From baseball games to backyard barbecues, hot dogs are a classic summertime menu item.
Their savory flavor and endless topping options are sure to satisfy even the pickiest eaters.
Plus, they’re convenient, affordable, and easy to prepare.
Whether you’re a regular hot dog eater or save them for special occasions, you may wonder just how many calories they provide.
This article explores the calorie content of hot dogs, including extra calories from the bun and your favorite condiments.
Continue reading to discover much more.
A brief history
Hot dogs — also known as frankfurters or franks — are a type of sausage that originated in Frankfurt, Germany during the 13th century. They were later popularized as street food in New York City in the 1800s. Today, hot dogs are often considered quintessentially American despite their German heritage. Originally, hot dogs were made entirely of pork, but most modern versions contain a combination of pork and beef.
To lower the price point, chicken and turkey may also be included. That said, some brands still make all-pork and even all-beef versions. Hot dogs are traditionally served in a partially sliced bun and eaten plain or topped with condiments like mustard, ketchup, pickle relish, and sauerkraut.
Total calorie content varies
A standard-sized hot dog provides roughly 150 calories, but the exact number varies considerably depending on the size of the sausage, the brand, and whether other ingredients are added. Below are the calorie contents of some popular brands of classic-style hot dogs:
- Ball Park (49 grams): 160 calories
- Hebrew National (49 grams): 150 calories
- Hillshire Farm (76 grams): 240 calories
- Nathan’s Famous (47 grams): 150 calories
- Oscar Mayer (45 grams): 148 calories
Most brands have multiple varieties to choose from with varying calorie contents.
Higher calorie versions, such as extra-long or jumbo-sized hot dogs, or those that contain high-calorie additions like cheese or bacon can provide up to 300 calories each. On the other hand, some low-fat or fat-free varieties can contain as little as 100 calories.
If you eat your hot dog with a bun, add 100–150 calories to the total calorie content of condiments and toppings add extra calories. Many people enjoy hot dogs without toppings, but if you like to pile on the extras, make sure to consider them in your total calorie count.
This can be tricky, as topping options are virtually limitless.
The two most popular hot dog condiments are mustard and ketchup, each providing roughly 10–20 calories per tablespoon (16 grams). Other common additions include sweet pickle relish, which provides 20 calories per tablespoon (15 grams), and sauerkraut, which has just 3 calories in the same serving size.
Higher calorie toppings include chili, cheese, bacon, coleslaw, gravy, fried onions, and french fries — all of which can add up to 300 extra calories each depending on the portion size.
Should you eat hot dogs?
Hot dogs are a delicious, nostalgic tradition for many people, but they are not the most nutritious choice. They’re highly processed and typically contain large quantities of saturated fat and sodium — nutrients many people need to limit. Additionally, many varieties are made from poor-quality meat and animal byproducts and contain lots of preservatives, additives, artificial flavorings, and colorings.
The foods that usually accompany hot dogs — like the bun and condiments — are often heavily processed, too. A bulk of research suggests that diets high in ultra-processed foods like hot dogs may increase your risk of chronic disease, including heart disease and certain types of cancer.
You can make your meal a little healthier by choosing a hot dog made with higher quality meat and opting for more nutritious accompaniments, such as a whole grain bun. That said, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in an occasional hot dog if you enjoy it.
Just remember to build the foundation of your diet on whole, minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds. The bottom line
Originally from Germany, hot dogs are a type of sausage dating back hundreds of years. They became popular in the United States in the 1800s and remain a summertime tradition today. The number of calories in hot dogs varies depending on the serving size and toppings. That said, a typical hot dog with a bun, mustard, and ketchup packs close to 250–300 calories.
While hot dogs are tasty, they are heavily processed and not the most nutritious food choice. If you enjoy them, practice moderation, and don’t forget to include plenty of whole foods in your diet the majority of the time.
Is There Such a Thing as a Healthy Hot Dog?
Oscar Mayer begins the” For the Love of Hot Dogs” campaign to promote their ”healthier” product, but nutritionists have some words of caution about your summer picnic. Hot dogs don’t have a reputation for being the healthiest foods on your picnic table.
Their ingredients can vary by brand, but most nutritionists don’t have hot dogs high on their preferred food list. They cite the byproducts included in this popular American staple, as well as increased risks of colorectal and other cancers.
The Oscar Mayer company is trying to change that image. This month, they launched the For the Love of Hot Dogs campaign. The company, owned by Kraft Heinz, states it is making a “healthier” hot dog, just in time for your summer barbecues.
Nutritionists interviewed by Healthline said they think the removal of some of the product’s more harmful ingredients is a step in the right direction.
But, they note, hot dogs have still processed meat and should be eaten occasionally, at best. “At the end of the day, hot dogs are a ‘sometimes’ food,” said Katie Ferraro, a registered dietitian and assistant clinical professor at the University of San Diego and the University of California San Francisco.
What’s in the new hot dogs?
Officials at Oscar Mayer did not respond to Healthline’s request for an interview for this story. However, on its website, the company announced that its new hot dogs have no artificial preservatives, no by-products, and no added nitrites or nitrates. They say they went “back to the drawing board and the cutting board” for a year to develop the “world’s best hot dogs.”
The lineup of products includes beef, turkey, and cheese hot dogs. “We’re excited that everyone will now have access to a better quality hot dog with the best quality ingredients,” said Greg Guidotti, head of marketing at Oscar Mayer.
The company plans to showcase the new recipe by driving its iconic Weinermobiles to various parts of the United States this summer.
Some healthy cautions
Ferraro told Healthline that eliminating some of the ingredients, in particular, the nitrates and the nitrites, from the new hot dogs is a good thing. Ferraro notes that Oscar Mayer is careful to call their product a “healthier hot dog” and not “healthy” food.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, a licensed, registered dietitian, who is wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, agrees. “I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘healthy’ with any processed meat,” she told Healthline.
Both Ferraro and Kirkpatrick said hot dogs should be eaten only once in a while as a special treat. They added that to balance your paper plate, it’s good to add healthier, more natural items like corn on the cob, beans, and watermelon to your picnic menu.
“For healthy eating, stick as close to nature as possible. There are no hot dogs roaming in the fields,” said Kirkpatrick. Ferraro adds that the Oscar Mayer campaign highlights what isn’t in the hot dogs rather than what is still in them.
She compares the new product to other foods with healthy-sounding labels. “Organic junk food is still junk food,” she said. Nonetheless, both Ferraro and Kirkpatrick said they were encouraged that Oscar Mayer is listening to consumers’ concerns about healthier foods.
Still, they urged summer picnickers to hold more than just the mustard. “This is a step in the right direction,” Ferraro said, “but I don’t want anyone to believe there is such a thing as a healthy hot dog.”