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Lean, light, (not-so) hot dogs.

When's the last time you ate a real hot dog? If you're like us, it's probably been awhile. Who wants two ounces of meat scraps oozing with four teaspoons of fat and more than 600 milligrams of sodium?

So, instead, you buy chicken or turkey dogs, or red meat dogs that are "light" or "lean." Like millions of other consumers, you assume they're much healthier.

Don't. Playing Chicken. Demand for lower-fat franks has spawned dozens of new turkey and chicken hot dogs, most of which proudly tell you what percent "fat free" they are.

If they're so great, why didn't any turkey or chicken franks manage to earn a "Best Bite"'?

True, some brands like Louis Rich Turkey Franks and Health Valley Chicken Wieners, at eight grams of fat per doghave half the fat of regular hot dogs. But they're far from the lowest-fat franks. Most other poultry franks don't even offer that much fat savings.

In fact, the three fattiest dogs we looked at were made of poultry. Gwaltney Chicken or Turkey Great Dogs and Holly Farms Chicken Franks may say "lower fat" on their packages, but in their greasy hearts they know they're almost as bad as regular, full-fat franks.

And even "80% Fat-Free" Butterball Turkey Franks have 11 grams of fat per frank and get more than 70 percent of their calories from fat. Full-fat hot dogs are at least 70% fat free. If manufacturers thought we wouldn't raise a stink, they'd probably crow about it on the label.)

Nope. If it's meat you're after, you can do better than poultry franks. Much better. Neat Meat Feat. A special pat on the buns goes to Hormel's new Light & Lean 97% Fat Free Franks, which are the only truly low-fat hot dogs we found. (Read the label carefully: some of Hormel's old Light & Lean 90% Fat Free Franks may still be floating around.)

A 1.6-oz. Light & lean Frank has just one-and-a-third grams of fat. The bun you'll eat it on has more than that. It also gets a hot-dog-incredible 28 percent of its calories from fat.

Hormel's fat-lowering feat (its closest competitor-- Healthy Deli Pups-has 4 grams of fat) is even more amazing when you realize that its first two ingredients are beef and pork. What's the secret?

Water, probably. Most lower fat franks get that way, at least in part, by adding water to their meat. Sure enough, water is the third ingredient listed on Hormel's label. But the company also replaces some of the fat with hydrolyzed vegetable protein (MSG-sensitive folks, take note).

Less fat doesn't mean less taste, though. Our testers thought the Light & Lean Franks were as good as regular hot dogs.

The same went for Hansel n Gretel Healthy Deli Pups and Armour 90% Fat Free Beef & Turkey Hot Dogs. Both have more fat-and the Armour much more sodium than the Light & Leans, but at just four to six grams of fat per frank, neither is going to break your grease bank.

Just keep in mind that if a meat frank isn't sold frozen, odds are it contains sodium (or potassium) nitrite, a preservative that adds flavor arid helps mask the grey color of most untreated hot dogs. No-nitrite franks usually have the word uncured" as part of their name.

The problem with nitrites is that they may react with chemicals called amines in food or in the stomach-to form tiny an amounts of cancer causing substances known as nitrosamines. Good Doggie. Okay, so they're not going to fool your gimmee a-real-ballpark-frank-any-day Uncle Harry. But most of the new brood of tofu dogs tasted just fine to our testers, especially on a bun with a little mustard.

And that's good news, because two of our four leanest hot dogs are made with tofu. Yves Tofu Wieners and Lightlife Tofu Pups tipped the scales at only five grams of fat each.

Just don't automatically assume that a tofu dog is lower in fat. White Wave Meatless Healthy Franks, for example, have eight grams of fat per, while SoyBoy Tofu Not Dogs have nine grams (and 68 percent of calories from fat). That makes them both greasier than three different kinds of meat frankfurters. Of course, they still have half the fat-and a quarter the saturated fat of regular franks.

There's really no reason for the extra grease. Most of the lower-fat tofu dogs tasted just as good. The best-tasting of the non-meat dogs we looked atYves Veggie Wieners-have a third less fat than Not Dogs.

And if tofu isn't mainstream enough for you, here's somehing to chew on: Veggie Wieners are sold to all those tough 49er and Giant fans at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Schmidt, Stephen
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:The safe food kitchen.
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