What’s the deal with hot dogs – am I really going to harm my child if I serve them?
It’s true, hot dogs are probably not the pinnacle of nutritional goodness, but what would a baseball game be without them? In fact, most nutritionists would agree that as long as your child is eating a well-balanced diet, an occasional off-the-grid treat (whether it be a hot dog, a Pop Tart, or blue licorice) won’t affect his overall health. So let’s start out by saying… relax. Don’t blow a gasket if your kid has a hot dog at a birthday party or sporting event.
Where you want to be concerned is if it becomes a habit or a regular part of your child’s diet – say, if your child is eating more than three hot dogs per week. At this point, you will need to be concerned about his intake of fat, sodium, and nitrates. If hot dogs are a staple of your family’s meal plan, you should shop for reduced-fat, lower-sodium versions of the original. And because of ongoing concerns about excessive amounts of nitrates, it’s a good idea to start steering your child away from cured meat products in general. (Hot dogs that are billed as nitrate-free have been found to have nitrates at levels similar to regular hot dogs.) If you’re looking for good protein sources, you’ll always get more nutritional power from chicken, beef, and eggs.
For a great summary of the health value of hot dogs and recommendations, see this Consumer Reports summary. Now go enjoy that baseball game!