Healthy Tips for Hot Dogs and Hamburgers

Yes, you can eat hot dogs and hamburgers on your diabetic diet. Just follow a few tips and tricks, and start enjoying these barbecue favorites guilt-free.

Social Staples

During the warmer months, your social calendar is likely to be sprinkled with cookouts, visits to street fairs, or pool parties where the grill is a-sizzle. And the main course, of course, is hot dogs, sausages, or hamburgers.

"Nothing tastes better than a hot dog downed during an inning of baseball or a brat at the Polish polka festival," says Patti Urbanski, M.Ed., R.D., CDE, a dietitian and diabetes educator at the Duluth Family Practice Center in Minnesota who also has type 1 diabetes. Fortunately, you can relish these rituals without ruining your diabetes meal plan.

Where's the Beef?

Hamburger meat, by government standards, is fresh or frozen ground beef without anything else added and can contain no more than 30 percent fat by weight. At the supermarket, hamburger meat is labeled with its percentage of lean meat and percentage of fat, such as 80/20 or 93/7. Not so at a friend's barbecue or a ballpark grill. Here are some good rules of thumb:

-- A 3-ounce serving of cooked meat is just right -- there's no need to pile on extra patties or order a large burger unless you share.

-- Get your hamburgers cooked how you like them (as long as the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F for safety) because the fat content doesn't differ much based on doneness.

-- Spread condiments gingerly, but feel free to use a generous amount of this low-calorie flavor enhancer: mustard.

6 Ways to Lighten Your Hot Dog or Hamburger

Go Topless

Ditch half the bun to cut carbs. Opt for a whole grain bun when you have the choice. If available, use a lettuce-leaf topper to help keep your fingers clean.

Scope Out the Grill

Look for vendors who use an open grill rather than a smooth-top grill. The open grill lets a little more fat drip away.

Boycott Cheese

Skip the cheese on hamburgers to reduce saturated fat and calories. Instead, add flavor enhancers such as salsa, hot sauce, wasabi, or Worchester sauce -- all free foods.

Find ideas for other low-carb, low-calorie condiments.

Say No to Sauteed Toppers

Once onions and peppers are sauteed, they're coated with high-calorie oil. Raw veggies, however, add a few vitamins and minerals and make a small burger into a thicker bite.

Curb Condiments

Spread ketchup, sweet relish, and mayonnaise (especially) lightly. Have a heyday with mustard, but go easy on the pickles. Pickles are low in calories, but sweet varieties contain carbs and they're all high in sodium. If you're looking for crunch, try cucumber slices with a bit of lemon-pepper seasoning.

Buy Lean

Today's poultry-base sausages cut the fat and calories slightly, but they're still no nutrition nirvana. Plus, most vendors at ballparks and fairs don't serve these low-fat varieties.

Despite this, you can enjoy hot dogs and sausages on occasion, says Patti Urbanski, M.Ed., R.D., CDE. "Let a few summertime splurges be your limit," she says. "Know your nutrition goals -- is it more important for you to limit saturated fat, calories, or sodium?"

When shopping for these summertime favorites, check labels on food packaging for nutrition information or visit

Purchase lean and low-fat hamburger meat, and choose low-fat or poultry-base hot dogs and sausages. Also look for hot dogs with reduced sodium content.

Food Label Tips

Heart-Healthy Hot Dogs with 6 grams of Fat or Less

Smart Choices: Hamburgers & Turkey Burgers

Hamburger or turkey burger, 3 ounces cooked (85 grams)

Beef, 93/7: 170 calories, 8 g total fat, 0 g carb, 70 mg sodium, 23 g protein

Lean turkey: 160 calories, 9 g total fat, 0 g carb, 85 mg sodium, 18 g protein

Extra lean white turkey, 95/5: 140 calories, 5 g total fat, 0 carb, 270 mg sodium, 24 g protein

Smart Choices: Hot Dogs

Hot dog, 1 frank cooked (45-50 grams)

98% fat-free turkey wiener: 40 calories, 0.5 g total fat, 3 g carb, 470 mg sodium, 5 g protein

97% fat-free beef frank: 40 calories, 1 g total fat, 3 g carb, 520 mg sodium, 6 g protein

Light turkey and pork wiener: 90 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g carb, 380 mg sodium, 5 g protein

Smart Choices: Sausages

Sausage, 1 link cooked (85 grams)

Lean turkey brat: 160 calories, 9 g total fat, 19 g carb, 690 mg sodium, 18 g protein

Chicken brat: 148 calories, 9 g total fat, 0 g carb, 60 mg sodium, 16 g protein

Light pork, beef, and turkey brat: 158 calories, 12 g total fat, 1 g carb, 835 mg sodium, 12 g protein

Low-Calorie Desserts that Won't Disappoint!

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