Battle of the Dogs

And nope, I’m not talking about Pink Floyd’s “Dogs of War.”


I’m talking about that staple of American cook-outs and baseball stadiums: hot dogs. 🙂


Traditionally, a hot dog is not what one would think of as “healthy fare.” Hot dogs, ‘though, are proof-positive that not all food choices are created equal. 🙂

It seems folks are always trying to “dress up” the humble hot dog. Sonic, the fast food drive-in chain, is doing a hot dog promotion right now, featuring four different “types” of hot dogs:


But for us, “hot dog” usually means the Traditional Hot Dog with yellow mustard, diced onion, grated (reduced-fat) cheddar cheese, and relish (I usually like dill relish; hubby prefers no-sugar-added sweet relish). When the weather’s conducive, we tend to grill the dogs on our grill; otherwise, we grill them indoors on the grill pan, in a non-stick skillet, or on the Foreman grill.

We Americans have claimed the hot dog — along with the hamburger — as one of our “all American” treats, but although Wikipedia tells us that there is some dispute over the origins of the hot dog in a bun, it seems likely that the hot dog has been around for a long time and that it originated in Europe (of course! 😉 ):

The word frankfurter comes from Frankfurt, Germany, where pork sausages served in a bun similar to hot dogs originated. These sausages, Frankfurter Würstchen, were known since the 13th century and given to the people on the event of imperial coronations, starting with the coronation of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor as King. Wiener refers to Vienna, Austria, whose German name is “Wien”, home to a sausage made of a mixture of pork and beef (cf. Hamburger, whose name also derives from a German-speaking city). Johann Georg Lahner, a 18th/19th century butcher from the Bavarian city of Coburg is said to have brought the Frankfurter Würstchen to Vienna, where he added beef to the mixture and simply called it Frankfurter. Nowadays, in German speaking countries, except Austria, hot dog sausages are called Wiener or Wiener Würstchen (Würstchen means “little sausage”), in differentiation to the original pork only mixture from Frankfurt. In Swiss German, it is called Wienerli, while in Austria the terms Frankfurter or Frankfurter Würstel are used.

Around 1870, on Coney Island, German immigrant Charles Feltman began selling sausages in rolls.

Others have supposedly invented the hot dog. The idea of a hot dog on a bun is ascribed to the wife of a German named Antonoine Feuchtwanger, who sold hot dogs on the streets of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1880, because his customers kept taking the white gloves handed to them for eating without burning their hands. Anton Ludwig Feuchtwanger, a Bavarian sausage seller, is said to have served sausages in rolls at the World’s Fair–either the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago or the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St Louis – again allegedly because the white gloves he gave to customers so that they could eat his hot sausages in comfort began to disappear as souvenirs.

The association between hot dogs and baseball began as early as 1893 with Chris von der Ahe, a German immigrant who owned not only the St. Louis Browns, but also an amusement park.

Harry M Stevens Inc., founded in 1889, serviced major sports venues with hot dogs and other refreshments, making Stevens known as the “King of Sports Concessions” in the US.

In 1916, an employee of Feltman’s named Nathan Handwerker was encouraged by celebrity clients Eddie Cantor and Jimmy Durante to go into business in competition with his former employer. Handwerker undercut Feltman’s by charging five cents for a hot dog when his former employer was charging ten.

At an earlier time in food regulation the hot dog suspect, Handwerker made sure that men wearing surgeon’s smocks were seen eating at Nathan’s Famous to reassure potential customers.

So, how do I “healthy up” this baseball stadium and New York City street vendor staple?

First, the bun: there are several options available for hot dog buns. Our current favorite are WhiteWheat hot dog buns made by Nature’s Own: 90 calories, 4 grams of fiber (15% of your recommended daily allowance of fiber), and 16 net carbs per bun. (Fiber carbs can be subtracted from the overall carb count because fiber carbs don’t impact your blood sugar the same way.)

Second, the hot dog itself: there are a myriad of choices. Vegetarians, of course, can choose a tofu dog (and there may well be other options for you, too). For years, we’ve chosen to eat turkey dogs. But even among turkey and other reduced-fat or “lite” dogs, not all are created equal — just because it’s a turkey dog doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthier (as in, lower in fat and calories than a traditional beef or pork frankfurter). Our usual hot dog of choice has been Oscar Mayer 98% fat free dogs: 40 calories and 0.5 gram of fat per hot dog.

So one dog, with bun, excluding condiments, is just 130 calories! I can eat a couple of them at a meal without guilt, or just one any time as a snack. 🙂

But when I was at the store the other day, I saw that there were Hebrew National 97% fat free beef dogs on sale.

Hmmmm.

Oscar Mayer?

Or Hebrew National?

If I were an Oscar Mayer weiner, everyone would be in love with me:


But Hebrew National answers to a higher authority:

And claim to be the “better than a hot dog” hot dog:


So, in the end, seeing as leftover hot dogs make for such tasty snacks and lunches, I decided to get one package of Oscar Mayer 98% fat free dogs, one pack of Hebrew National 97% fat free dogs, and 2 packages of WhiteWheat buns, giving us an opportunity to try both! 🙂

The Contenders: Oscar Mayer 98% fat free turkey dogs: 40 calories and 0.5 grams of fat each.

Hebrew National 97% fat free beef dogs: 40 calories and 1 gram of fat each.

Oscar Mayer has 8 dogs to a package.

Hebrew National, 7 dogs to a package, meaning that you end up with a lone bun without a dog.

The Challenge: Seeing as the dogs are lean, we drizzled them with just the least bit of canola oil (or you could use olive oil) so that they will brown, and then hubby slapped ’em on the grill for a few minutes. The browning is mainly for visual appeal.

The Outcome: They’re both yummy winners! Unlike most beef (or pork) hot dogs, I found that the Hebrew National 97% fat free dogs have a tasty, but not overpowering, beef flavor. And of course, we’ve long been fans  of the 98% fat free Oscar Mayer turkey dogs — understated flavor that complements almost any way you like to fix your dog.  The Oscar Mayer turkey dog seems to be a bit plumper than the Hebrew National dog, but they both pass the yummy test.

Hubby still prefers the turkey dogs to the beef — and he finds the abandoned bun due to the” only 7 dogs in a package” rather irksome — but he was pleasantly surprised by the Hebrew National dogs.

So go on, and let the dogs out!

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About MissieLee

I love tasty food prepared in a healthy way with a budget in mind.
This entry was posted in hot dog, Sandwich and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Battle of the Dogs

  1. Pingback: Meet Me at the Fair! | That Smells Yummy!

  2. Wendy says:

    What? No Nathan’s?

    • MissieLee says:

      Sorry, Wendy! No reduced-fat Nathan’s hot dogs for sale at WalMart. I don’t even know if Nathan’s makes a lighter version — do they?

      You know, I don’t think I’ve ever had a Nathan’s hot dog! *hangs head in shame*

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