Suzanne Havala Hobbs of the News Observer reports that in the month of July alone – National Hot Dog Month – Americans can be counted on to eat more than 2 billion franks, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.
Hot dogs are symbols of fun and summertime, and part of their appeal is that they’re so simple to buy, prepare and serve. They come precooked, so they take only minutes to grill or boil in a pan. Kids love them. You can hold a hot dog and bun in your hand, and there’s little to clean up afterwards.
There’s a lot to like about hot dogs.
But if you’re big on hot dogs, you should consider replacing old-time meat franks with the meatless alternatives available in almost any grocery store these days.
Because the traditional kinds are bad for your health.
From a nutritionist’s viewpoint, a hot dog is a little missile of artery-clogging saturated fat. Hot dogs are high in sodium. And most contain nitrite or nitrate preservatives shown to form cancer-causing nitrosamines as well.
Turkey and chicken franks are an improvement over beef and pork products, but most still contain saturated fat and high levels of sodium.
In comparison, new soy-based, meatless dogs are very low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol, nitrites and nitrates. The sodium content of popular brands varies, but some veggie dogs have less than half the sodium of regular dogs, more iron and as much as double the protein.
Of course, the big test is taste.
I like every veggie dog I’ve ever tried, but I do have favorites. Among them: Morningstar Farms Veggie Dogs, Yves Veggie Wieners and Lightlife Tofu Pups or Smart Dogs.
Natural foods stores carry several brands of meatless hot dogs, and most large supermarkets carry at least one or two. In natural foods stores, you’ll find them in the refrigerator case near the other soy foods. In conventional supermarkets, you’ll usually find them in the refrigerator case near the dairy foods or in the freezer case alongside the frozen waffles and egg substitutes.
Some veggie dogs hold up better than others to grilling, but most are similar to traditional hot dogs in flavor, texture and color.
Eat your veggie hot dogs on whole wheat buns, and add whatever condiments you like.
Here’s why meatless is best. In addition to advantages already mentioned:
* The mechanized meat processing systems used to make hot dogs can introduce central nervous tissue into the dogs, increasing the risk of exposure to prions believed to cause mad cow disease.
* Meat hot dogs can have high levels of harmful listeria bacteria, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.
* Eating red meat is associated with greater risk of colon and prostate cancers.
* Soy substitutes for meat may reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.
Give meatless hot dogs a try.