Healthy-ish Maple Cranberry Sauce

A seriously simple sauce packed with antioxidants and immune-boosting vitamins that will brighten up your holiday table. 

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Who's ready for Thanksgiving? Every year it sneaks up on me (how is it mid-November already?), but it is HANDS DOWN my favorite holiday. A holiday where the sole focus is enjoying really good food with your friends and family - that speaks to my soul. Thanksgiving with my family is a serious event. Like if you don't learn to pace yourself, you're not going to make it to the pie (or maybe even past the appetizers). Although it doesn't seem possible, my aunt outdoes herself Every. Single. Year. 

As the dietitian in the family, of course, I'm usually in charge of the vegetables. But that doesn't mean I'm not digging into all of the other goodness. For some people, the holidays feel like a stressful time. Yes, some of that can be family stress (I'm so lucky to have a wonderful family that I look forward to spending time with), but a lot of that anxiety is around the food. Let's talk about this for a minute. The media is chock full of articles telling you how to "survive" the holidays with eat this, not that tips. Yes, if you indulge every time the opportunity presents itself, that can leave you feeling pretty crappy and probably carrying around a few extra pounds come January. But deprivation doesn't work either. When we deprive ourselves of the food we love and enjoy, we end up over eating later. And if you spend all of your energy focused on how many calories are in a particular dish or what you should or shouldn't be eating, you miss out on all of the joy the holidays have to offer.  So, let's keep this in mind: Thanksgiving is ONE day.  One day that you should enjoy to the fullest. Does that mean you should overstuff yourself? No. But don't deprive yourself either. Enjoy some of your favorite foods that you only get to eat once a year and then move on without shame or guilt. 

Moving on...

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Let's talk about this cranberry sauce. Cranberries get one moment per year to really shine. It's kind of sad they don't get more love. Full of antioxidants, immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C, and fiber, they are a nutrition powerhouse (some may say, a superfood). A natural diuretic, cranberries can help counteract some of the excess sodium you might consume at a Thanksgiving meal and help reduce bloat. Regular consumption has been tied to improved cardiovascular health as well as blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Plus, when prepared well, they are downright delicious. 

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But that stuff in a can? Please, please, please don't put that on your Thanksgiving table. Not only is it full of excess sugar, but it just doesn't taste the same. This sauce is the perfect balance between sweet and tart, with a hint of warmth from the maple syrup and a pop of bright, fresh flavor from the Meyer lemon -- exactly what you need to balance some of the richer dishes on your holiday table. With only 4 ingredients (including water), this cranberry sauce couldn't be easier to make. So, no excuses if you don't think you can hack it in the kitchen. In fact, if you're going to dinner elsewhere, this is a perfect thing to volunteer to bring because it can be made ahead of time. 

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Now, let's clear something up. This cranberry sauce is not healthier because of the maple syrup. Our bodies don't differentiate between "natural" forms of sugar (honey, maple syrup, date syrup, etc) and white table sugar. It's all metabolized in the same way. However, it IS HEALTHIER because it has about half the sugar of most traditional recipes out there. Let those cranberries shine! 

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If you haven't tried Meyer lemons before, they are slightly sweeter than a traditional lemon and have a hint of orange flavor. Can't find them in your grocery store? You can use an orange instead, but either cut down the amount of water slightly or only use half the orange. You also may need less syrup since oranges add more sweetness than the lemon. 

Healthy-ish Maple Cranberry Sauce