Just because you have diabetes, you don't have to eat bland food.  You're probably well aware of that, but one of the challenges of cooking (even if you don't have diabetes) is keeping things flavorful and interesting—while watching the health content.

In days past, we finished off a dish with a sauce, usually laden with butter or oil plus a myriad of other ingredients to complement the flavor of the food we were preparing. Eating lighter (and healthier), the sauces are now less frequent, and instead, we flavor the food first with marinades.

Why to Use Marinades to Flavor Your Food When You Have Diabetes

Why marinate? Besides adding flavor to the food, it also very often helps to tenderize tough meat or enhance the flavor of a milder-tasting food.

Since much of the beef, pork, lamb, and poultry are being bred leaner, marinades have become very important part of both indoor and outdoor cooking.

How to Make Marinades

Marinades may taste like a complicated recipe, but they are actually pretty simple to concoct.

Start with an acidic base (fruit juices or vinegar), then add spices or herbs to elevate the flavor of everything from meat to vegetables.

Here's some other add-ons so that you can develop your own recipes for marinades without a drop of oil (or other fat).

  • To impart a flavor of the Southwest, Mexico, South America, the Pacific Rim, India, or Middle East, add a spice blend of ground chiles, oregano, ground cumin, and garlic.
  • To further develop an Asian interest, add fresh ginger, star anise, sesame seeds, and hot pepper sauce.
  • For a sweet, pungent curry flavor, combine ginger, cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and cumin.
  • Shake up everyone's taste buds with a savory blend of mustard (Dijon or coarse grain), marjoram, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
  • Balsamic vinegar is a godsend for people with diabetes—it imparts a sweet flavor without the extra carbohydrates and goes well with most every food.

How to Use Marinades

The longer the food is in the marinade, the more flavor you get.

Just remember to marinate fish or seafood for no more than 30 minutes, or the fish will stat to "cook" by the acid (that's how ceviche is made.  That is raw fish or seafood "cooked" by marinating in lemon or lime juice for 6 to 8 hours). After 30 minutes, the acid begins to change the texture of the fish or seafood.

It's best to always cover and refrigerate any food as soon as the marinade is added. If you're grilling, remove the food from the marinade and let the food to return to room temperature. Cold liquids dripping from cold food will cause grill flare-ups.

If you intend to baste with the leftover marinade while cooking, be sure to transfer the marinade to a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a rapid boil for three minutes. Since the marinade has been in contact with raw food, it may have some bacteria that needs killing by high heat in order to avoid any possibility of contaminating the cooked food. The boiling will kill any existing bacteria. Don't ever save a marinade to soak another food.

The acids that you use in the marinade can penetrate into the dish you're using. For that reason, to be extra-safe, don't use an aluminum or metal container that might be a composite of aluminum and another metal.

We like to use a glass baking dish or a self-sealing plastic bag for marinating food. Using the glass dish will necessitate your basting the food several times during the marinating time.

If you're using a plastic bag, you only need to turn the bag over to redistribute the marinade.

Since none of these marinades contain any oil, the additional calories from the marinade will be negligible. One word of caution: if you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you already know that some of the ingredients used in some of the marinades are high in sodium. Always follow your doctor's and/or dietitians instructions on their use.

Diabetic Recipes for Marinades

Here are some of our favorites no-oil marinade recipes:

Lime-Garlic Marinade

What You Need

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and use to marinate fish, seafood, poultry, game (duck breast, quail, etc.), or vegetables.

Hot & Spicy Marinade
1 small onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup (240 ml) low-sodium ketchup
1 cup (240 ml) bottled low-sodium vegetable juice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Dijon mustard
1 to 2 teaspoons (5 to 10 ml) liquid hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon (5 ml) Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) crushed hot pepper flakes
freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and use to marinate beef, pork, or chicken.

Teriyaki Marinade
1 small onion, grated
1 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup (120 ml) no-salt-added canned beef broth
2 tablespoons (30 ml) low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) dry white wine or additional beef broth
1 tablespoon (15 ml) finely minced fresh ginger

Combine all ingredients and use to marinate beef, pork, chicken or seafood such as salmon, swordfish, tuna, or scallops.

South-of-the Border Marinade
1/4 cup (9 g) minced cilantro
1 small onion, minced
1 jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon (15 ml) crushed dried oregano, preferably Mexican
juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
juice and grated zest of 1 lime
freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and use to marinate pork, chicken, turkey, vegetables, or seafood such as fish fillets, salmon steaks or fillets, or fresh lake or brook trout.

Yogurt-Dill Marinade
1 cup (228 g) plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 cup (15 g) chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons (30 ml) grated onion
1 tablespoon (15 ml) prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients and use to marinate chicken, pork, or fish.

Veggie Marinade
1/4 cup (120 ml) dry white wine vinegar
1/4 cup (16 g) chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon (5 ml) Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely minced
freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and use to marinate vegetables before grilling such as husked corn on the cob, wide strips of bell peppers, whole mushroom caps, tiny while boiling onions (peeled and halved), thick slices of zucchini or summer squash, and cherry tomatoes.




Diabetic-Lifestyle Cooking Tips features useful ways to cook with more flavor, using less fat, salt, and sugar. Diabetic-Lifestyle offers recipes, menus, medical updates, entertaining - practical information enhances life while managing diabetes on a daily basis. - Home
Updated on: April 15, 2011