Guest blogger Michelle Kemper Brownlow: My son was never a fan of meat, so I remember a conversation I had with my pediatrician about twelve years ago. I told him I knew hot dogs were bad news, but recently someone had offered my son a hot dog and he'd eaten the whole thing. Should I give him hot dogs so he gets that meat protein? The doctor said, and I quote, "Given the choice, he would be healthier not eating meat than having hot dogs." And that's when we became a once-in-a-blue-moon hot dog family. I have done research, especially when friends call me a "loon" for not having them in my fridge at all times.
This came up recently when one of my children mentioned that a national sandwich chain was "healthy." Healthier than fast food, yes. Healthy on its own, no. On the Cancer Prevention Coalition website, you can read about a study done in L.A. between 1980 and 1987, on the intake of certain foods and the risk of leukemia in children from birth to age 10. The study found that children who ate more than 12 hot dogs per month had nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia.
Nine times the normal risk?! It infuriates me that this information is not made public. You have to go looking for it to find the truth. The science behind this study shows that the nitrites used to preserve all cured meats and give them their fresh color turns to a carcinogen when the meat is cooked. The next time you are in the grocery store, pick up the meats you buy and check for "nitrites" on the ingredients list (it's usually near the end). This ingredient is not only in hot dogs, but lunchmeats, cured ham, kielbasa, bacon, pepperoni, beef jerky, sausage and some fish.
So, for busy moms, this sounds like a dinner-making nightmare, right? Well, it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of brands that offer nitrite-free meats. Hormel, for example, has a whole line of "natural" nitrite-free lunchmeats, and Oscar Mayer offers an All Natural Uncured All Beef Frank. These items are sold at many grocery stores around the country, including Walmart.