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Opinion
07/12/2016

Staying balanced over the holidays

Christmas is around the corner, and two items of data suggest that this year is going to be better than previous ones: employment is up, expectations have improved and, therefore, families are consuming more.

Adecco estimates over a million new contracts between November and January, up 14% compared with 2015. And it's not just good news in terms of quantity; the fact that companies and consumers are celebrating Black Friday, together with our traditional sales period (rebajas), means those contracts will also last longer than in previous years.

Deloitte expects consumers to spend 4% more than in 2015. Increased confidence in the economy boosts spending, and the company noted in its report that 74% of shoppers believe the country is stable or has improved, compared with 63% last year. Christmas is Spaniards' favorite times of year, compared with other Europeans, according to the same report; in fact, Spaniards spend 30% more than the European average. Spending is usually focused on gifts, leisure activities and travel, as well as one of the main items—food—for which spending is expected to increase by 7%.

Our Christmas celebrations revolve around food, as that's where we have the most fun: with our family and friends. Our members, who are in the holiday spirit, have prepared their stores, with the corresponding decoration, but in particular they are focusing on products and services that meet the needs of increasingly demanding customers.

Stores are prepared, inventory is ready, employees have been hired, and consumers are ready to spend: it's the perfect Christmas scenario. But, like everything in life, it could be better, and every year ACES likes to offer some food-related advice for the holidays.

Planning celebrations ahead of time will reduce last-minute problems, and also save money. Shopping should be in advance, where possible, and menus should be planned taking into account the days after the holidays with a view to reducing waste and maintaining a balanced diet as much as possible.

For many people, Christmas is synonymous with sweets, which should absolutely be enjoyed, but so should fruit. We should take advantage of mid-morning and afternoon snacks to make sure we eat our recommended five servings.

Moreover, when considering the large variety of foods we're going to enjoy, it's better to focus on quality over quantity, and by eating smaller portions we can enjoy many more dishes. Speaking of quality, this time of year producers and distributors work especially hard to launch new, gourmet products. Even though we go food shopping with our list prepared, it's a good idea to look at parts of the store we don't usually shop in, or go shopping with an open mind, with a view to trying new products that may fit in perfectly with our menu and make it extraordinary.

For people with children, now is an excellent time to teach them how to shop for food. Going to the supermarket with the whole family provides an opportunity to spend time together, and to show kids which products are part of a balanced diet. Of course, it's important to show them that it's okay to buy something special or unexpected, but impulse buys should account for a very small percentage of the entire purchase.

To stay healthy over the holidays, we should eat a balanced diet and avoid overdoing it, as well as find a way to stay active: taking a walk outside, going to Christmas markets, or going to a museum. As for the menu, suggestions include eating a salad and grilled foods, and not overdoing it with salt or spices by using aromatic herbs instead.

In short, with planning and common sense, we can celebrate Christmas without depriving ourselves, enjoying a wonderful meal and spending time with our loved ones, ringing in 2017 with a bang.

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