Your Summer Guide to Choosing Healthier Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are synonymous with summer in America.

At the ballpark, on the beach and in our backyard, we consume over seven billion franks between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend every summer (that’s 818 each second, for those keeping track at home). While we love hot dogs, everybody knows they’re not doing our bodies any good. And while they probably won’t ever be the world’s healthiest food, you can make a healthier choice when it comes to the hot dogs you serve your friends and family.

Processed And Elimination

Most of us have heard of nitrates and know they’re bad for us, but few actually know what they are and why they should be avoided. Sodium nitrate is used to preserve the freshness, flavor and color of meat, but lab studies have shown that nitrates can negatively interact with proteins in the body and lead to cancer. In recent years, some big-name brands have introduced hot dogs that are “uncured” and without sodium nitrate, while others have removed it from their regular products.

The solution seems simple: get rid of the sodium nitrate and replace it with something plant-based. Unfortunately, that simple solution is more complicated than it seems. When hot dog makers forgo sodium nitrate, they replace it with celery juice. But celery is also high in nitrates and all-natural hot dog makers use as much celery juice as regular hot dog producers use sodium nitrate.

She’s Salty

While uncured hot dogs might not have nitrates, they still have sodium, AKA salt. Salt makes you retain water, which raises your blood pressure and strains your arteries, brain, heart and kidneys. Sure, hot dogs are a generally salty food, but there’s no denying that some are higher in sodium than others. So try to stick to the 400-500mg per link range when shopping for your next cookout.

Leaders of the Pack

Hot dog aficionados tout Applegate as the healthiest hot dog option. One Applegate Naturals Uncured Beef Hot Dog is 110 calories and has 9g of fat, 500mg of sodium. It has no sugar, is 98 percent entirely grass-fed beef and 2 percent a combination of sea salt, paprika, dehydrated onion, nutmeg oil, celery powder, mace and black pepper. Not a fan of all-beef? Go for the pork-beef option instead. Boar’s Head Skinless Pork & Beef Frankfurters are 150 calories each with 460mg, 14g of fat and 460 mg of sodium. If salt is a big concern, seek out Boar’s Head Lite Beef Frankfurters with just 270 mg of sodium, 90 calories and 6g of fat of per link.