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Which is healthier: A hot dog or hamburger?

In BBQ season, only one of these favorites comes out on top.

Baseball season has officially begun, so barbecue season is not far behind. As you decide what to put on the grill, you may be wondering which all-American food — a hot dog or a hamburger — is the healthier choice?

 The quick answer is that neither hit it out of the park   So let’s take a look at why.


A typical store bought package frank is about 150 calories. Add the regular plain bun and typical toppings (of ketchup, mustard and relish), and you’re in the 300- to 350-calorie range. And this would be tame compared to what you can comsume in a real ballpark.

And note, processed meats of which frankfuters are one of the most popular are one of the very few foods that have been definitively linked to cancer.

Hot dogs are highly processed containing hundreds of mgs of sodium as well as nitrates. Which are the chemical compounds that are used to preserve the hot dogs. Processed meats are one of the very few foods that have been definitively linked to cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, jerky and some deli meats, as a carcinogen — meaning, they cause cancer. To repeat: They cause cancer; not might, or may, possibly, or any other qualifier.

Make no mistake: Even gourmet or organic versions carry the same risk. Un-cured or nitrate-free versions have natural sources of these preservatives (such as celery juice), that ultimately get converted to worrisome compounds once you consume them.

On the bright side, if you’re eating hot dogs from time-to-time, 3-4 per summer, your risk is much lower. Overall, it’s a good idea to limit processed meats, but a hot dog every now and then on a plate loaded with good vegetables won’t hurt.


A 4-ounce burger made from say 85-percent lean ground beef is almost 300 calories alone. Again add a plain bun and a slice of cheese and you’re around 500-calories.

The same agency report, (including the Hot Dogs) involved 22 experts from 10 countries reviewing more than 800 studies, suggests red meat is a carcinogen, as a probable cause of cancer. Both red and processed meats were linked to diabetes and heart disease.

Enough sad news. As with the hot dog, a hamburger or two once every quarter will not jam overall healthy diet, just as that single hot dog won’t. The idea is to minimize processed and red meat intake, while getting enough vegetables, fruits and other plant-based, wholesome foods, such as nuts and seeds.


From a calorie standpoint, the hot dog is the winner.

From an overall perspective, the hamburger is a better option.

A 4-ounce hamburger has about six times the amount of protein as a hot dog, with about a quarter of the sodium. Nutritionally, that’s a better balance. And the protein will help satisfy your hunger and the good news here are some tips for make a healthier hot dog or hamburger meal!


Whichever way you go, there are a few ways to make these all-American favorites a bit healthier. First, take note of your toppings. Chili and cheese add so many more calories and sodium, better to leave these alone.

If you can replace the white with a whole-grain bun or skip it altogether using two pieces of lettuce on each end. If you’re at a friend’s gathering or stadium and there’s not a whole-grain bun anywhere in sight the suggestion is skip the bun.

Consider your entire meal, if the hot dog or burger is the main meal, go easy on the sides. If having a burger, skip the fries (and the bun), and go for salad, coleslaw and plenty of water instead.
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*The content presented on this page is not intended to diagnose health problems or take the place of professional medical care.

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