Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just What are Hot Dogs Made of? About Hot Dog Nutrition

A new billboard in Indianapolis compares hots dogs to cigarettes, so what are hot dogs made of? How many calories are in a hot dog? Are hot dogs really bad for you?

How Many Calories in a Hot Dog?

One part of this question is easy. A standard 57 gram hot dog has 188 calories.  Of course since it's usually served on a white bread bun, which has little nutrition and 110 calories, plus about 50+ calories in condiments, you're looking at about 350 calories in a hot dog.

Hot Dog Nutrition

The calories in a typical hot dog aren't really the problem as a typical hamburger is about 400 (This isn't counting supersizing anything, either the hot dog or the burger.) A hot dog's nutrition contains:

13 grams of fat, which is about 150 calories out of the whole
5 grams of protein
513 mg of sodium (you need less than 2300 grams of sodium a day, 1500 if you're a over age 51)

What are Hot Dogs Made of? Hot Dog Ingredients

The hot dog nutrition shows it's mostly fat and sodium but that probably isn't enough to convince most people that a hot dog isn't good for them. What are hot dogs other ingredients?

Contrary to rumors about hot dogs, they don't contain tails, hooves and snouts of pigs or meat that was thrown on the cutting room floor. You can get got dogs made of pork, chicken, turkey or all beef. Meat fat is added, plus cereal filler to bind it together, along with egg white and seasonings. This is put into a casing and precooked, packaged and sent out to stores.

The hot dog nutrition above doesn't sound so bad either, does it? However, it isn't the meat and other ingredients which make hot dogs bad for us but the preservatives, ingredients such as sodium lactate, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate and the nitrates and nitrites found in not only hot dogs, but any cured meat like bacon, ham, sausage and lunch meats. Some studies have found that there is a link between nitrates and cancer but other studies don't support that.

Nitrates, in fact, also occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. However, in the presence of protein, like meat, they are more likely to be converted into a harmful substance in the body. In the presence of Vitamin C, such as the case with fruits and veggies, they appear to be harmless.

More on the Health Risk of Nitrates

Are Hot Dogs Good for You?

The bottom line is that, unless you consume hot dogs, along with cold cuts every day, you probably aren't at an increased risk of developing cancer from eating hot dogs. However, as with anything, moderation is the key.

If you do choose to enjoy a hot dog now and then, make sure you also consume plenty of fruits and vegetables during the day. If you're pregnant, I'd suggest avoiding hot dogs altogether. Some studies have linked eating hot dogs during pregnancy to brain tumors in babies and why take the chance? Also, if you have kids, buy them the nitrate free hot dogs.

If you opt for "all natural hot dogs" be sure to read the label, as they may still contain the typical hot dog ingredients such assodium lactate, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbat.

The bottom line on what are hot dogs made of and are they good for you depends on what sort of health and diet decisions you make on a daily basis. In our family, we've cut out all cold cuts, hot dogs and bacon because of the ingredients and the fat content. We're trying to eat a more natural diet of organic meats, fruits and veggies and hot dog nutrition just doesn't fit in for us.

I realize that these days, many parents have trouble just putting food on the table at all and if the kids get hot dogs a couple times a week, at least they are eating. If this is you, just try and make sure you save a little room in the budget for fruits like apples or oranges and veggies like carrots and peas. Most kids will eat those as well. Just do the best you can, one small decision at a time.

Read about the Indianapolis billboard comparing hot dogs to cigarettes.

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