Marinades are a tasty way to elevate grilled meat or chicken, with spices and acidity cutting through the char and creating layers of flavor. If you’re following a low-carb, ketogenic, or Atkins-style lifestyle, you must be careful of hidden carbs and look for unhealthy fats. So does marinating meat add much carbs or fat?
Marinades can add carbs and fats to your daily intake, especially if they contain high amounts of sugar and oils. However, homemade marinades with keto-friendly ingredients will add little to no carbs and only healthy fats to your diet.
Marinating meat is as easy as opening a bottle from the supermarket. But to avoid hidden carbs and oils, ensure you know exactly what you’re eating. It’s best to make your own keto-friendly marinades. Let’s look at how to calculate the carbs and fats added to your dish.
How To Calculate Carbs Transferred Through Marinade
Marinating your meat adds carbohydrates to a meal, especially if the marinade contains ingredients like sugar, honey, corn syrup, or fruit juice – if you’re not careful, you could add 10g+ of carbs per serving.
There are a few ways to calculate the carbs transferred through the marinade.
The Most Accurate Way To Calculate Carbs In Marinade
The most accurate way to calculate the carbs is to determine how much marinade the meat has absorbed by weighing how much marinade is left afterward. Do the following:
- Record the marinade’s ingredient nutritional information in terms of carbs, fiber, and sugar. (use a food calculator)
- Weigh the amount of marinade you are using, e.g., 4 oz.
- Weigh your meat before marinating, e.g., 1 lb.
- Weigh your meat after marinating, e.g., 1lb 2 oz.
- The difference between the weights before and after shows how much marinade was absorbed by the meat and thus forms part of your meal, e.g., 2 oz.
- If there are multiple servings, divide the absorbed marinade by the number of servings, e.g., 2 oz ÷ 4 servings = 0.5 oz per serving.
- Using the marinades’ nutritional information, calculate what portion of the serving is carbs and what is fiber or sugar to find your net carbs.
If you plan to baste or create a sauce with the marinade, you will need to account for the extra carbs in this portion of the marinade.
Quick And Dirty Ways To Calculate Carbs In Marinade
If a marinade is fairly healthy, it can add a tiny amount to your macro totals. A serving size is one or two tablespoons – so many keto enthusiasts feel that it’s not worth taking the time to calculate the carbs precisely. Instead, you could do one of these:
- Record the marinade ingredients and estimate how many carbs one serving (usually one-two tablespoons) adds to your meal.
- Or pad your food diary with the main ingredients of your marinade, e.g., 1 tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons of vinegar, to cover your bases. You’ll likely overestimate, but that might be OK.
- Don’t bother logging your marinade as it has a minor nutritional impact.
How Much Oil And Fat Is Absorbed When Marinating?
Unless it’s breaded, meat absorbs very little to no fat as meat is mostly water, and oil and water don’t mix. The oily liquid enters only microscopic pores and cracks in the meat and remains mainly on the surface of the meat.
However, absorption does depend on the item that is marinating. The marinade gets absorbed rapidly and deeply if you’re marinating fish, shellfish, and veggies like eggplant or mushrooms.
If you’re marinating meat, relatively little will be absorbed. Marinades seldom penetrate deep into your meat, at most, a 1/8 inch, even after hours of soaking. Only the surface of the meat is tenderized, which is why it’s best to use marinades on smaller, thinner cuts of meat like steak or pork chops.
However, the fat is crucial as it adds flavor and locks in moisture as the meat grills.
Fat is an essential ingredient as it conducts heat to the surface of the food and helps with browning. Most marinade fats include different oils, cream, butter, or yogurt.
Marinades add carbs as well as fats to your meal. Most marinades contain oil, so they are high in fat, which is ideal for a keto-style diet.
How To Keep Marinades Healthy
The best way to keep marinades healthy is to make them yourself, rather than relying on store-bought, bottled marinades. Ready-made marinades are often high in carbs, sugar, and salt, which add flavor but aren’t very good for you.
I wrote an article on how to work out how many calories are added to your food from marinades which can help you cut down.
To avoid your marinade adding unnecessary carbs and unhealthy fats to your diet, focus on making marinades with healthy ingredients.
Marinades usually include three elements, and you can choose the more nutritious versions of these for the best results:
- Acidic ingredients like wine, vinegar, or citrus juice tenderize your meat by loosening the bonds between the proteins. Acid also cuts through the richness of the meat.
- Oil coats the food, becomes infused with flavor, and helps with browning during the cooking process.
- Spices, herbs, aromatics, and condiments season and flavor the protein.
Healthy Acids For Marinades
The following are good choices of acids for healthy marinades:
- Citrus: lemon, orange, and lime juice, or their zest
- Vinegar: rice vinegar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar
- Dairy: Greek yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk
Avoid low-fat mayonnaise and yogurt, and rice vinegar that contains sugar.
Healthy Fats For Marinades
Here are some ideas for healthy fats for marinades:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Peanut oil
- Sesame oil
Avoid highly processed oils, like safflower and corn oil.
Healthy Spices For Marinades
Many store-bought marinades and marinade recipes include brown sugar and honey to sweeten the marinade and create a char when cooking. However, there are many flavors you can use apart from sugar (and boring salt and pepper) to season your food before cooking:
- Dried spices: cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, turmeric
- Fresh aromatics: garlic, ginger, onions, scallions, horseradish
- Fresh herbs: basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, cilantro
- Mustard: Dijon mustard, stoneground mustard, yellow mustard
- Sauces: Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, fish sauce, tamari
- Sweeteners: Erythritol, monk fruit
Avoid sauces heavy in sugar and carbs, like honey mustard, ketchup, sweet barbeque, and some brands of soy sauce, which contain carbs.
Keto Steak Marinades Ideas
Marinating steak, whether you’re planning to grill or broil it, is an excellent way to add a punch of flavor and vary your diet. Here are some delicious steak marinade recipes that are all keto-friendly.
- Teriyaki Beef On A Stick: Avoid the sugar of the usual teriyaki sauce with this marinade.
- Chimichurri Marinade: This keto version of the famous Argentinian sauce is flavorful and can be used for steak, fish, and chicken.
- Fresh Herb Marinade: Bright, herbaceous flavors level up this simple steak.
- Copycat Texas Roadhouse Steak: This dry marinade creates that typical BBQ flavor without the heavy sugariness of bottled BBQ sauce.
- Beef And Broccoli: Create your favorite Asian takeout at home.
- Healthy Gyros: This really simple marinade makes a delicious lunch or light dinner.
- London Broil Marinade: This tasty marinade is ideal for flank or skirt steak cuts.
- Mongolian Beef With Cauliflower Rice: A zesty marinade makes a gorgeous meal of flank steak.
- Jalapeno Steak: Try this marinated steak for a mouthwatering and mouth-searing treat.
- Low-Carb Beef Marinade: Instead of sugar, this marinade uses keto-friendly erythritol.
Hopefully, you should now know how marinating meat adds carbs or fat. There is no need to avoid marinades if you choose a low-carb or keto diet: by making healthy choices, you can create zingy marinades that will add flavor and interest to your protein dinners without unnecessary carbs.