Are Hot Dogs A Healthy Choice When Topped With Pickle, Tomato, & Onions?
This question was posed in the December 2019 edition of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. Initially I thought reposting this article was ridiculous because it seems obvious to me that the answer is “NO, adding a few vegetables to a hot dog doesn’t negate the unhealthy content of the hot dog.”
But then I remembered eating lunch with a friend recently who rationalized that chicken nachos were actually “pretty healthy” because they had chicken, beans, tomatoes and jalapeños. What he failed to consider was the fact that it’s mostly fried tortilla chips, a ton of cheese and refried beans.
Sure, the healthy ingredients that may be on top of nachos, hot dogs, bratwurst, or a greasy hamburger are healthy on their own, but don’t for a second believe that these ingredients make these high-fat, high-sodium and, as is the case with hot dogs and brats, highly processed meals a “healthy” dish. They most definitely are not!
So back to the hot dog question. Here’s what the Tufts’ article had to say about the health of a hot dog topped with a few vegetables.
Melissa Townsend, MS, RD, a research assistant at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, answers: “Hot dogs are a type of processed meat, meaning they undergo a preservation process prior to being sold for consumption. Processed meats often have a higher saturated fat content and higher sodium content than other protein products, such as a chicken breast or a fish filet. Additionally, preservatives used in processed meats, such as nitrates, are associated with negative health effects. Research has shown that consumption of processed meat is associated with higher risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, and some types of cancer. Unfortunately, adding fresh vegetables, like chopped lettuce, tomato, and onions, does not take away the risk factors associated with high consumption of processed meats.
“Although the addition of fresh toppings to a hot dog may not make the hot dog itself “healthier,” eating fruit and vegetable side dishes can always help you create a healthier meal. As recommended by MyPlate—based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans—and the HNRCA MyPlate for Older Adults, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables to promote an overall healthy dietary pattern that reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases. The next time you’re at an event where hot dogs or sausages are a staple, consider eating a half portion (particularly if they are of the jumbo variety) and fill up your plate with fruits and vegetables rather than other common sides like fries and chips, which can also be high in sodium.”
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