I kind of feel bad for hot dogs. The original American street food, tasty hot dogs are a staple at baseball games, barbecues, kids’ parties, amusement parks, carnivals, food carts and iconic restaurants like Papaya King in New York City. In other words, they’re found at pretty much every fun summer venue ever invented.
Just about everyone loves a good ol’ hot dog now and then, especially in the summer, but unfortunately they have a pretty terrible rap as far as health and nutrition go. As a hot dog lover since childhood, this makes me a bit sad!
If you were to rate foods using a traffic light system–meaning green for go, yellow for slow down and red for stop–hot dogs would definitely have you slamming on the brakes. Most varieties are made from processed meat scraps and contain potentially harmful preservatives like sodium nitrite. They’re also high in saturated fats and sodium which have negative impacts on health.
I don’t have the heart to bash hot dogs too much, so I’ll stop there. But I will tell you this – veggie dogs are a pretty decent option if you’re looking for a healthier (and meat-free) alternative to the classic hot dog.
If meat substitutes aren’t your cup of tea, it might help to know that veggie dogs have pretty much the same taste and texture than normal hot dogs. In a blind taste test I don’t think I’d be able to tell the difference. Both have that delectable smoky flavour that makes hot dogs so enticing and char up nicely on the barbecue.
My inspiration for this veggie dog recipe was the classic and über-popular Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. There are a variety of different banh mi recipes out there, but the most well known version in North America is made with meat (typically pork), paté, pickled vegetables (usually a combination of carrots and daikon), sliced cucumber and fresh cilantro sprigs, served on a baguette with or without mayo.
For this recipe I used thin whole wheat hot dog buns rather than a baguette as is typical of the banh mi sandwich, so by definition it isn’t overly authentic. But the main ingredients and flavours are still there, and they go exceptionally well with the veggie dog.
Despite their poor nutritional value, I still plan on enjoying a regular hot dog every now and then. But having the option to go veggie anytime and nix some of the negative health effects is reassuring. When choosing a veggie dog, make sure to still check the nutrition information as some brands can be pretty high in sodium.
Jennifer Andrews, B.Sc., M.Sc.
Nutritional scientist // Marketing professional // Food blogger
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