The 5 Worst Fast-Food Hot Dogs—Ranked!
There's nothing like grilling up a sizzling, lightly charred hot dog and nestling it between a bun with a bit of ketchup, mustard, probiotic-packed sauerkraut (which is good for your gut health), and whatever other fixings you like. After all, the hot dog is the quintessential summer food.
On its own, a hot dog can have some good protein to fill you up, and it can totally be leaner and low in sodium. As long as you're reading labels and choosing a low-fat, low-sodium, uncured or natural dog that's free of nitrates and nitrites, you can enjoy one anytime you like. Seize summertime grilling—and get creative with those toppings!
But if you're dining out at a fast-food joint, the hot dogs on the menu likely won't have that same clean profile. Many of these dogs are no longer simple but rather topped high with unhealthy ingredients that can be bad for your heart (hello artery-clogging saturated fat!) and cholesterol levels due to their insanely high sodium content.
Here are some of the worst fast-food hot dogs you'll find at popular fast-food restaurants, according to a dietitian. We ranked them from the slightly less offensive of the bunch to the biggest doozy out there. Remember this: When in doubt, there's nothing wrong with opting for a plain option. (RELATED: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now)
Dairy Queen Chili Cheese Dog
The average hot dog with ketchup, mustard, and a bun ranges between 250-300 calories, but adding chili and cheese piles on an additional 100-200 more calories. If you're concerned with watching calories, this loaded Dairy Queen hot dog might not be your best option on the menu.
"The added chili and cheese total approximately 100 calories, which isn't too bad considering the flavor that it adds, but keep in mind this dog still has more than half a day's worth of artery-clogging saturated fat," says one of our ETNT Medical Board experts, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT.
Shake Shack Publican Pork Sausage
Though the calories are a bit high in this hot dog, they mostly come from the meat itself, which is 100% Vienna beef.
"As for redeeming qualities, Shake Shack prides itself on its hot dogs being made with 100% Vienna Beef with no hormones or antibiotics and being served on a non-GMO Martin's Potato Roll," Lakatos Shames says. "They do suggest adding cheese, which will set you back an extra 80 calories and 7 grams of fat, five of which are from saturated fat. But even if the saturated fat and sodium were slashed in half, they still would be high."
Wienerschnitzel Aussie Dog
This Polish-style hot dog from Wienerschnitzel is topped with cheese, bacon, and horseradish aioli. All of this sounds tasty, but it's one meal that won't do your body any favors.
The American Heart Association recommends that most adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, moving toward an ideal limit of 1,500 milligrams. The more than 1,800 milligrams of the salty stuff you're getting here is a major red flag for heart health—especially for those who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or are at a higher risk of heart disease.
However, there's a bit of a bright side to this menu option.
"The only plus is that this hot dog has almost double the protein compared to many other hot dogs, so it will keep you feeling full longer," Lakatos Shames says.
Looking for more helpful tips? Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!
Five Guys Bacon Cheese Dog
This option from Five Guys actually has about double the number of calories found in an average hot dog.
"All it takes in this hot dog [is the] added cheese and bacon to break the sodium, fat, and calorie bank," Lakatos Shames says.
Something else to note—the amount of saturated fat, sugar, and fiber this hot dog contains aren't actually listed on the chain's website. Is there a reason why?
Sonic Twisted Texan Footlong Chili Cheese Coney
Finally, we've reached the worst fast-food hot dog you'll find, courtesy of Sonic. It doesn't really come as much of a shock when you see words like "footlong" and "coney," a nod to the indulgent eats of "Coney Island" in its name.
"It's not a secret why this hot dog has nearly four times the calories, fat, and sodium of the typical hot dog. Plus, this dog takes it a step further to add chili, melted cheddar cheese, and fried onion strings, all of which are fat, calorie, and sodium bombs on their own," Lakatos Shames says.
If you and some friends happen to want to try this monster hot dog, perhaps you're better off grabbing a knife and cutting it into pieces to share!