Friday, October 14, 2016

Salty Dog

Years ago, about 3 BK (Before Kids), my husband and I read an article in a cooking magazine written by a guy who loved to cook good food. He wrote about his kids going through the “hot dog years.” Oh, how happy he was when they got over it and could appreciate his scratch-cooked meals. We scoffed at this notion, confident that our children would never succumb to the Great Weenie. Instead, they would eat piles of organic, fresh veggies and locally sourced meats.

The Reality- don't worry, there
were carrots too!
The Vision

As with most things “parenting,” our lofty expectations didn’t exactly translate into reality. Despite our best intentions, my 7 year old son has been in the “hot dog years” for about 2.5 years now, and seems to be holding steady.
This is why I am so excited about the shift I’ve seen in the cooler section recently. I actually saw chicken hot dogs that are – dare I say –the healthiest I’ve seen! I’ve seen some healthier turkey and even beef options out there too. And I’ve noticed a lot more whole wheat buns, too. The food industry seems to be responding to the steady demand from consumers, public health organizations, and even federal regulations mandating healthier foods in schools.  

Healthiest hot dog I've seen
It is not just me noticing these changes: a recent study in American Journal of Public Health found that sodium levels dropped by about 7% in top selling packaged foods from 2009 to the beginning of 2015. The National Salt Reduction Initiative – a partnership of 100 city and state health authorities and national health organizations – has been working with industry partners to reduce sodium for about 6 years, and it appears to be working. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a big step forward in June 2016 to encourage the food industry to reduce sodium in their products by creating draft voluntary targets for sodium levels. 

Unfortunately, at least where I shop, the healthier hot dogs can be more expensive than the traditional high saturated fat, high sodium hot dog. And these healthy versions of convenience foods are not universally available. Although our food supply is far from perfect, I’m hopeful that we are seeing the glimpses of a future where lofty parenting expectations can be closer to reality – at least when it comes to healthy eating. As for my family, we’ll continue to limit hot dogs to no more than once a week – but in the meantime, it’s good to know there are healthier options out there.
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