With the season of backyard food fests in full swing, Healthy Eats vetted the most popular hot dog brands around to see which ones deserve a coveted spot on the grill grates. Find out which frank emerged as top dog.
We rated beef wieners on a 5-point scale (5 being highest), judging the dogs on taste, ingredient quality and nutrition and paying special attention to calories, fat and sodium. We stuck with regular franks instead of the reduced-fat versions, as many of those use a considerable amount of fillers made from potato starch to displace some of the meat (no thank you). We were also on the lookout for the presence of preservatives such as sodium nitrite. Hot dogs ranged in size from 42 to 57 grams (1.5 to 2 ounces) per piece.
Applegate Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dog (above)
Nutrition Info (1 hot dog): 70 calories; 6 grams fat (2 grams saturated); 330 milligrams sodium
The Healthy Eats Take: A big winner in the taste department, this slightly smaller dog had a fraction of the calories and fat that appears in many other brands. Bonus points for a simple ingredient list that includes beef, water and spices, plus celery powder instead of sodium nitrite.
Trader Joe’s Uncured Hot Dog
Cost: $0.56 per piece
Nutrition Info (1 hot dog): 190 calories; 16 grams fat (7 grams saturated); 340 milligrams sodium
The Healthy Eats Take: In this frank’s favor: no nitrates and good flavor overall. But the ingredient lineup includes evaporated cane juice, resulting in an unnecessarily sweet flavor, as well as a long list of spices — the level of which might be a turn off for some, especially kids. The hot dogs were also the highest in calories of the bunch.
Boar’s Head Beef Frankfurters
Cost: $0.76 per piece
Nutrition Info (1 hot dog): 160 calories; 14 grams fat (6 grams saturated); 440 milligrams sodium
The Healthy Eats Take: All in all, this is a juicy, tender and decent-tasting dog. It’s slightly larger than its classmates, making the calories, fat and sodium pretty hefty. The hot dogs have a shorter ingredient list than some, but both sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrate make appearances. These are also the priciest dogs of the group.
Ball Park Beef Franks
Cost: $0.66 per piece
Nutrition Info (1 hot dog): 150 calories; 12 grams fat (5 grams saturated); 410 milligrams sodium
The Healthy Eats Take: Beef meets up with corn syrup, dextrose and lots of preservatives (including sodium nitrite) in these franks. The color is unusually red and the dogs have a slight aftertaste. Plus, the sodium level is up there.
Hebrew National Beef Franks
Cost: $0.53 per piece
Nutrition Info (1 hot dog): 150 calories; 14 grams fat ( 6 grams saturated); 460 milligrams sodium
The Healthy Eats Take: These hot dogs have a decent texture but an unpleasantly smoky and overly salty flavor. Beef and water top the ingredient list, followed by sodium-based preservatives, soy protein, spices and sodium nitrite.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.