The Likable Lo-Cal Diet: Franks n’ Burgers


In our continued exploration of the easiest possible way to stay under 1,200 calories, we finally answer the burning question, What about dogs n’ burgers?

So what is it that makes this diet so “likable”, you finally start to ask?

Its appeal to me, aside from the simplicity of its directives (“Stay under 1,200 calories per day. That’s really it. No, really.”) is that it doesn’t force you to flat-out eliminate anything from your normal diet. You just have to a) be more particular about what type of it you’re eating, and b) watch how much of it you’re eating.

Which brings us to those standard American lunches – particularly at sporting events and cookouts – known as hot dogs and hamburgers. These, particularly the former, frequently get a bad rap by getting lumped in with “junk” foods, but on the LLC diet, there are no junk foods, only junk amounts of food. Oh sure, there are foods you’re better off avoiding, but here in this column, nothing is completely off the table, and certainly not the…

Hot Dog!

Yes, their contents can be a bit troubling, but that’s for you and your conscience to work out. Here, all we’re concerned about is their calorie contents, and what we find from perusing the frankfurter section of the grocery store (mostly the Oscar Mayer brand, for simplicity’s sake) are some fairly innocuous numbers.

  • Classic wiener – 130 calories (45g)
  • Bun-length wiener – 140 calories (57g) (These are, I dunno, maybe a bite and a half longer?)
  • Bun-length beef wiener – 180 calories (So I guess stick to…Whatever non-beef product the classic wiener is?)
  • Cheese dog – 140 calories
  • 98% fat free wiener – 40 calories (I have not tasted this one. You’re on your own.)
  • Classic turkey wiener – 100 calories
  • Smoked turkey wiener – 80 calories

So far, so good. On the higher end are the Dodger Dogs at 240 calories, but those are 76 grams, so at just under 3 calories per gram, are on par with the OM Classics. Then we get into other members of the hot dog family, which are a decidedly mixed bag, such as…

  • Louisiana hot links – 240 calories (don’t be fooled by the package, which lists 160 calories for 1 serving, but they consider 2/3 of one link a serving)
  • Hillshire turkey kielbasa – 100 calories
  • Cheddarwurst – 220 calories
  • Beer bratwurst – 260 calories (It has beer in it. What’d you expect?)
  • Smoked bratwurst – 240 calories
  • Johnsonville beef bratwurst – 210 calories
  • Johnsonville turkey sausage – 110 calories

In short, if it’s got “turkey” in the name, it’s generally a better bet, calorie-wise, than if it doesn’t. Taste-wise, again, I make no promises.

Have Bun, Will Travel

Your basic hot dog bun generally ranges between 80 calories (Sara Lee’s wheat buns) and 110 (Nature’s Own whole wheat). Let’s average it out to 100.

So the bun-length wiener in an average bun comes out to 240 calories. Then you add some condiments, and the usual suspects (ketchup, mustard, relish, onion, pickle) are lo-cal enough that we can just guesstimate that you’ll put on, say, 20 calories worth. So you’re at 260, and if we recall that we’re trying to stay under 400, then we can not only enjoy our hot dog free of guilt, we can even throw in a small, 1-ounce bag of, say, Dorito’s (really small, mind you. Like 12 chips.), for another 140 calories, and we’re still good (albeit just barely), particularly if we keep the beverage no-cal.

So that all sounds well and fine…but then again, is it enough food? One hot dog and 12 Doritos? Only you can really answer that, but speaking for myself, I’d down that hot dog in four bites, the Doritos would be gone in a blink, and that’d be that. I’d probably slap my forehead in frustration and say “I could’ve had a sandwich! Or soup!” On the other hand, you could get creative. You could eat the dog without the bun (probably not advisable in mixed company). You could go with some of the really low-cal ones like the 98% fat free and have two of them, or just one and supplement with soup. Or you could instead have a…


Fortunately, there aren’t as many varieties of hamburgers as of hot dogs, so this went a bit quicker at the Albertson’s:

  • Hamburger patty – 240 calories (85g)
  • Turkey burger patty – 170 calories (112g)
  • Angus burger patty – 270 calories (151g)

Standard hamburger buns are on the same approximate caloric level as hot dog buns, around 100 calories and up.

So. Worth noting:

  1. An ordinary hamburger is just under 3 calories per gram, same as an ordinary hot dog.
  2. But with the Angus burger, you get almost twice the meat for a mere 30 calories more.
  3. But the turkey burger, at barely over 1 calorie per gram, is the best deal of all. Heck, you could throw on a slice of 31-calorie fat-free American cheese and all sorts of other goodies and still be in safe territory.
  4. Bunless hamburger patties are a bit more palatable than bunless hot dogs, so that’s another option. You could even have two of those turkey patties and a slice of the aforementioned cheese, and you’re still under the wire.

Given the choice between the two, then, I’d go with the burger, which I’ve always found more filling than hot dogs (mainly because, at 85g vs. 57g, they are). The main danger of the burger is that there are far more options for toppings and condiments; hell, there are whole burger franchises based on this notion. Obviously, some are safer than others. Old favorites like tomato, ketchup, pickle, lettuce and onion are fairly safe in moderation. Mayonnaise and bacon, as we’ve explored previously, less so. Cheese…depends on the cheese. Avocado (50-60 calories per oz.) can be used verrrry sparingly. And so on.

What it all boils down to is that yes, you can succumb to temptation and wolf down a burger or dog for lunch, but know that staying below the 400 calorie ceiling means either going with one of the lower calorie (e.g. turkey) options for these foods or eschewing the bun, and/or keeping the bells and whistles to a minimum.

We’ll save the really junky variations of these foods – your corn dogs, your sliders, etc. – for another day.

Until then…Enjoy the ballgame!


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