Healthy Hot Dogs

Tasty, better-for-you alternatives to this kid-favorite

Hot dogs aren't exactly the healthiest of foods, but somehow they've managed to cement themselves as a family favorite. From dinner tables to barbecues, it's likely that you'll always find hot dogs there in some shape or form.

Unfortunately, hot dogs are loaded with nitrates -- chemical compounds that are linked to causing some cancers. The meats tend to be on the low end quality-wise, and they have lots of preservatives. On average, a single hot dog contains about 14 grams of fat and anywhere between 400 to 500 milligrams of sodium (which is about 20 percent of the daily recommendation). Not something you necessarily want your preschooler ingesting on a regular basis (or even a not-so-regular basis).  

Still, even with you knowing all that, it could be hard to convince your little one that hot dogs aren't a delicious meal choice. So instead of serving the not-so-great option, or barring them from your table altogether, try serving up healthy hot dog options, dogs that taste good and are something you can feel good about. We had a preschooler (a four-year-old boy) taste-test (served on different days, plain with no condiments) a half-dozen of these better-for-you options and share his honest opinion -- see if your little one agrees!

Special note: Hot dogs, even healthy ones, are a choking hazard for children under age four. Never give a small child a whole hot dog. Cut it up into bite-sized pieces instead. 

Applegate Natural Beef and Pork Hot Dog

Applegate Natural Beef and Pork Hot Dog
Applegate Natural Beef and Pork Hot Dog. Applegate Farms

What it is: All-natural; dairy-, casein-, and gluten-free; these hot dogs from Applegate Farms are made with beef and pork that has been humanely raised. Other ingredients include paprika, sea salt, and celery powder. No nitrates or fillers. 

A preschooler opinion: This by far, was our tester's favorite hot dog. So much so that he wanted seconds. 

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Field Roast Vegetarian Frankfurter

Field Roast Veggie Hot Dogs
Field Roast Veggie Hot Dogs. Field Roast

What it is: Take a bite of this vegetarian hot dog from  Field Roast, and you'll never believe it isn't made from beef or pork. It's true though! Instead, they are crafted from wheat gluten, tomato paste, and a variety of spices. 

A preschooler opinion: Our tester liked this hot dog, although when he first took a bite he wanted to know why it tasted different than a regular hot dog. Still, he ate the whole thing!

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Thin and Trim All Natural Gourmet Chicken Hot Dogs

Thin and trim chicken hot dogs
Thin and trim chicken hot dogs. Thin 'N trim chicken hot dogs

What it is: These hot dogs are made from skinless chicken breast and thigh meat with an assortment of spices. Low in fat and in sodium.  

A preschooler opinion: Another hot dog where our tester didn't necessarily believe he was eating a hot dog, "It looks like a hot dog, but it doesn't taste the same." He did finish it though, and the next day asked if he could have another one. 

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Lightlife Foods' Smart Dogs

Smart Dogs Veggie Protein Links
Smart Dogs Veggie Protein Links. Lightlife

 What it is: Another vegetarian entry, these "protein links" are made with an ingredient list you can pronounce -- water, soy, wheat gluten, and evaporated cane juice.

A preschooler opinion: This one was in the middle of the pack for our tester, who ate it but kept asking if he could put catsup on it. 

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Ball Park Lean Beef Franks

Ball Park Lean Beef Franks
Ball Park Lean Beef Franks. Ball Park

 What it is: While these hot dogs from Ball Park contain nitrates, they are a lower-fat option, and one that is widely-available. They are also lower in sodium, with 410 mg.

A preschooler opinion: Another favorite option for our tester who ate the whole thing without comment or complaint (or a request for something to put on top of it).

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Which Healthy Hot Dog Works for Your Family? The One They Eat.

Overall, our tester liked the alternative healthy hot dogs I served him, although it was the two beef entries that really pleased him the most. Try different options and see which kind your family likes the best. And remember, when you are serving up those hot dogs, be sure to put them on whole grain buns!

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