Hot dogs are one of those quintessentially American foods, one that no summer is complete without. But when it comes time to choose a hot dog for your cookout, it can sometimes be daunting to find the right one, especially if you’re looking for healthy options. We’ve done the work for you and tracked down the healthiest and unhealthiest hot dogs at the supermarket.
Hot dogs are a barbecue mainstay, and when compared with a cheese-covered burger or a juicy bratwurst, a normal-sized hot dog can actually contain fewer calories than anything else on the grill. But when you’re at the grocery store, keep in mind that not all hot dogs are created equal, and some pack far more fat, calories, and sodium into the casing than others.
If you’re looking for a healthy (or, let’s face it, less unhealthy) hot dog, there are a few things to keep in mind. One, use your eyes: the bigger a hot dog is, the unhealthier it will be. The words jumbo, stadium, and bun-length connote a larger-than-normal dog, and sometimes these can be nearly double the size of a standard dog. Also look out for sodium content; sometimes the lower-calorie turkey and chicken dogs are pumped full of extra salt in order to make them taste better, neutralizing any nutritional advantage.
So what to look for? Brands like Applegate Farms sell uncured hot dogs (also sometimes with “no added nitrates”), which are by default healthier than nitrate-filled dogs, which some experts have linked to cancer risk. Also be on the lookout for hot dogs that contain fewer than 375 milligrams of sodium, which is more than enough, and opt for organic hot dogs (which are made from organic meat, don’t contain antibiotics or hormones, and are nitrate-free), or if you want to go super-healthy, just opt for a veggie dog (but still look out for sodium).
Read on to learn what the healthiest and unhealthiest hot dog options at the supermarket are, categorized by composition into all-beef, turkey, veggie, low-fat, and mixed meat varieties.
Best: Applegate Farms Uncured
Fat: 8 grams
Sodium: 330 milligrams
This hot dog is also made with organic, grass-fed beef.
Fat: 16 grams
Sodium: 550 milligrams