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Home > About Us > Media Article Library > Healthy marinades add flavor to grilled foods
Published on May 30, 2017
By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.
Summer brings out the grills and healthy menu options as we grill lean meats, chicken, fish and vegetables. Marinating can add robust flavors.
Grilling red meats to the point of charring can increase the heterocyclic amines that have been connected to increasing the risk of cancer. But marinating meats first may help decrease this risk, according to the American Cancer Research Institute.
Marinades have three parts: an acidic liquid, oil and seasonings. The acid causes the tissue on the meat' surface to break down, which allows more moisture to be absorbed and results in a juicier product. Leaving meats in a marinade too long may "chemically cook" them and cause the surface to turn mushy. Common acids include vinegars, citrus juices, yogurt, buttermilk or wine. A variety of oils can be used. Spices and herbs add a wide variety of flavor.
A general rule is that you need about 1/2 cup of marinade for each pound of meat or two pounds of vegetables. About one-third of the marinade' sodium and calories will be absorbed.
Many marinades are high in sodium, or salt. Many bottled marinades have 300 to 600 milligrams of sodium in each tablespoon. Even if only one-third is absorbed, that' 100 to 200 milligrams of sodium.
So, make your own marinades with fresh ingredients or choose those with less sodium. For example, Mrs. Dash marinades or World Harbors marinades have zero to no more than 120 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon.
Marinating time depends on the type, cut and size of the meat. Thinner cuts require less time. For example, steaks or chops need two to four hours while a whole roast needs four to six hours. Fish and vegetables require very little time, around 15-30 minutes. Meat that is still frozen will not absorb a marinade, so be sure to thaw first. If using a bottled marinade that is high in sodium, marinating for a shorter time helps avoid "mushy meat."
Here are some healthy marinades to get your summer off to a great start:
Chipotle Lime MarinadeThis marinade is great with lean pork, chicken, fish or vegetables. Makes about Â¾ cup.
1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce plus 1 teaspoon of the adobe sauce 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic1 tablespoon canola oil1/2 cup orange juice3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar1 teaspoon dried oreganoâ…› teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.
Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a gallon zip-lock bag or glass container. Use 1/2 cup per pound of meat or two pounds of vegetables.
Nutrition FactsServings: 12Servings size: 1 tablespoonCalories: 14Total fat: 1 gramSaturated fat: 0 gramsSodium: 35 milligramsCarbohydrates: 1 gramProtein: 0 grams
Big Bold MarinadeThis marinade is wonderful on all kinds of meat and fish as well as firm tofu. I adapted this recipe from eatingwell.com. It makes 1 cup.
2 tablespoons canola oil1/4 cup onion, finely chopped2 tablespoons minced garlic3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce1/4 cup red wine vinegar1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest 1/4 cup orange juice2 tablespoons packed brown sugar 2 teaspoons ground allspiceÂ¾ teaspoon fresh ground pepper1/2 teaspoon dried thyme1/2 teaspoon ground cloves1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon5 dashes of hot sauce
Heat oil in small saucepan. Add onion and garlic; cook about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Add up two pounds of protein of your choice.
Nutrition FactsServings: 16Serving size: 1 tablespoonCalories: 30Total fat: 2 gramsSaturated fat: 0 gramsSodium: 90 milligramsCarbohydrates: 3 gramsProtein: 0 grams
Lemon and Garlic MarinadeThis is a great marinade for vegetables, fish and lean beef. Makes 1/4 cup.
1 tablespoon olive oil2 tablespoons lemon juice1 tablespoon lemon zest1 teaspoon minced garlic1 teaspoon Paul Prudhomme' Magic Salt-Free Seasoning All-Purpose BlendFreshly ground pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Add meat or vegetables. Nutrition factsServings: 4Serving size: 1 tablespoonCalories: 35Total fat: 4 gramsSaturated fat: 2 gramsSodium: 0 milligramsCarbohydrates: 1 gramProtein: 0 grams
SIDE BAR: Marinade safely
Follow these guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics while marinating to reduce the risk of food-borne illness: