For the healthiest hot dogs, go natural
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, hot dogs are a cookout staple. So, if you’re in charge of the shopping, here’s what to keep in mind to pick franks that are reasonably healthy and tasty.
The biggest stumbling block is sodium. Several dogs on the market have over 600 mg — and that’s before the bun and condiments. Plus, know the terms on the package, as there’s a whole host of confusing ones. Here are key terms to learn, plus nutrition guidelines to use:
No nitrates or nitrites added
This means that synthetic nitrates or nitrites aren’t used to cure your hot dog, but instead natural nitrites, such as celery powder, are added.
When the label says “no byproducts” this signals that animal parts that Americans don’t typically eat, like kidney, liver and heart, are not present. Franks made with these parts must be labeled “with byproducts” or “with variety meats.”
Natural indicates no artificial ingredients, added color or synthetic preservatives and minimal processing. Curing uses synthetic nitrates; only uncured hot dogs are “natural.”
This signifies that non-meat ingredients that hold the hot dog together and improve texture, such as tapioca starch, cornstarch and maltodextrin, aren’t used.
Mechanically separated meat and poultry
When you see this term, it means the remaining meat from the bones of animals after the primary cuts are processed. This is only used in pork, turkey and chicken products (never beef).
The EatingWell Test Kitchen’s favorite franks include:
-Applegate Naturals Natural Stadium Uncured Beef and Pork Hot Dogs
-Wellshire Premium All Natural Uncured Beef Franks
-Thumann’s All Natural Chicken Franks
-Trader Joe’s All Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dogs
What to look for on the label
Use these nutrition parameters to choose a healthier hot dog: For regular hot dogs (about 50 g), look for those with 370 mg sodium or less, and 170 calories or less, per serving.
For jumbo hot dogs (serving size ≥75 g), aim for under 555 mg sodium and under 225 calories.
EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at eatingwell.com.
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