Read This Before Eating Canned Cranberry Sauce

Perhaps one of the most controversial elements of a Thanksgiving dinner is the cranberry sauce: will you eat it canned? Homemade? Does it have other fruits or spices in it? Are you using your grandmother's recipe that has been passed down for generations? While it might seem like a particularly innocuous side dish, some Thanksgiving fanatics are very ritualistic when it comes to how they like to have their cranberry sauce.

We seem to only eat cranberry sauce during this one time of the year, so it would make sense that people are very specific about how they choose to consume it. Even the grocery stores reflect the rarity of this niche dish, as you can really only find fresh cranberries during the fall and winter seasons.

It's no secret that you'll have a lot of decisions to make this Thanksgiving: which gravy boat to use, when to put the turkey into the oven, how to break the news to grandma that we won't be coming over this year. But we're hoping to make things a little easier for you this season by helping you decide what kind of cranberry sauce to serve!

While we encourage you to have cranberry sauce in whatever form makes you the happiest, according to food experts, you might want to take a hard pass on the canned cranberry sauce.

Reading food labels is essential to making healthy choices

According to food experts, it's not exclusively the canned cranberry sauce that you should avoid — it's canned foods in general. Dietitian Emily Wunder, the creator of the Healthier Taste website, asserts the importance of reading labels on the foods we buy. "If it is a long list of words that you cannot even pronounce," she says, "I would move on to another option." She explains that not properly inspecting the food we put into our bodies can lead to a whole mess of health issues, including "inflammation" (via Reading Eagle).

However, just because you can pronounce the ingredients doesn't totally guarantee its health benefits. When it comes to canned cranberry sauce, you'll probably be able to recognize the majority of the ingredients on the label — but we still recommend a hard pass. Wunder says that most canned cranberry sauce is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which "results in 25 grams of sugar per 1/4 cup serving where 24 grams of that is added sugar." She adds that there are so many sugary splurges to be had on Thanksgiving, so cranberry sauce is "one easy place to cut back."

A homemade cranberry sauce can easy to make, and even more delicious than the canned stuff

Oftentimes, the decision to pick an unhealthy option over a healthy one comes from the desire to save time or energy. However, in the case of cranberry sauce, switching to a healthier option doesn't suddenly mean you'll be spending your entire Thanksgiving slaving over a hot stove. Indeed, there are cranberry sauce options that are both quick and easy to make yourself.

Chef Seamus Mullen asserts that making your own cranberry sauce isn't only a better option because it's healthier, but because it would taste much better. "I find canned cranberry sauce to taste cloyingly sweet and over-processed," he says.

Author of Well Plated Erin Clarke suggests replacing your sugar with honey, so as to cut down on the overwhelming sweetness, and she is equally as passionate about passing up on the canned stuff. "Do not, I repeat, do not buy canned cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly," she warns. "Cranberry sauce is the easiest Thanksgiving side dish to make from scratch, and the holiday meal you spend hours preparing deserves the real deal."

DIY-ing your cranberry sauce also allows for you to explore more creative options and add in whatever you see fit, such as this recipe via Goop that includes oranges, pomegranate, and clove. These at-home recipes usually also result in a much more enjoyable texture, as opposed to the canned stuff which can be unpleasantly jellied and gelatinous.