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Do Nutrition Experts Feed Their Kids Hot Dogs?

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One evening I was frantically trying to get dinner on the table after a long day. I was tired, it was 7:45pm, and the boys were hungry. The solution? Hot dogs!

I figured they would be quick and easy to cook on the gas grill, and I could combine them with a fruit, vegetable and milk and have dinner on the table within 15 minutes. As I was serving the hot dogs and feeling slightly guilty, I thought, “I wonder if other registered dietitians feed their kids hot dogs.” So I sent out a query to the Nutrition Entrepreneurs listserv asking,

                     “Do Nutrition Experts feed their kids hot dogs?”

The answers were fascinating and got quite a conversation going!

  • 28% answered “NO/NONE/NEVER”, including one respondent saying, “You wouldn’t see me feeding my kids hot dogs. My husband does though.”           How funny, Dad is the culprit!
  • 72% answered “YES”, with many comments, such as…

I sure do: I buy either a chicken or all-beef hot dog, no added nitrates, preferably organic, uncured, on a whole-grain bun. With “Simply” ketchup, mustard, banana peppers (for me).  About 2-3 times per year I buy hot dogs when they sound just plain good!”   — Michelle Dudash, RDN, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families.

“Of course I feed my kids hot dogs. Now let’s define what you mean by “hot dogs”…   — Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RD,

 “Hot dogs are for barbeques and Yankee baseball games when you are at the stadium. When I buy for holiday barbeques I get Hebrew national. My kids probably get hot dogs 4 times a year.   –Laura Coti Garrett MS RDN,

These are just a few of the comments. Many nutrition experts serve “healthier” hot dogs. For example, only buying uncured (no artificial nitrites) hot dogs and/or only grass-fed hot dogs. One common brand is Applegate Farms. Others choose hot dogs that are lower in fat or have fewer ingredients and preservatives. Hebrew National was another brand mentioned.

Nutrition experts also emphasized that they serve a fruit and vegetable with it to help “balance out” the meal. That was my approach too: uncured hot dog, fruit, vegetable and a glass of milk. I didn’t make the whole grain bun happen, though. They aren’t my kids’ favorites, so I alternate between whole wheat and white buns for hamburgers and hot dogs.

Hot Dog Dinner - Copy

Many registered dietitians commented that hot dogs are for special occasions: ball games, BBQ’s, picnics, at a friend’s house… Some dietitians serve a variety of types: all beef, chicken, pork, turkey, vegetarian.

This conversation brought back great childhood memories for some and reinforced that food and eating is not only about healthy choices, but also about positive memories.

So what’s my advice? Make it the occasional meal when you serve hot dogs and choose the healthier varieties when possible. And serve them as part of The Healthy Plate:

Healthy Plate pic (2)

You can find more information about The Healthy Plate, in my book, 400 Moms.  Go to for more information.



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