Are Turkey Hot Dogs Good for You?

Sure, hot dogs taste yummy – but they can be high salt, fat, and preservatives. What about turkey dogs? Are turkey hot dogs healthy?

Americans love hot dogs whether they enjoy them plain with a little ketchup and mustard – or piled high with onions and relish. Unfortunately, hot dogs haven’t exactly earned the reputation of being health food. To save a few calories and a lot of guilt, some healthy eaters reach for a package of turkey hot dogs instead. Are turkey hot dogs healthy?

Are Hot Dogs Healthy?: What’s Wrong with the Pork or Beef Hot Dog?

Most pork and beef hot dogs are high in saturated fat and loaded with salt. For example, an Oscar Meyer beef hot dog has six grams of saturated fat and 460 milligrams of salt – while some other beef franks have a total fat content of up to sixteen grams. Rest assured, your cardiologist wouldn’t approve.

To make matter worse, most hot dogs contain preservatives called nitrites which form compounds in the stomach that are believed to cause cancer. A study carried out in California showed an association between hot dog consumption and the risk of leukemia in children. Children who ate more than twelve hot dogs a month had nine times the risk of developing leukemia. Could it be the nitrites? No one knows for sure.

Hot dogs are often flavored with MSG. Some experts believe that MSG is a neurotoxin that damages brain and nerve cells – although the FDA claims that it’s safe. Nevertheless, some people are sensitive to it and develop palpitations, sweating, nausea, headache, and even chest pain when they’re exposed to it.

Are Hot Dogs Healthy?: Lighter Hot Dogs

On the plus side, hot dog makers are trying harder to make their product healthier. Ball Park Lite Beef Franks have only half the saturated fat of traditional beef hot dogs and one-third fewer calories. Not bad for a hot dog that’s earned good reviews for taste. On the other hand, there’s still the nitrite and salt issue. Some natural food markets are addressing this concern by carrying hot dogs that are free of nitrites.

Are Hot Dogs Healthy?: The Turkey Hot Dog

It’s natural to assume that turkey hot dogs would be healthier. After all, turkey is lower in calories and fat than beef. But most turkey dogs are almost as high in fat and calories as beefy ones because most are made with dark turkey meat. Turkey hot dogs are usually no lower in salt, MSG, or nitrites unless you buy nitrite-free ones. At some supermarkets, you can find low fat turkey hot dogs that are a better alternative to full fat beef franks if you’re willing to overlook the preservative and salt issue.

 The Bottom Line

The average turkey hot dog is only marginally healthier than its beefier cousin. The best option is to look for low fat turkey hot dogs that are nitrite free and as low in salt. Otherwise, it’s best to eat turkey hot dogs or any other hot dog only as a special treat.


Cancer Prevention Coalition website. “Hot Dogs and Nitrites”

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