to certain cancers such as colorectal cancer, because of the way they are preserved. But there are some types of meat that are less risky than the standard beef hot dog, Avena said. Look for a label that says whole meat, turkey or chicken, rather than processed and mechanically separated meats.

Another important factor is the sodium content. “Choose hot dogs that have less than 400 mg (or less than 20% of the Daily Value) of sodium per serving,” said Gretchen Zimmermann, senior director of cardiometabolic care for Life Health. (O Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day.)

Other indications of a high quality hot dog are if they are uncured and free of nitrate and nitrite, and have minimal ingredients. “Overall, uncured chicken or turkey hot dogs would be a better option because they are generally lower in saturated fat and less processed than beef,” Avena said.

But even if the label says “uncured,” “no added nitrates,” or “all natural,” that doesn’t mean these options are necessarily healthier. Natural preservatives like celery powder and celery salt may sound better, but there are no evidence they’re safer, so it’s still best to minimize your intake.

The same goes for vegetarian dogs: choose dogs with minimally processed ingredients, such as tofu, rather than highly processed soy protein concentrate or isolate.

“An occasional processed vegetarian dog is unlikely to be harmful, but these soy ingredients have not been well studied, so there are still some concerns about their effects. safety,” said Samantha Cassettenutrition expert and co-author of “Sugar Shock”.

To save you time scanning nutrition labels, here are the healthiest and least healthy store-bought hot dogs, according to nutritionists.

Organic Valley

A Healthy Beef Option: Valley Organic Hot Dog 100% Uncured Beef

“Organic Valley’s hot dogs have healthy ingredients like grass-fed organic beef, organic spices, garlic and onion powder (although celery powder is used as a preservative),” Zimmermann said.

Because they are not cured, this makes them your best bet for avoiding large amounts of carcinogens – and compared to traditional dogs, they are lower in calories, sodium and saturated fat.

natural apple

A Healthy Beef Option: Applegate Naturals Do Good Dog Uncured Beef Hot Dogs

Applegate Naturals Do Good Dogs are made with regeneratively sourced meat that is 100% grass-fed. They use just four simple ingredients: meat, water, salt and spices.

“You are what you eat, and a healthier diet for the animal you are consuming means a healthier diet for you too,” said Marissa Meshulam, a registered dietitian in New York.


An Unhealthy Beef Option to Avoid: Ball Park Brand Prime Uncured Beef Franks

Even though the package says “not cured,” all it takes is a look at the nutritional facts to know that these hot dogs are not the best choice.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting calories from saturated fat to less than 10% of total calories per day to promote heart health. “A 2,000-calorie diet would equate to less than 20g of saturated fat per day,” Zimmermann said. “Ball Park Prime Uncured Beef Franks provides nearly half that amount in one serving.”

Even before bread, ketchup, and other savory condiments and accessories, these hot dogs contain 710mg of sodium in one serving, plus 230 calories, 20g of fat, 9g of saturated fat, 2g of carbs, and 9g of protein. Bottom row: Ew.

natural apple

A Healthy Pork Blend: Applegate Naturals Natural Stadium Beef and Pork Hot Dogs

“Applegate Naturals uses antibiotic-free beef and pork to make this without preservatives — just natural spices and herbs,” said Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian in New York. Sausages contain no fillers and no added nitrates or nitrites (except those naturally occurring in sea salt and celery powder).

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A Healthy Pork Blend: Seemore La Dolce Beet-a Pork Sausages

The pork used to make these sausages is animal welfare certified and the dogs themselves are minimally processed. “In addition, the brand adds fresh beets, garlic and fennel, which further increases the nutrient content,” Meshulam said.

There are no preservatives or phosphates, and the only nitrates or nitrites are those naturally occurring in cultivated celery powder and sea salt.


An Unhealthy Pork Mix To Avoid: Kayem Beef & Pork Hot Dogs

These dogs contain a lot of fat and sodium, as well as corn syrup and dextrose (two types of added sugar), mysterious scents, and preservatives. “This could indicate that the company uses pork by-products to produce its product, not lean pork or beef,” Avena said.

Organic Valley

A Healthy Turkey Option: Organic Uncured Turkey Hot Dogs from the Valley

These turkey hot dogs are made with meat from animals that were humanely raised, and the hot dogs are free of potentially harmful fillers and salt sources like sodium nitrates and nitrites, Zimmermann said. They also contain 20% less sodium than the leading organic brand.

natural apple

A healthy turkey option: Applegate Natural Uncured Turkey Hot Dog

Applegate Farms turkey dogs are as clean as they can get – the turkey is organic and humanely raised without antibiotics, and the hot dogs themselves contain no fillers or preservatives. “They simply contain organic turkey and organic spices and herbs,” Shapiro said. “They are a lean and light option, coming in at 70 calories each with less than 4g of fat.”


An unhealthy turkey option to avoid: Ball Park Brand White Meat Smoked Turkey Franks

Ball Park’s turkey sausages contain mechanically separated turkey, which, “to put it simply, means the meat doesn’t come from a lot of the turkey,” Meshulam said. “Most likely it’s ground bone paste.” They are also loaded with sodium, at nearly 600mg per dog. (“That’s more than I recommend in a full frozen meal,” Shapiro said.)

Applegate Organics

A healthy chicken option: Applegate Organics Great Organic Uncured Chicken Hot Dog

“This is an excellent choice for a hot dog with just a handful of ingredients, including organic chicken, water, sea salt and spices,” said Zimmermann. “There are also no artificial or natural sources of nitrate or nitrite like celery powder, making it one of the best hot dog options for grilling in the summer.”

from Bilinski

A Healthy Chicken Option: Bilinski’s Mild Chili Chicken Italian Sausage

Bilinski’s line of chicken sausages is another excellent choice for summer grilling. “Not only are they made with organic chicken breast, water and spices, but they are also very lean,” Meshulam said. The brand’s mild Italian option has just 2.5g of fat per dog (0.5g of that saturated fat) and 13g of protein.


An Unhealthy Chicken Option to Avoid: Gwaltney Original Chicken Hot Dogs

Although Gwaltney’s chicken dogs have less fat, they contain mechanically separated chicken, which means “you’re not just eating chicken meat, you’re also eating tendons, veins and skin,” Shapiro said. In addition to various sources of sodium in the ingredients, this hot dog uses “natural” flavors, which may contain unknown chemicals added during the manufacturing process.

“The word ‘natural’ is not regulated by the FDA and can mislead consumers,” Zimmermann said. “Overall, the high sodium content and long list of ultra-processed ingredients make this chicken dog a no-go option.”

Upton Naturals

A healthy vegetarian option: Upton Naturals Updog Vegan Hot Dog

This vegan hot dog alternative has a meat-like texture. “It contains 19 grams of vital wheat gluten protein or seitan (the main protein in wheat),” Avena said. “The limited ingredients and preservatives make it a great meatless hot dog option.”

Jack & Annie’s

A Healthy Vegetarian Option: Jack & Annie’s Jackfruit Sausages

A lot of “non-dogs” out there contain dubious ingredients (like soy protein isolate), inflammatory oils (canola), and lots of stabilizers and additives to make them flavorful. “While they are 100% better for the environment, they are still heavily processed products and may not be much better for your health,” Meshulam said.

Instead, opt for a plant-based protein (like tofu, beans, or legumes). Jack & Annie’s Jackfruit Sausages, for example, is made from jackfruit – a plant that eats like its favorite meat – and prepared with natural seasonings.

light life

An Unhealthy Vegetarian Option to Avoid: Lightlife Smart Dogs

To make these meatless dogs taste like meat, Lightlife uses a lot of processed ingredients, including soy protein isolate, “a very processed and broken down form.” [of] soy that I tell my customers to avoid,” Shapiro said. “They also use three different sweeteners, soybean and canola oil, guar gum and xanthus gum — so many ingredients that cause inflammation in the body.”

What if your favorite hot dog is one of the “unhealthy” options listed above?

If any of your favorite dogs made the “drive clear” list, that doesn’t mean you have to ditch them. “Going to barbecues and eating less healthy foods is part of a joy-filled life,” Cassetty said.

Her advice? If you think no family barbecue is complete without a Ball Park fringe on hand, then grab one and enjoy. Just don’t make hot dogs a lifestyle.

“The occasional hot dog at a barbecue when you’re eating a mostly healthy diet isn’t going to destroy your health,” Cassetty said. “So choose what you like and be mindful of your diet as a whole.”

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