Hot dog sodium content puts limits on my favorite summer food

Americans eat 7 billion hot dogs from Memorial Day to Labor Day

Mike Naple avatar

by Mike Naple |

Share this article:

Share article via email
banner image for

Summer, to quote Paulette from “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde,” “makes me want a hot dog real bad!”

When I picture scenes of summers past, I think of family and friends enjoying backyard barbecues, beach bonfires, camping trips, and outings to the ballpark. I can also smell the seasonal staple that connects them all: the humble hot dog.

Whether it’s sizzled on a grill, cooked on a stick over a wood fire, or wrapped in paper and smothered with mustard and onions from a stadium concession stand, the hot dog is that classic summer food that just hits the spot.

If given the choice as a kid, I almost always would pick a hot dog over a hamburger. As I grew older, I’d choose a hot dog over popcorn or candy at the movies. Most of the time, I’d eat franks without condiments, unless my mom was making meat sauce, which I piled high on at least two dogs at a time.

As an adult, I embraced the condiments onions, mustard, and relish. I’ve even been known to indulge in a convenient store hot dog from time to time.

I’ll always remember when my love of hot dogs came face to face with the reality of life with pulmonary hypertension (PH), a progressive disease that affects the heart and lungs.

Recommended Reading
A heart symbol is pictured on a human heart that's nestled between a pair of lungs.

Early PAH treatment combo seen to improve blood flow, exercise ability

On the Friday of Memorial Day weekend in 2016, I was finishing my first week of pulmonary rehabilitation, which was part of my post-diagnosis treatment following a hospitalization that spring. The respiratory nurses asked us patients about our plans for the long weekend. A few of us mentioned attending parties. Since we were all managing a cardiovascular or pulmonary health condition, the nurses urged us to watch what we ate. They specifically urged us stay away from hot dogs.

In the summertime, hot dogs appear to be everywhere. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Americans consume 7 billion hot dogs — which amounts to “818 hot dogs consumed every second.” This year is my ninth summer since my diagnosis, and it’s safe to say that I’m not adding much to that total these days.

How bad are hot dogs?

While hot dogs offer a sense of summertime nostalgia, they can hardly be described as a staple of good health. In a recent GQ article that explored the question of how many hot dogs is too many, dietitian Angel Planells said that context is important.

“How are you sleeping? What else did you eat today? Are you generally active? Do you have any preexisting health conditions, especially ones that require medication?” Planells asked.

Processed meats like traditional hot dogs are typically high in calories, fat, and sodium, which can exacerbate some PH symptoms. Last year, I wrote about trying to balance my diet choices with this terrible disease, particularly sodium.

My treatment plan includes monitoring my fluid intake to help control retention. I take multiple diuretics and other medications throughout the day to help reduce swelling and excess fluid that could put additional pressure on my heart. Sodium contributes to fluid retention, which is why doctors recommend we keep a watchful eye on how much of it we consume.

The sodium content of a hot dog packs a punch. According to Planells, a single frankfurter can have up to 700 mg of it. That might not seem like much, but it’s over a third of a person’s daily amount if they’re sticking to 2,000 mg a day. Cue the respiratory nurse.

Of course, other foods are symbolic of this season, too. Fellow columnist Jen Cueva wrote about the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available at her local farmers market in San Diego. That inspired me to visit one in my own neighborhood here in Washington, D.C.

Now, for a good summer meal, I can make grilled eggplant and portobello mushrooms instead of an Italian sausage, for example.

Truth be told, I do give in to my hot dog craving once or twice a summer. Life is short, and sometimes taking care of yourself means indulging in a favorite snack and relishing the joy!

What seasonal foods do you crave during the summer? Please share in the comments below. You can also follow me on X: @mnaple.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.

A Conversation With Rare Disease Advocates