I am a personal fan of hot dogs, but I know how unhealthy they can be. I see parents every day feeding their children hot dogs because they don’t have time to cook or their child tends to be a picky eater. Each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans consume 7 billion hot dogs (that’s 818 every second!), according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. One-third of all U.S. children are overweight or obese, according to the TeensHealth web page. The main cause is overeating, with little regard to the actual nutrition offered by the food. Changing eating habits is not easily done, but minor changes in the type of food consumed can quickly reduce the amount of calorie intake each day. Eliminating the worst foods is one way to improve kids’ nutrition.
A hot dog slathered with ketchup may be your idea of a tasty meal for your kiddo, but there are very few benefits to eating this food on a regular basis. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service reports that hot dogs can be made from beef, pork, turkey, chicken or a combination of these types of meat. The meat on its own supplies some vitamins and minerals, but the other ingredients put into hot dogs cause this food to be mostly detrimental to your health and to your diet.
One of the only redeeming qualities of any type of hot dog is that they supply protein. MayoClinic.com reports that protein is important for growth and development, and also supplies energy. Between 10 and 35 percent of your daily calories should come from protein foods, and a hot dog can help you reach that recommendation. According to Livestrong.com, “A beef hot dog contains 6 g of protein, a turkey dog has 5.5 grams, a chicken hot dog supplies almost 7 grams. A pork hot dog has the most protein with 9.74 grams.”
Other positives of hot dogs? IRON
Another positive effect of eating hot dogs is that you will consume a small amount of iron. Including iron in your diet helps boost your immunity, and also enables your body to circulate sufficient amounts of oxygen.
When thinking about feeding your children hot dogs often because it can be easy after a busy day or even just a “picky-eater child” – keep in mind that the amount of fat in most hot dogs works to cancel out the positive benefits of the protein and iron by making your meal too high in saturated fat. MayoClinic.com reports that eating large amounts of saturated fat may cause you to be at an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to Livestrong.com, “A pork hot dog has the most saturated fat with 6.6 g per dog. A beef hot dog has 5.9 g and a low-fat hot dog still contains 2.1 grams. Turkey dogs have 1.8 g of saturated fat and chicken hot dogs contain 1.7 grams.”
Hot dogs are high in fat and sodium and loaded with preservatives such as nitrates. The average dog has 464 calories with 32 percent of the daily fat, 15 percent of the cholesterol and 44 percent of the recommended daily sodium. This is balanced against the positive nutritional facts of 16 grams of protein and 8 percent of the daily dietary fiber. There are better alternatives for protein and fiber.
A hot dog can contain between one-quarter and one-third of the 2,300 mg of sodium you need for an entire day.
Most hot dogs contain nitrates and nitrites, which are additives that help preserve the shelf life and achieve their pink color. According to Livestrong.com, “If your favorite dog contains either nitrates or nitrites you should know that they have been linked to cancer, particularly childhood cancer.” The Cancer Prevention Coalition notes that children who eat 12 or more hot dogs a month have a nine times higher risk of developing leukemia. Some brands of hot dogs do not contain nitrates and nitrites and they are better options for your health.