Why You Should Think Twice Before Ordering Five Guys' Hot Dogs

The clock strikes 12 and you've got a serious yen for a savory dog on a warm bun. Maybe you'll even add a few free toppings this time. What could possibly be wrong with an all-beef, premium, kosher frank, split and grilled lengthwise for a caramelized exterior (via Five Guys)? Clearly, we're not expecting diet food here, but a simple frank couldn't be that bad. Or could it?

The ingredients in the Five Guys hot dog start off OK. The franks are made with 100 percent premium cuts of kosher beef, and there are no artificial flavors, colors, fillers, or by-products. And there's no gluten in case anyone's interested (via Hebrew National). Water is the second ingredient. If only they stopped there — with beef and water.

Keep reading and things quickly delve into something more akin to a science project. Salt is ingredient number three, followed by four more variations on the sodium theme. Sure, we expect to be thirsty after a salty dog, but there are 450mg of sodium in the hot dog alone — without the bun and toppings.

How many types of salt do you need?

Apparently five. There are four additional iterations of salt used to get this dog to home plate. There's sodium lactate, a sodium salt made from lactic acid. When used in food, sodium lactate adds a mild saline taste. Apparently, it also makes a great addition to soap (via Toms of Maine).

Then there's sodium diacetate, a salt of acetic acid with a vinegar-like flavor that's used to control and prevent mold and bacteria (via FoodAdditives.net).

Then sodium erythorbate, which keeps color and flavor intact, prevents bacterial growth, extends shelf life, and speeds up the curing process (which helps develop that signature pink color). 

Lastly, sodium nitrite is used to prevent bacterial growth and (again) extend shelf life. Sadly, sodium nitrite isn't just harmful to the environment, it's somewhat toxic (via National Library of Medicine). Also, when exposed to amino acids (which could be the saliva in your mouth) and high heat, nitrites can transform into cancer-causing nitrosamines; which is one (obvious) reason why manufacturers are supposed to limit their use (via Healthline).

This isn't the salt of the earth — it's more like a salt lick. The regular Five Guys kosher dog has 1,130mg of sodium, which is half of your daily recommended max (via American Heart Association). Add cheese and the number climbs to 1,440mg. And cheese and bacon and we're talking about 1,700mg of salt. Pretty much your entire day's allotment in one dog.

So, if you still plan to enjoy that lunchtime hot dog, do so with a modicum of caution and make sure to reduce your salt intake the rest of the day.

Robin Miller is a nutritionist, chef, and food writer.