Hot dogs, they have some magical mixed-meat power over toddlers. I have no idea what it is, but my son could eat hot dogs every day for lunch and be content. In fact, if you asked him what he wanted to eat and actually gave it to him, he would eat hot dogs for every meal. Honestly, the fact that hot dogs are inexpensive and versatile in the sense that they fit into countless easy to cook items like mac-n-cheese, scrambled eggs, croissant dogs, and ramen soup so well makes me keen to give him hot dogs fairly often too. However, any time an item becomes a high performer on my child’s menu, I have to ask, is it safe and is it healthy? Sadly, in this case the answer was no.
Are there any health risks to feeding toddler’s hot dogs?
There are actually possible risks to eating hot dogs for every one’s health.
Hot dogs may cause cancer.
A study done in 2007 found the majority of hot dog brands contain DNA mutating chemicals that can dramatically increase your risk of cancer, most notably colon cancer. According to the study, eating one hot dog a day increases your risk by 21%. Another study done in 2004, however, found no such link. As data is conflicting on this subject, the word may is important in this subtitle.
Hot dogs are linked to a higher occurrence of heart disease and diabetes.
A study done in 2010 found consuming a single hot dog a day increases your chance of diabetes by 19% and heart disease by 42%. This was a singular study, but it has not yet been proven false. It should also be noted, this same study found meat in general did not increase the risk of heart disease or diabetes notably.
Hot dogs can harbor bacteria.
Even though fully cooked, hot dogs and other processed ready-to-eat meats are well known for harboring bacteria called Listeria monocytogene. Listeriosis, caused by these bacteria, causes a sickness with flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, diarrhea, headache, body ache, abdominal pain and upset stomach. Even refrigerated hot dogs can slowly grow this.
Hot dogs can be a choking hazard to young children.
In younger children, the cylindrical shape of hot dogs poses an extra choking hazard as well. While this can be avoided by cutting the meat into smaller stick like pieces rather than round slices, this is still a concern.
Nutritionally speaking, are hot dogs good for toddlers?
Not on a regular basis. Hot dogs, while containing a decent amount of protein, are primarily fat. The majority are about 75% fat, in fact. They are also extremely high in sodium content and offer little nutritional value back outside of protein and a small amount of iron. Most nutritionists feel in moderation hot dogs are acceptable, but not as a regular menu choice for toddlers.
Is there a healthier alternative?
Not really. Bratwurst or sausage are generally less processed and offer slightly more nutritional value, especially if you choose a brand and type that is not pre-cooked, but on a whole all of the hot dog-like foods are high in fat. This isn’t to say you should deprive your toddler of hot dogs altogether, but be sure to read labels and keep a variety to meals even if your child is willing to eat hot dogs every meal.
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