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Hot Dog or Hamburger: Which Is the Healthier Choice?

Here’s what you should know before you decide

Eating healthy at a barbecue isn’t easy. Who can resist the mayo-soaked glory of potato salad and deliciously fruity barbecue desserts? Even if you do manage to decline these tempting summer food favorites, you can’t say no to the main course. Hot dogs and hamburgers are being served, and you’ve got to pick one. But which one is healthier?

We asked registered dietitian Amy Margulies which option would be the least costly to your diet. She noted that there are a few aspects to consider.

If you’re worried about calories, a hot dog might be the smarter choice. “Hot dogs tend to be lower in calories overall,” Margulies told The Daily Meal. “At the worst, hot dogs are close to 200 calories, and your better options could be under 100 or around 120 calories. With hamburgers, you’re looking at at least 250 calories for a hamburger.”

Turkey burgers and veggie burgers could be lower in calories, she said, but even then it’s possible to go overboard with toppings.

“Your average beef burger could be about 300 calories, the bun is another 150 calories, plus a slice of cheese adds 80 calories,” she explained over the phone. “If you add mayo, that’s another 90 calories, and all of a sudden you’re almost at 620 calories for your hamburger. And that’s before all the sides.”

Margulies suggested skipping the bun or opting for either mayo or cheese — not both.

The thing with burgers (even turkey burgers) is that, unless you’re the one hosting, you don’t know how it was cooked.

“They could throw in extra fat, use the fattiest part of the meat,” she warned. “They could also go extremely lean — it ends up varying by hundreds of calories one way or the other.”

But there’s some mystery to consider with hot dogs, as well. Depending on the brand, a hot dog could contain sky-high levels of sodium. Plus, certain brands are more processed than others.

“They could throw any kind of additives in there,” Margulies said. “You don’t know what you’re getting.”

The best-case scenario is knowing the brand of the hot dog you consume — Margulies recommends Trader Joe’s or Applegate brands, and suggests opting for brands that contain 6 grams or fewer of saturated fat.

And if you do opt for the hamburger, there are some healthy additions you can make. Load up your burger with vegetables, she advised. Add grilled peppers, or load up your patty with lettuce, tomato, and onion. You could also chop up your burger and put it over a salad, she suggested.

hamburger salad

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At the end of the day, though, this one choice isn’t going to make a huge difference.

“If you’re at a barbecue, it’s a party, it’s not every day,” Margulies said. “Go ahead and choose the option you want.”

But if you’re hosting or cooking for the family, why not buy the brand that’s best for you? These are the healthiest and unhealthiest hot dogs you can buy.

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