10 Unhealthiest Store-Bought Marinated Meats You Can Buy

Want your meaty main course to be teeming with unforgettable flavor? Look no further than the method of marination, which involves soaking your prime ribeye steak, juicy pork filet, or pack of succulent chicken breasts in a seasoned liquid, sauce, or assortment of spices for a pre-determined length of time prior to cooking. Meats can be marinated anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours in advance of their preparation, the technique amplifying both the flavor and tenderness of the cut. This has made marination a popular go-to for professional chefs and home cooks alike when preparing various types of meats.

Though you may have always soaked your beef or fish at home in either a store-bought or homemade marinade, some grocers offer pre-marinated meats that are ready to be taken home and grilled, baked, or seared right away — no waiting required. But before you select an already-soaking animal protein from your local grocery store, be on the lookout for a few that you may want to avoid on behalf of your health. From sodium-heavy sirloin strips to high-calorie buttery shrimp to cholesterol-coated chicken breasts, here are 10 of the unhealthiest store-bought marinated meats you can buy.

1. Good & Gather Carne Asada Seasoned Beef Skirt Steak

Skirt steak is considered one of the most flavorful cuts of beef. Taken from a part of the cow known as the plate, it is made up of both the animal's diaphragm and transversus abdominis muscles. All of these tough connective tissues can make for a chewy cut of meat, so a good long soak in a marinade can be helpful in providing some tenderness and moisture.

But if you're strapped for time and can't throw together a marinade from scratch, Target has you covered with its carne asada seasoned-and-soaked skirt steak. Marinated in a mix of both water and spices like garlic, onions, and pepper, your taste buds are guaranteed to sing as you slice off each melt-in-your-mouth chunk of this savory steak.

However, your heart may not sing the same praises. The Good & Gather Carne Asada Seasoned Beef Skirt Steak comes with a whopping 460 milligrams of sodium every 4-ounce serving — remarkable when you consider that a standard 4 ounces of plain cooked skirt steak only has 75. Too much sodium can cause increased blood pressure, which over time can lead to heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, or heart failure. While indulging every now and then in this flavorful skirt steak may not bring such dire consequences, it is something to bear in mind before buying. In addition to heightened sodium, you can also expect 12 grams of fat and 60 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.

2. Hormel Mesquite Barbecue Center Cut Loin Filet

Contrary to popular belief, pork is actually considered a low sodium meat in its natural state. A large 100-gram serving of pork comes with only 55 grams of total sodium — a number lower than you might have assumed. However, pork is often heavily seasoned or marinated to create many different types of commercially processed meats, such as bacon or breakfast sausage. This, of course, heavily amps up its overall salt levels. Even a more minimally processed cut of pork, such as a whole pork loin filet from the grocery store, can have its salt content skyrocket if it is marinated in a salty liquid — and one particular Hormel version is the perfect example of this.

Every 4-ounce chunk of Hormel's Mesquite Barbecue Center Loin Filet comes in at 570 milligrams of sodium ... and what ravenous dinner participant eats just 4 ounces when it's time to feast? Since an adult's recommended intake of sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams a day, it could be easy to exceed this in one big sit down meal starring this super-salty marinated loin. Though relatively low in fat and sugar, the cholesterol in this cut is also questionable, at approximately 45 milligrams per serving. Though buying this one will save you some time on dinner, you'll have to decide whether it's worth the onslaught of salt ... especially if you have family members with heart conditions or chronic diseases like hypertension to consider.

3. Sea Cuisine Mediterranean Salmon

Salmon is one of the most popular types of fish among consumers, its ability to take on multiple different flavor profiles, pairings, and cooking methods having made it a versatile seafood staple of diets worldwide. Some choose to throw a marinade into the mix, thus infusing their salmon dishes with Southwestern, Hawaiian, or Thai-inspired flavors, among others, to create a twist on the classic. The brand Sea Cuisine chooses to harness a Mediterranean vibe in its pre-marinated salmon take, available at Target, Kroger, Albertsons, and others.

But although this delicious crusted salmon marinated in a mix of water, spices, cheese, pine nuts, and tomatoes makes for an exciting and unique seafood treat for either dinner or lunch, it also makes for a slightly more unhealthy take on an otherwise nutritious fish. The frozen Sea Cuisine product comes with more sodium than most fish, but it also comes injected with artificial dyes, such as Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 1 and 2 Lake, caramel color, and others. Since some of these controversial food dyes have been linked to neurological issues and behavioral changes — particularly in children — you may want to consider whether or not you want to serve them up to the entire family at mealtime.

4. Good & Gather Teriyaki Beef Sirloin Strips

Beef can be a great option for those adhering to higher protein diets, keto diets, or for those attempting to avoid carbohydrates and sugar in general. This is because while beef is high in both protein and fats, it doesn't in and of itself contain any sugar or carbs. However, the next time you're considering snagging yourself a pack of the Good & Gather teriyaki-coated sirloin strips to star in what you are intending to be a sugar-free, carb-free meal, you may want to reconsider. This is because you'll find both in this particular pre-marinated Target meat selection.

Six grams of sugar and 7 grams of carbohydrates grace each 4-ounce serving of this particular product. This more than likely comes from the teriyaki-based marinade rather than the meat itself, but since the sauce has already been soaked into the flesh, it will be impossible to avoid these additional (and less desirable for some) nutritional aspects. In addition, the sodium content of this beef entree sits much higher than what you might find in beef in its un-marinated state, at nearly 430 milligrams per serving. Depending on you or your family's dietary preferences and health needs, these nutritional stats may just be enough to cause you to walk right by this one in the refrigerated section. 

5. Festival Foods Sweet Bourbon Pork Tender Roast

Festival Foods is a Midwestern grocery chain famous for its ready-made meals, so it comes as no surprise that there are some pre-marinated cuts up for grabs in its meat department. One of these is a 2-pound sweet bourbon pork tender roast, which has been soaked in a marinade of brown sugar, molasses, and soy sauce. This gives the typically savory meat a more balanced flavor, with just a hint of sweetness — something a little different for the weekend feast.

But as you likely already assumed, the application of this sweet marinade comes with some extra sugar tacked onto the nutrition label. However, it is surprisingly less than you might expect. Three total grams of sugar are to be found in each 4-ounce serving of this large pork filet, which doesn't feel too offensive. The real nutritional downfall of the product comes from its overall fat content — which provides over half of the loin's total calories — and its elevated sodium levels, which are over 500 milligrams per serving. There are 55 milligrams of cholesterol tacked onto this, as well, and since an adult's daily limit should not exceed 300 milligrams (200 if you are at risk for heart disease), it's easy to see how a second or third helping of this pork could put you over this recommended number quickly. Keep this in mind if you're a Midwesterner that happens to do your grocery shopping at Festival.

6. Marketside Applewood Smoked Bacon Pork Filet

Marketside is one of Walmart's many store brands. It puts out salad kits, dips, organic produce, bakery goods, ready-to-make meals, and yes, even marinated meats. One of these is the Marketside Applewood Smoked Bacon Pork Filet, a 1-to-2.5 pound roast of marinated and seasoned pork topped generously with piles of chopped bacon bits. We know what you're thinking — a loin marinated in a sodium-heavy liquid and covered in salty, fatty bacon bits must come with some decently high numbers on its nutrition label. And you'd be right: this meaty masterpiece is every bit as indulgent as you likely expected.

With 14 grams of fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, and a whopping 660 milligrams of sodium per 4-ounce serving, this Walmart take on a savory pork filet is as heavy as its title suggests. To top it all off, the chopped bacon which liberally covers to top of the filet is loaded with preservatives such as sodium nitrite, an ingredient which has been associated with the development of both heart disease and diabetes. While some food brands have begun cutting this additive out of their products as a result of its questionable and adverse health-related side effects, Marketside is not one of them ... at least, not in the case of its Applewood Smoked Bacon Pork Filet. Who knows what the future may hold for this meaty treat? 

7. Pescanova Garlic Butter Shrimp Skewers

Shrimp is the most-consumed seafood in America, and this pink crustacean's many health benefits are well-documented. Rich with heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids and carotenoids for skin health, while also being naturally high in protein and void of fat and carbohydrates, shrimp has become a go-to for both weight management and obtaining vital vitamins and nutrients among eaters.

But how shrimp is prepared can have a major impact on how healthy it presents. Battered and fried shrimp, for example, tends to have more fat, calories, and sodium than its baked or grilled counterparts might. The same goes for certain marinated versions, as well — in particular, one of the seafood company Pescanova's shrimp products.

The Pescanova Garlic Butter Shrimp Skewers is a four pack of juicy skewered shrimps just begging to be thrown on a hot grill on a perfect summer night. The shrimps themselves are packaged soaking in a creamy, butter-based sauce — and the nutrition stats certainly reflect the richness of this marinade. One serving (two skewers) may only come with 130 calories, but it also brings to the table over 900 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of fat, and a whopping 90 milligrams of cholesterol — numbers that seem to detract from the general healthiness of this protein in its purest form.

8. Good & Gather Al Pastor Style Pork

Al pastor is a classic Mexican meat dish involving large cuts of pork which are generally prepared on a rotisserie. After the pig has spent several hours cooking vertically on a spinner, it is systematically sliced off, beginning with the outermost layer. These flavorful, tender pork slices then go on to be used in tacos al pastor, alambres, or huaraches, among others. Before all this occurs, however, the pork must first be marinated. The sauce in which al pastor pork is soaked is composed of a delightful mixture of pineapple and chilis — giving the final cooked meat a unique sweet-and-spicy flavor that has become coveted by eaters around the world.

On those days when you're craving some al pastor but can't pop over to Mexico on a whim to get your fix, there's Good & Gather's Al Pastor Style Pork, a pack of pre-sliced and marinated meat ready to be quickly browned and sprinkled atop your next round of homemade flour tortillas. But before you buy this Target product, you may want to pause and take a look at the looming nutrition label. Four ounces of these al pastor slices provide 220 calories (130 of which come from fat), 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 690 milligrams of sodium, and 2 grams of carbohydrates. You may just ultimately decide you want to make your own, lighter version of an al pastor marinade at home.

9. Kevin's Natural Foods Honey Garlic Beef

Whenever we see a product with a "natural" label, we automatically tend to think it's healthy; it's just human nature. But while Kevin's Natural Foods Honey Garlic Beef, a frozen pack of juicy beef strips soaking in a honey garlic marinade, is indeed healthy for some consumers in that it uses meat raised without antibiotics and is paleo, soy, and gluten-free certified, the nutrition label on the back could be considered alarming in other ways for some eaters.

Despite the self-professed natural label, this particular marinated Kevin's meat product sports some serious added sugar — almost 9 grams per 5-ounce serving, 4 of which are added. The sodium sits at 670 milligrams per serving, while the cholesterol comes in at 50. There are also 11 grams of carbohydrates to account for — despite the fact that beef is naturally carb-free. Keep in mind that these stats only count for one serving: if you eat more than 5 ounces (which, let's admit, is very easy to do when you're hungry after a long day), these amounts could double ... maybe even triple. 

10. AdapTable Meals Lemon Peppercorn Chicken Breasts

Chicken is a versatile lean meat that is often reached for when consumers are desiring a less fatty, lower-calorie protein option. But while poultry harbors a reputation as a lighter meat, store-bought chicken is often injected with salt solutions that inherently raise its sodium levels from the get-go. Purchasing chicken that is marinating in a savory sauce, then will often increase this sodium-raising effect even further — as is the case with one marinated poultry product from the company AdapTable.

The AdapTable Meals Lemon Peppercorn Chicken Breasts is a 2-pack of ready-to-go chicken breasts with rib meat sitting in a citrus-based sauce with garlic and biting black pepper. Though this thick marinade will undoubtedly put a tasty, interesting kick in your chicken meal, it may also put a wrench in your intentions for a healthier dish. Though each breast comes with just 200 calories and 35 grams of protein, it also comes with 660 milligrams of sodium and 110 milligrams of potentially artery-clogging cholesterol. We're not sure if the former nutritional stats in this case are strong enough to forgive the latter, but we suppose it all depends on your personal nutritional needs, health risk factors, goals, and preferences. What's right for one person isn't always right for another, after all — even where marinated meats are concerned.


To develop our list of some of the unhealthiest marinated meats on the market, numerous grocery store's databases were consulted and products' nutrition labels were compared. Elements such as calories, fats, sodium content, and cholesterol were weighed using daily recommendations determined by credible public health associations such as the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control. Controversial preservatives, food additives, and dyes were also taken into account. Please note that what is healthy for one person may not be healthy for another, and both caloric and nutritional needs can vary greatly among consumers.