Hot Dog Nutrition Facts

Calories in Hot Dogs and Their Health Benefits

Close-Up Of Hot Dog Served On Table
Robert Maniaci / EyeEm / Getty Images

Hot dogs, also called wieners, franks, or Frankfurters, are hot sausages that are often served on white, elliptical buns at barbecues, picnics, ball games, movie theaters, and pretty much anywhere you find a concession stand. They're relatively inexpensive and easy to cook, plus just about everyone is happy to eat one with ketchup, mustard, or sour kraut.

Hot dogs aren't generally considered to be healthy foods because they are heavily processed and often high in fat and sodium, plus they're often served with other less-than-healthy foods.

A typical hot dog is energy-dense, considering the size of the sausage, with about 150 calories and 13 grams of fat. That doesn't sound like much, but one hot dog isn't very filling, so it's pretty easy to eat two or three of them. Plus you'll probably eat your dog on a regular white refined flour hot dog bun, which adds about 120 calories and just a little bit of fiber and B vitamins. 

Although you may not want to make a habit of eating them regularly, there are delicious ways to enjoy your dogs without ruining your diet. Keep the calorie count under control by serving one hot dog and adding a healthy side dish, such as a salad, veggies, or beans.

Three Healthier Hot Dog Options

Wrap your dog in a crescent roll. Pillsbury Crescent Hot Dogs are easy to make and a little more exciting than a typical hot dog—just limit yourself to one. Each dog is still higher in fat and sodium, but is also a source of protein, calcium, and iron.

They're easy to make at home. Just slice a hot dog and add a piece of cheese. Wrap the dog in a piece of Pillsbury crescent roll dough and bake until golden brown. Serve with a green salad and water or a big glass of ice tea and you'll have a tasty meal without too many calories.

Pillsbury Crescent Hot Dog Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 sandwich
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 290 
Calories from Fat 200 
Total Fat 23g35%
Saturated Fat 9g45%
Cholesterol 35mg12%
Sodium 810mg34%
Carbohydrates 13g4%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Sugars 4g 
Protein 9g 
Vitamin A 2% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 6% · Iron 6%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Use a whole grain bun and top with veggies. Swap out your plain white refined hot dog bun with an artisan whole grain roll, then dress up your dog with lots of veggies. That way you'll add nutrients, antioxidants, and volume to your hot dog without adding many calories. Another very good idea? Add guacamole and hot peppers for a tasty kick.

Try a veggie dog or a low-fat dog. Good veggie dogs used to be hard to find, but now most grocery stores carry several brands so you should be able to find a veggie dog that appeals to you. Veggie dogs are lower in fat and calories than regular hot dogs, but you can cook and serve them just like you would a regular hot dog.

If you find you just don't care for the texture and flavor of any of the veggie dogs, the next option would be to look for low-fat hot dogs made with turkey or chicken instead of beef and pork. Read the labels so you can compare calorie counts, sodium content, and total fat.

Unhealthier Hot Dog Options

Foot-long chili dogs loaded with cheese. An extra large hot dog with tons of chili and cheese is going to be loaded with calories, fat, and sodium. If you love chili dogs, start with a regular size hot dog, use a whole grain bun, more chili (the legumes are good for you) and just a little bit of cheese.

Corn dogs. A favorite at county and state fairs, corn dogs are hot dogs that have been jammed down on a stick, coated with batter, and then deep-fried. They may be tasty if you're into that sort of thing, but all that deep fried dough means a lot of fat and calories. One corn dog will have well over 250 calories.

Common Questions About Hot Dogs

What are nitrates and why are they bad?

Sodium nitrate is a preservative often used in cured meats including lunch meats, sausages, hot dogs, and bacon. Your body can convert nitrates into nitrites and then into N-nitroso compounds, which have been associated with certain forms of cancer.

That's certainly not a good thing, but if the foods are accompanied by vitamin C, that reaction doesn't happen. In fact, if you look at the ingredients list you may see ascorbic acid (the technical term for vitamin C) along with sodium nitrate. Some research studies have found a link between eating cured meats and having a slightly increased risk of thyroid and brain tumors called gliomas. On the other hand, eating cured meats may be related to a decreased risk of stomach cancer.

So do hot dogs cause cancer?

Maybe, but no one knows how many hot dogs you'd need to eat every day for that to happen. Several research studies associate red meats and processed meats with health problems and even death, but invariably, in each of these studies, the participants who eat the most hot dogs and other cured meats also smoke, drink a lot, are the least active physically, weigh the most, and eat the least amounts of fruits and veggies. Eating the occasional hot dog is safe and won't raise your risk of cancer or other health problems, but you can look for brands that don't use nitrates in their products. 

What's the difference between a hot dog and a sausage?

All hot dogs are sausages, but not all sausages are hot dogs. Other types of sausages include bratwurst, Polish sausage, summer sausage, bologna, breakfast sausage, pepperoni, and much more. Bratwurst and Polish sausages are similar to hot dogs in that we usually eat them on large hot dog buns.

Why are hot dogs sold in packs of ten when hot dog buns are sold in packs of eight?

There may not be a good answer for that.

Sources:

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. "National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28."

Wolk A. " Potential health hazards of eating red meat." J Intern Med. 2017 Feb;281(2):106-122. doi: 10.1111/joim.12543. Epub 2016 Sep 6.

Xie L, Mo M, Jia HX, Liang F, Yuan J, Zhu J. "Association between dietary nitrate and nitrite intake and site specific cancer risk: evidence from observational studies." Oncotarget. 2016 Aug 30;7(35):56915-56932. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.10917.

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