Every single day in the United States, 50 million hot dogs are eaten.
 This amounts to about 80 hot dogs per person per year.  
 
 The traditional hot dog is precooked, smoked sausage made of selected
 meat trimmings and seasonings.  Meat by-products and mechanically
 deboned meat may be used in their production. Subject to federal 
 quality controls, they must be listed on the label when used, just as 
 the more commonly used meats must be.  Hot dogs may also contain up 
 to 3.5 percent non-meat binders, such as nonfat dry milk, cereal, 
 dried whole milk, or 2 percent isolated soy protein. These binders 
 must also be distinctly labeled.
 
 Sodium nitrite, a preservative, is added to maintain natural meat
 color and impart the distinctive, cured meat flavor.  The United States
 Department of Agriculture (USDA) permits 200 parts per million in
 sausage.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows the addition of
 nitrite on the basis of a long history of safety and closely monitors
 its use.  Nitrites have been linked with cancer in laboratory animals.
 
 Beyond protein, hot dogs have little else on the nutritional plus
 side.  The minus side, however, is a different story.  The average hot
 dog has about 145 calories (jumbo size weighs in at 185), a good dose
 of sodium, and more than its share of fat--about 13 grams.  In many
 cases, about 70 percent of the calories come from fat, making hot dogs
 more of a fat source than a meat source.
 
 Many manufacturers are making lower-fat hot dogs to please consumers 
 who want to watch their fat intake but don't want to give up their 
 hot dogs.  Many of these “slimmer” dogs have the word “Lite” or “Light” 
 in their name.  Caution: Don't believe everything you see on labels.  
 Presently, in order to call itself lite, a hot dog must contain at least 
 33 percent less fat by weight than the USDA standard for regular wieners.  
 In other words, it must be no more than 20 percent--not 30 percent--fat. 
 
 A practical way to judge which hot dogs are the leanest is to
 figure how many of the calories in your hot dog come from fat.  
 You can figure this out by multiplying the number of fat grams per hot 
 dog by nine, then dividing this figure by the total calories per hot 
 dog.  For example: 10 grams of fat x 9 calories per gram = 90 fat 
 calories. Divide 90 by the total calories per hot dog, say 180, and you 
 get an answer of .5. or 50 percent. This means that 50 percent of the 
 total calories in your hot dog come from fat.  
 
 Hot dogs made from lean poultry, vegetables, and even tofu are now
 available.  Not all of the newer hot dogs are more healthful than the
 old version.
 
 As you might guess, vegetarian franks are much lower in fat than
 either the turkey or chicken versions, because their primary ingredient
 isn't an animal product. You probably won't find veggie dogs at your
 local supermarket. But they can usually be found in health food outlets.
 
 Turkey franks are lower in fat than beef and beef-pork combination
 hot dogs.  But because they are made from ground light and dark turkey
 meat, they still contain a significant amount of fat.  Most could never
 be considered low in fat.  And with poultry wieners, it’s best to do
 fat/calories calculations using the information on the labels.
 
 The newest weiners are tofu hot dogs?  Again, look out for them in
 health food stores--but only if you're determined to have a new hot 
 dog experience!  Vegetable and tofu franks have a different texture 
 from meat franks due to the wheat gluten, soy protein, and vegetable 
 gum they contain.  And, contrary to popular thought, tofu is not 
 particularly low in fat, so don't bet on these dogs to be, either.  
 Always check the labels to be sure.