Comparing 4 Hot Dogs – Which is the Healthiest?

patriotic hot dog


Happy 4th of July!

Today, Americans will eat over 150 million hot dogs. A classic American food, franks are not the healthiest food, to say the least.

So why are they so popular?

  1. They’re relatively cheap
  2. They are easy on the eyes and mouth
  3. It’s easy to get kids to like them
  4. They are made of meat scraps that would otherwise go to waste

Here’s a look at 4 different hot dogs based on their nutritional profile.

Which would you choose? Why?

What you need to know:

1. This is the ingredient list of the classic version of Oscar Mayer’s wieners:

Mechanically Separated Turkey, Pork, Mechanically Separated Chicken, Water, Contains Less than 2% of Salt, Flavor, Sodium Lactate, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite.

We’ve written about mechanically separated meat in the past (it went viral). The sodium nitrite is a preservative used to rid the meat of a bacteria that may cause botulism. Unfortunately it has a carcinogenic side effect.

A serving is one link, weighing in at 1.6 oz and 110 calories. There are 3 grams of saturated fat per dog (25% of the daily max) and 340mg of sodium – 15% of the daily max, before the condiments. B+ on Fooducate.

2. OK, what about Oscar Mayer’s Select Angus hot dogs?

Angus beef, water, cultured corn sugar, contains less than 2% of dextrose, salt, cultured celery juice, vinegar, sodium phosphates, cherry powder, lemon juice solids, flavor, extractives of paprika.

With 170 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat here (twice as much as the turkey/pork combo), be assured you are not getting the best cut of the beef here. Cultured corn sugar is a synonym for high fructose corn syrup. On the positive side, the nitrites have been replaced by celery juice. Celery is a natural source of nitrites, but they are present in smaller amounts than in artificial preservatives.

3. Applegate Natural Uncured Beef & Pork Hot Dog is made from beef and pork, and has only 2.5 grams of saturated fat. The lower fat gives you a hint that we’re looking at a better quality cut than the previous hot dogs. The calories are lower too – just 70. From a size perspective the two brands are very close (45 grams for Oscar Meyer, 42 grams for Applegate).

Here is Applegate Farms ingredient list:

Beef*, pork*, water. Contains less than 2% of the following : sea salt, paprika, spices, garlic, onion, celery powder. Gluten & casein free. *beef & pork never administer antibiotics or animal by products. Beef never administered added growth hormones. Vegetarian grain fed.

Much easier to understand this ingredient list compared to Oscar’s. And it’s nice that information is provided about the animal husbandry. Please note that “Natural” doesn’t mean much as it is not a regulated term by the FDA and has a fuzzy USDA definition:

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).

4. Last but not least – a vegetarian hot dog option from Yves.

Here’s how they built it:

Water, Isolated Soy Protein, Vital Wheat Gluten, Natural Flavors, Salt, Wheat Starch, Evaporated Cane Juice Powder, Spices, Carrageenan, Vitamins & Minerals (Thiamin Hydrochloride, Cyanocobalamin, Calcium Pantothenate, Ferric Orthophosphate, Iron Oxide, Zinc Oxide, Dimagnesium Phosphate, Dipotassium Phosphate), Beet Powder and Paprika (for Color).

The veggie wiener here has only 50 calories, and barely any fat. But the sodium count is high (400mg). Did you notice how water is the first ingredient? It’s the main ingredient into which soy protein and gluten are mixed. To make this cocktail taste good, Yve’s has to add lot of flavorings. Honestly, we’re not big fans of vegetarian fare pretending to be meat. If you are vegetarian, you can enjoy lots of great food that is not shaped like a hot dog. But if this is your way to fit in with the 4th of July cook out, go for it.

What to do at the supermarket:

Make hot dogs a once in a while food, not a staple in your home. When choosing, the top 3 considerations should be:

  • Quality of meat
  • Presence of preservatives such as nitrites
  • Sodium count

Need help choosing? use Fooducate’s free iPhone App / Android App to decide!

  • Jim

    Natural is a regulated term by USDA and all labels for USDA regulated products are pre-approved by FSIS. Check the FSIS labeling policy guide for USDA’s “natural” definition. FDA is a different matter, of course.

    • Fooducate

      Thanks. Updated the post.

  • Jack

    “Natural” is absolutely a regulated term by the USDA. It may be a broad and generic definition, basically this: “minimally processed and don’t have any artificial flavorings, colorings, preservatives, or other additives.”

    • Fooducate

      Thanks. We updated the post.

    • Brian Klein

      But I think natural flavorings can mean that there is MSG in the product without saying MSG is in the product. I’ve heard that somewhere, but not sure it’s true… Anyone know for sure?

      • Anne

        That’s not accurate. MSG is not considered a Natural Ingredient by USDA standards so a product containing MSG would not be approved to be called Natural.
        Many aminoacid containing foods do contain glutamic acid, which is part of their organic structure. Foods that fall in this category are: cheeses, mushrooms and meats. That’s why when there is a claim “MSG free” there is also a note saying: “except those naturally accuring in the product”

        • xxSusannaHoffsStillHotxx

          I still get a MASSIVE migraine eating OM Beef Hotdogs so I don’t see how MSG is NOT in it because MSG is what always gave me migraines when I ate a hotdog… Anyone know what ELSE it could be giving me the migraines still if MSG is NOT in OM beef hotdogs?

  • Kris

    I’m a bit confused as to why the oscar mayer hotdog has a B+, but Applegates only earned a B (on the fooducate site). Am I missing something?

    • Carol H

      The OM classic wiener actually gets a B- (although that still seems a little high), probably because of the lower calories… mostly due to smaller serving size (compared to the Selects).

  • Alyssa B

    I go with the Oscar Meyer Selects. I buy them because I think they are the best choice for what can be found in a regular grocery store. And they are delicious.

  • drcfarlow

    Saturated fat and sodium and are not all you need to consider here. The corn in the Oscar Meyer varieties is most likely GMO, and the meat is most likely from factory farms where the animals are fed GMO grains and are injected with hormones and antibiotics. That alone would give them a D- in my book.

    Applegate, on the other hand specifically states that the animals are NOT fed hormones and antibiotics. However, since they are not organic, they may be fed GMO grains, but that would be something to call the company about since Applegate does make organic dogs. Perhaps they might feed non-GMO grains. Worth checking out.

    However, the best choice, that you never mentioned, is organic grass-fed dogs from pastured animals. Those would get an A.
    Dr. Christine H. Farlow
    Author of FOOD ADDITIVES: A Shopper’s Guide To What’s Safe & What’s Not

  • Diabetic 69

    Diebetes iz for poosies

  • Diabetic 69

    All uv yu r feggets

  • Diabetic 69


  • Fred Garvin

    I find it interesting that the presence of trans fats isn’t mentioned. OM has ‘em…Applegate doesn’t. Seems like another reason to widen the grade separation between these two products.