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Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans will consume 7 billion hot dogs. 95% of American homes have served hot dogs at some time. Also it is the one of the greatest massed produced food item in America and the most often abused. Consequently, the USDA has taken precautions to prevent food borne illnesses and spoilage by requiring careful preservation techniques. Hot dogs are eaten by all ages, but children especially. They are often under cooked, over cooked, improperly stored and not eaten properly. The American Academy of Pediatrics has reported that 17% of food-related choking deaths are due to hot dogs.


Are hot dogs unhealthy? Well, check the food label and ingredients. There are numerous types of hot dogs and manufacturers. The usual hot dog is mostly fat and salt, so these are the two most important listings on the hot dog nutritional label to examine. An average hot dog has 14-16 grams of fat with approximately 400 to 500 mg of salt. Combine this with the bun, pickle and ketchup; the salt load is well can approach 2,000 mg, 100% of the recommended daily intake, especially for children. The third nutritional listing to focus on is the protein content. Most wieners are low in protein, but there are a few choices that can meet at least 7 grams of protein and with less than 400 mg of salt and at least 50% less fat.


A healthier hot dog:

Fat grams less than 7-8 g, nitrite free if possible, organic, sodium less than 400 mg., protein greater than 6 g. Ingredient list contains all beef, chicken, turkey or buffalo without variety meats and other by-products. Kosher preferred, but non-Kosher acceptable. Vegan options excellent.


Is it possible to make a healthier version and make it taste great? The Chicago styled Hot Dog is perfect as it is “dragged through the garden” with mustard, tomatoes, onions, pickles and peppers.


However, the first problem before “dressing” the hot dog, is properly cooking it. Boiling helps to plump up the hot dog and leaches out some of the salt. Most hot dog experts would say that this leaves the hot dog soggy and drags out the flavor. The second method is steaming. This helps to plump the dog and keeps it moist, but does not create a smoky grilled like flavor.


The third technique is to place the hot dog on the grill directly. This is a mistake as the hot dog will split in the heat, burst out the flavor and become tough, dry and blackened. Not healthy!


The fourth technique is rather unique and combines both techniques of steaming and grilling. This can be done on the stove top or grill. Start with a cast iron grill pan. Fill the bottom with 1/8 inch of water. Bring to a boil. Add the hot dogs. Continue turning and “steam sautéing” until the water is gone. When the water has boiled away, immediately add 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Trust me, I’m a Doctor. The surface will not brown unless butter is added and it is a minor amount of fat, Sauté the hot dog to begin the browning process. Turn to evenly brown all sides. It is now ready!


The bun is the essential wrap. Whole wheat is great, but not in Chicago. The Chicago dog requires poppy seeds on the surface. Le Hot Doggie, my version, uses a mini-croissant. The taste is fabulous and the flavor is at the top of the list for a “French styled” hot dog with half the calories. Bon Appetite.


The Chicago Dog





4 healthy franks (see the nutritional requirements). Suggestion: Boar’s Head Lite Beef Frankfurters available at Tony’s Markets., Denver

4 hot dog buns with studded poppy seeds. Tony’s Market has the poopy seed buns

2 large ripe tomatoes cut into 12 wedges or slices

Yellow mustard

4 dill pickle spears (Rick’s Pick at Whole Foods are lowest in sodium)

4T finely chopped yellow onions

2T sweet pickle relish, neon green, Vienna Chicago Style Relish available at Tony’s Markets

4T Divina Sliced Pepperoncini (Whole Foods) or sport peppers

Celery salt


Prepare the hot dogs according to above preferred method. If poppy seed buns are not available, brush the top of the bun with olive oil and sprinkle on poppy seeds. Place the cooked hot dogs into the buns. Top with mustard. Wedge in 3 tomato slices. On the opposite side, place the pickle spears. Top with onions then relish and finish with the peppers. Dust with celery salt.


Nutritional information: Serves 4. Serving size: 1 hot dog.

Note: Nutritional analysis based only on the hot dog. For the Boar’s Head Lite Beef Frankfurters (gluten free, milk free, skinless and sugar free without high fructose corn syrup): Total calories 90, fat 6g, 2.5 g saturated, sodium 270 mg, carbohydrates 0, protein 6 g.


Caution! Use no ketchup according to those in Chicago.


Le Hot Doggie


Here is a French twist on an American Classic. The French croissant is known for its richness and of course buttery flavor. This mini-croissant from Safeway surprisingly has fewer calories than a typical Hot Dog bun, beating it by an average of 50-70 calories. It’s actually lower in sugar and salt as well.

Combine this with the lite hot dog from Boar’s Head, the total calories come in at 270, as much as the “dog” its self. Of course, great French mustard is a must. Enjoy without ketchup.


1 mini-croissant, Safeway

1 Lite Boar’s Head Frankfurter

1t French mustard of choice

1 mini-bunch of Arugula, finely chopped.


Nutritional analysis. The Bores Head Lite Hot Dog is noted above. The croissant from Safeway has 160 calories, 9 g, fat, 5 g saturated, 140 mg of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 2 g of sugar and 3 grams of protein.


Total calories for The Le Hot Doggie is 270 calories, 40% less than a standard hot dog and 4x less salt. Enjoy!