18 answers

The Truth About Hot Dogs!!!

Hi Moms. My son will be 4 in December, and his food choices are mainly chicken and steak, rice... I never gave him hot dogs, because we don't normally make them or eat them at home. This summer we grilled hot dogs and he tried one , and he just loved it. He's eaten it a few times since, basically if I make it he'll eat it and asks for it in between but I try not to make them too much. I get the Hebrew National, which is supposed to be all beef and everything good. I am concerned since I really don't know enough about hot dogs. Are they good or bad? Are they considered nutritional or just horrible? Are there brands that are better than others, and if so is the taste the same? I am trying to decide if this item should become a once a week lunch item for him. Thank you

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you everyone. I think I will stay off the once a week idea for now, and limit it to summer time food only. It's important to me what he eats, but its also difficult since he is a picky eater. I do get mostly organic foods, specially meats and I would hate to give him anything that could potentially be bad or bring on illness later in life. I'm pretty concious with his intake, though he gets some junk food like cookies and fruit snacks, he mainly eats pretty simple and nothing fried. I guess his pickiness has worked for me so far, since he doesn't even like french fries, nuggets, and even hamburgers. He eats a lot of the same foods all the time, and he is starting to get tired of them, I can tell. He's not big on veggies but loves fruits, so I try to compensate that way. I have told him that once he turns 4, he has to start trying some new foods including vegtables since he is going to be such a big boy, and he's been very receptive to that, and likes to talk about the experiences he will be open to once he turnes 4, but not just yet. Well, thank you all again for your advice, specially the article was very helpful in realizing even the uncured dogs are not that great. I think I will stick to summer time and once in a blue moon for this one...

Featured Answers

Unfortunately, my son tends to favor hot dogs too, and my son is the pickiest of eaters, so basically I have to give him whatever he will eat. Hot dogs tend to be filled with lots of unpleasant stuff, from nitrates/nitrites to meat fillers, etc. I've tried giving him organic hot dogs, but he wouldn't eat them. I would love to hear if anyone knows which mainstream brands are "healthier" than others!

1 mom found this helpful

If he likes them and had no bad reaction, and you give him veggies on the side then 1 meal a week should be fine. My girl loves them too but I alternate with tofu hot dogs (w eggs for b'fast). I buy brand Tofu Pups or Smart Dogs. She tastes the difference but likes these as well as beef hot dogs.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

If he likes them and had no bad reaction, and you give him veggies on the side then 1 meal a week should be fine. My girl loves them too but I alternate with tofu hot dogs (w eggs for b'fast). I buy brand Tofu Pups or Smart Dogs. She tastes the difference but likes these as well as beef hot dogs.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

i buy the turkey hot dogs, i think they are Oscar Meyer brand. they have less fat and calories than the beef ones.

1 mom found this helpful

Most hot dogs, inclusing Hebrew National, are very unhealthy because of the sodium nitrite (which is also in bacon and most lunch meat). There is a proven link between consumption and cancer. There are hot dogs that are uncured like Applegate Farms. You can find them at Whole Foods and some grocery stores. They aren't health food but the truth is we all need quick, yummy foods our kids will eat. It is the only kind of hotdog (or lunch meat) that we will buy for the house. I don't go nuts if my kids have a regular hot dog out but I would never add a traditional (Hebrew National, Ballpark, Oscar Meyer) hotdog to my kids doet every week.

1 mom found this helpful

I have always disliked hot dogs...but then yes, my mom feeds it to them and they've wanted them...

I don't go nuts, but I do get the nitrate-free beef dogs as well as turkey dogs and even the vegetarian hot dogs (my kids LOVE those, believe it or not!). Did you try offering sausage as well as an alternative?

Kids just love to dip it in ketchup, mustard, etc...so yes, my kids like french fries, chicken nuggets, etc...
So, if you do get another kind of dog, dipping it in something may "mask" the flavor...

I also try to offer balance as well - so some junk is okay as long as you make sure they eat healthy stuff...

1 mom found this helpful

Unfortunately, my son tends to favor hot dogs too, and my son is the pickiest of eaters, so basically I have to give him whatever he will eat. Hot dogs tend to be filled with lots of unpleasant stuff, from nitrates/nitrites to meat fillers, etc. I've tried giving him organic hot dogs, but he wouldn't eat them. I would love to hear if anyone knows which mainstream brands are "healthier" than others!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi P.,
Hebrew National may be better than some other types of hot dogs, but hot dogs are still full of fat, salt, nitrates. They are an occasional treat. I don't know exactly how the nutritional content of something like a turkey dog compares other than being less fatty, but you might want to check that out. Hot dogs aren't a healthy protein. I remember when my daughter was 3 and didn't like meat other than chicken nuggets or hot dogs and the pediatrician we used at the time said he'd rather she eat no meat at all than eat hot dogs.

1 mom found this helpful

When my children were small, they had hotdogs more often but now it is very rare and they are in their teens.

I limit hotdog consumption to once every other month or every two months. It's like nostaglia food. We spend time reminiscing on when they were little and ate franks and beans on the patio and played with the neighborhood children running through the sprinklers in the back yard.

It's great to have memory foods and your staples too. Hotdogs just isn't one of my staples. As a working mom, I find recipies for 30 minute or less meals the best.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi P.,
My advice to you is to limit hot dogs as much as possible. There is not one health benifit in eating a HD. My kids are 16 and 13 and HD's were a part of their growing up. However, had I known what I know now, they would have been avoided at all costs. Just do a little research...try google...to find anything "good" about a hot dog. Fruits and veggies and very little amounts of animal products. I have spent hours researching different healthy ways to eat, and it all boyles down to fruits and veggies. It is so hard in our society to know what is best...there is so many unhealthy foods out there that "taste good" so we add them to our diet because they taste good... what I have learned is that foods that come from natural places, i.e. foods that come from the ground, are the foods our bodies need. If you have some free time, try to get on the internet to do some of your own research. You will be surprised about what you find. Good luck...

1 mom found this helpful

Hot dogs contain nitrites/nitrates that causes cancer. Here's an excerpt I found on the web.

"There is substantial evidence on the risks of childhood cancer from the consumption of meats containing nitrites. (11,12,13) In 1982, Preston-Martin, et al. found that consumption during pregnancy of meats cured with sodium nitrite has been associated with development of brain tumors in the offspring. (14)

Recent case-control studies have confirmed the risks of cancer from consumption of hot dogs. Eating many hot dogs by children, as well maternal hot dog consumption during pregnancy, has been shown to be associated with brain cancer and leukemia in children. (15,16,17)"

1 mom found this helpful

Hi! My son has severe food allergies and hot dogs have been one of his staple foods for awhile (he is 7 now). From all the ingredient inspecting I do for the allergens, Hebrew National seems to me to be the best and purest brand out there. If eaten in moderation, as part of a healthy balanced meal, IMO there is nothing wrong with giving children hot dogs if you are watching portion control and balancing it out. It truly seems to be one of the childhood "staple" foods along with chicken nuggets and pizza. I serve my son a hot dog with a cup of fruit, or applesauce sometimes we make it 2 fruits or 2 veggies to balance out the meal. HTH!

1 mom found this helpful

I don't like hot dogs given what the previous poster said about the link to childhood cancers - I have read they AICR studies and it is scary. If you must give them, please give uncured organic hot dogs as they should be nitrite free or close to nitrate free as possible. And limit consumption.

1 mom found this helpful

Eating hot dogs is part of being an American kid!! Just don't let it be a staple in his diet... a once per week treat is fine, especially if you get the all natural ones. Some brands make all natural hot dogs which are sulfite and nitrate free (which is what really makes them so bad for you). These are just as tasty as the regular ones.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi P.,

While I wouldn't call hot dogs "health food" by any means, no, they are not bad to have once in awhile, even once a week. What I do, though, is give my 4-year-old daughter the uncured, nitrate-free ones, as the nitrates are the unhealthiest part. Trader Joes sells them, and I recently saw them in my local Stop & Shop. The label must read "uncured", or "nitrate-free", however. Then you can give hot dogs to your son with no worries.

1 mom found this helpful

HDs are not healthy. everybody knows this. that said, all kids eat them. my kids aren't wild about HDs but there are days when i am out of options for lunch so i make the HDs. I buy the same brand. hebrew national. if i were to guess, my kids get HDs about twice a month.

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An Article from consumer reports 7-07

Hot dogs
Without (too much) guilt

hot dogs
DOG DAYS OF SUMMER In our tests, full-fat beef franks tasted best, but several light alternatives also pleased the palate.
Whether sizzled on the barbecue or scarfed down at the ball game, hot dogs are so popular that it seems almost unpatriotic to point out that they’re essentially tidy little bundles of sodium, additives, and fat. Going light can help, but don’t think you have to buy “uncured” or poultry dogs. Our tests found that they weren’t necessarily better than regular franks.

We did find good choices when we cooked some 620 full-fat and lower-fat hot dogs from 23 well-known brands and leading retailers on a concession stand-style grill with rollers. Several of the light dogs tasted nearly as good as their full-fat cousins and were considerably lower in fat and sodium (see Ratings). One of those, Ball Park Lite Franks, was among the lowest priced.

Though no hot dog in our tests was excellent, the best-tasting ones were the full-fat beef varieties. The nutritionists we consulted refused to put them in the “never, never eat” category. Instead, they say that a sound diet can reasonably include any type of food, in moderation. So if you just occasionally indulge (say, a few times each summer), you don’t have to fret about savoring a regular frank and you can simply buy the ones that taste best. But if you or your children eat hot dogs frequently, it might be wise to choose a lower-fat
variety and add condiments for flavor.

Consumer Reports Video
Healthier Hot Dogs
The dogs we tested ranged in size, which could affect a head-to-head comparison of their nutritional value. However, when we compared the dogs on an equal weight basis, the lighter models still had less fat. Moreover, with few exceptions, franks within the same brand were the same size, which would still make picking the lighter version of a favorite hot dog a smart choice.


If you thought you were doing the right thing by selecting chicken or turkey franks or uncured dogs with no added nitrates, think again. Our tests found they did not all deserve a health halo. While three of the four regular poultry dogs we rated had 30 to 80 fewer calories than the average of beef and mixed meat dogs, the other poultry frank had as many calories as beef. And most had plenty of fat and sodium. While the three uncured franks might boast of “no added nitrates,” our testing found that Applegate Farms, Coleman Natural, and Whole Ranch contained nitrates and nitrites at levels comparable to many of the cured models.

The vegetarian crowd will find it harder to fill their buns. Our tasters screened four popular soy dogs to see whether there were at least two that could be included in a separate taste test. But the dogs were so off the mark (“they seemed to just mimic real food,” said one tester) that even a vegetarian might find them hard to swallow. Morning Star Farms Veggie Dogs was the best of the lot, but the kindest words our testers could find for them was that if you smother them with your favorite condiments, they might be OK.


Long considered a “mystery meat,” hot dogs were thought to contain all kinds of horrors. Today, according to Department of Agriculture standards, they’re made of beef, pork, poultry, or a blend of all of those, which can contain no more than 30 percent fat, plus water used to cool the meat as it is ground, binders such as nonfat dry milk or cereal, salt, sweeteners, and seasonings.

Hot dogs may also contain sodium nitrite and nitrate, preservatives that give franks their characteristic flavor and color, ward off spoilage and rancidity, and help prevent botulism. Those compounds, which occur naturally in some foods, spices and water, have raised health concerns because they have the potential to form nitrosamines, chemicals found to cause cancer in lab animals. Research also suggests that a steady diet of cured meats might increase the risk of certain cancers and serious lung disease in people.

Our analysis found that the nitrates and nitrites in all the hot dogs we tested were well below the maximum level for the additives established by the USDA. While a hot dog can be labeled uncured if no nitrates or nitrites have been added, that does not necessarily mean the product is free of them. The three uncured models we tested contained nitrites and nitrates because the compounds occur naturally in spices and other natural ingredients added during processing.

Manufacturers are permitted to process franks using machinery that scrapes meat from the bone. That brings a remote possibility that hot dogs might include central nervous system tissue, which has been recognized by the USDA as a transmission risk for mad cow disease if it comes from an infected animal. We sent 15 beef franks to an outside lab to test for the presence of the tissue. None was found to contain it.

Dogging your health

While additives and central nervous system tissue pose theoretical health risks, the frequent consumption of hot dogs can have more concrete consequences for your arteries.

Franks can contain so much fat that even some light versions can have significantly more fat than other meats. Alas, the two fat-free models we tested, Ball Park Bun Size Smoked White Turkey Franks and Ball Park Fat Free Beef Franks, had little meat flavor, as well as a spongy or rubbery texture, pushing them toward the bottom of our Ratings.

Some lower-fat franks, including Jennie-O Turkey Store Turkey Franks, had around 5 grams of fat, but experts recommend against making even those a dietary staple. You simply won’t get as much bang for your buck nutritionally from them as you would from a leaner meat or chicken, explains Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Hot dogs are not the best source of protein (though most Americans get much more of the nutrient than they need). Three ounces of frankfurters have about 10 grams of protein, while 3 ounces of lean beef, turkey, chicken, or salmon have about 20 or more grams of protein.

With a sodium range of 300 to 760 mg per frank in the models we tested, just one serving of any of them could contribute a hefty chunk to your daily sodium intake. The average American already consumes far more than the recommended maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium a day. And while occasionally exceeding that limit might not be harmful for everyone, studies have shown that high sodium intake can raise blood pressure in susceptible people and exacerbate certain conditions, such as asthma.

So it’s best to avoid making hot dogs a steady part of the diet, even for children.

How to choose

If you want to cut the fat. Because the two fat-free dogs ranked only fair for taste, those concerned about calories and fat should consider one of the lower-fat franks: Hebrew National Kosher Reduced Fat Beef Franks, Boar’s Head Lite Skinless Beef Franks, Oscar Mayer Light Beef Franks, and Ball Park Lite Franks.

If you’re going for taste. All seven of our “very good” dogs were beef and three models stood out from the others: Hebrew National Kosher Franks, Nathan’s Famous Skinless Franks, and Boar’s Head Skinless Franks. Regular and light mixed meats and poultry franks fell largely in the good category; take your pick from those higher in this ranking.

If kosher is a must. Try Hebrew National Reduced Fat Franks. They had fewer calories and less fat than regular Hebrew National, and 60 mg less sodium per serving.

I feed my son Nature's Promise all natural Beef hot dogs. Here is the label from it.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 link (56 g)
Amount per Serving

* Calories 170 Calories from Fat 120

% Daily Value *

* Total Fat 14g 22%
* Saturated Fat 6g 30%
* Trans Fat 0g
* Cholesterol 35mg 12%
* Sodium 320mg 13%
* Total Carbohydrate 1g 0%
* Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
* Sugars 1g
* Protein 6g 12%

* Vitamin A0%
* Vitamin C0%
* Calcium0%
* Iron25%

Est. Percent of Calories from:
Fat 74.1% Carbs 2.4%
Protein 14.1%

1 mom found this helpful

Hi P.,
I know you've made your decision about hot dogs, but I saw in your response that you were going to start introducing more veggies, and thought I'd add some strategies that might help.

What my mom did for us was insist we "eat our age". Four peas/broc florets/green beans, etc. for a 4 year old, five at five and so on. At my grandmother's house, we had to have a "no thank you helping" (a small spoonfull of whatever the scary food was). I do try the eat your age thing for my daughter, now 6, but mostly i cook her veggies she likes (broccoli, peas, green beans), for other things, I'm happy if she'll have a taste.

We did go through a hot dog phase for awhile (Hebrew National Reduced Fat), but she's decided she doesn't like hot dogs anymore, so it's not an issue - she would eat pepperoni every day of the week if we let her, but i leave that for special occasions.

Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful

hot dogs are usually preserved with nitrates...you made a good choice with Hebrew National because they are all beef (not fillers) and preserved with salt instead of nitrates...too much sodium is also not healthy, but better than nitrates

1 mom found this helpful

There is a brand called Applegate Farms and they are nitrate free- They are pricey (just paid $6.50 at Wegmans for 8 hotdogs) but I think well worth it. They are the only hot dogs I'll give my daughter (and the only one's I'll eat now!). Even the turkey dogs have nitrates...as does most lunch meat unless it specifies that it is nitrate free...

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