Saturday, July 2, 2011

Killer haute dogs and Sandy's antidote

“No hot dogs.” That was at the top of the dietary advice I was given on being discharged from the hospital following my cardiac arrest in 1989.

In point of fact, what I was actually advised was no sausages or wieners. Which, of course, means no hot dogs. Which is what we’re going to talk about here. The hot dog, saturated with artery-clogging, heart-stopping saturated fat and goodness knows what other poison, wrapped in a white bun.

That was 22 years ago. Now, the lowly hot dog has been elevated from junk food to gourmet food and renamed the haute dog. If hot dogs were unhealthy, $9 to $11 haute dogs are killer foods. They should be served with warning labels, like cigarettes.

I learned all I need to know about haute dogs in a recent Toronto Globe and Mail article (“The rise and rise of the haute dog,” June 29). I learned that Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulard has introduced a $9 haute dog at his New York restaurant; TV’s Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais is opening a “Haute Doggery” restaurant in Atlanta; and Nation’s Restaurant News has hailed hot dogs as one of the year’s top trends.

Haute dogs are just one more incendiary in the food industry’s constant bombardment—from newspapers, magazines, books, television—of new, appealing, tasty, trendy, gourmet and haute cuisine food—95 percent of which the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans tell us we should either avoid or eat much less of. Rest assured that anything called gourmet or haute cuisine is bad for your pocketbook and worse for the rest of you. No wonder that 68 percent of adult Americans are either overweight or obese, with Canadians not far behind, while childhood obesity is considered an epidemic. The amount of money spent to promote unhealthy foods seems exceeded only by the resultant medical costs.

Consider a couple of featured haute dogs. At the Tubby Dog restaurant in Calgary, for $10 you can indulge in Sherm’s Ultimate Gripper. It includes Jalapeno nacho cheese; a fried egg; a slice of grilled ham; bacon bits, sautéed onions; mustard; a five-ounce, deep-fried, bacon-wrapped beef wiener; and a toasted white bun. At Skinner’s Restaurant in Lockport, Manitoba, $11.20 will buy another killer haute dog with a foot-long pork and beef wiener wrapped in a white bread bun.

What, exactly, is so bad about haute dogs?

Let’s make a list—in addition to the customary saturated fat in the wieners—using that Ultimate Gripper from Calgary’s Tubby Dog as our example.

First the cheese. It may have lots of nutrition but like all whole milk diary products, most notably butter and cheese, it’s loaded with those artery-clogging saturated fats, i.e., solid fats. We eat “too many calories from solid fats, added sugars and refined grains,” warn the Diary Guidelines.

Eggs are very high in nutrition, but also high in dietary cholesterol, which isn’t necessary since our bodies normally produce all the cholesterol we need. All the health authorities I’ve consulted recommend no more than 300 mg a day of dietary cholesterol for healthy people and 200 mg for those at risk of heart trouble. One egg yoke contains 200 mg or more, while other big cholesterol sources include diary products, red meat, and some shellfish. At least one team of medical researchers disputes the claims that 200 to 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day are safe to eat (see my blog Controversial Food, November 17, 2010).

Additional saturated (i.e., solid) fats in the grilled ham, bacon, and sautéed onions, and a big load of salt in the ham.

Frying—the egg, bacon bits, sautéed onions, but especially the deep-fried bacon-wrapped wiener—could be the worst feature. Frying saturates your food with even more saturated fat, can transform the cooking oil into deadly trans fat, change the chemical composition of the food, increase heart and cancer risks, and cause digestion problems.

The custom-made bun. Of course it’s custom-made. How else could it hold so much unhealthy food? But what makes it truly unhealthy is the white flour—one of the refined carbohydrates that also include white rice, other refined grains, and sugar. Nutrients in natural carbos are largely removed in refined carbos. They can drain your body’s store of nutrients; spike insulin production, thereby increasing body fat and obesity; addle the mind; cause inflammation, resulting in heart disease, cancer and destruction of brain cells. No wonder the Guidelines say Americans (Canadians, too) eat too much “refined grains.” And don’t be fooled by baked goods, like hot dog buns, that feature “enriched flour.” That’s just white flour in which a small amount of the removed nutrients have been returned.


Simple. Sandy’s nutshell guide to disgustingly healthy cooking has been tweaked. Here it is:

Sandy’s Happy Heart Cooking. Plain, economical, easy-to-make, disgustingly healthy food. None of this (or as little as possible): trans fat; refined carbohydrates; hydrogenated foods; whole milk products; fried and sautéed food (we pseudo sauté vegetables, microwaving them in a glass bowl with a little non-hydrogenated canola margaine); egg yoke. Very little of this: red meat, high glycemic foods (notably potatoes. except sweet potatoes and yams). In moderation: boneless, skinless chicken breasts; extra-lean ground turkey meat (microwaved to remove more fat); salt; sweeteners (Demerara sugar, honey and sucralose-based products); low-fat milk products (e.g., partly-skimmed milk cheeses). Good to go stuff:  Fish with high omega-3 fatty acids (the Guidelines say at least eight ounces a week); soy food; no-fat milk products (notably yogurt); non-hydrogenated canola margarine. Lots of the best stuff: vegetables (a rainbow of dark colours); fruits (especially berries, and tomatoes, cooked with a little oil as a top cancer-fighting food ); whole grains (steel-cut oats make an exceptionally healthy and very economical breakfast); nuts (peanuts are recommended in Dietary Guidelines) and seeds. Ground flax seeds are a class apart, the only plant food that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, plus exceptionally high in antioxidants and fibre. A teaspoon or more a day is recommended by many Canadian doctors.

But you really need a more extensive guide. Dietary Guidelines for Americans is the best one I’ve found. You can get a free, 100-page copy, by clicking on this link.

Next week: Summer Time, and the Eating is Easy. A pair of cool salads for hot days.
TAGS: Hot dogs, junk food, food health risks, gourmet food, haute cuisine, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, trans fat, carbohydrates, hydrogenated food.

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