The Oscars: A Starlet-Approved (Healthy) Red Carpet Menu

Your Academy Awards viewing party deserves special food and drinks. Here’s how to keep it healthy

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Let's be honest, the Oscars are the female equivalent of the Super Bowl. Women get just as excited about the Academy Awards as men do about the biggest day in football. We invite our friends over, serve special food and drinks, and speculate at length about the winners. There's even a pre-game show: Red carpet coverage starts at 4:30 p.m. (and some fashion news will start even earlier)—a full four hours before the actual awards show begins at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Just like the Super Bowl, the awards go on for hours, which can lead to more munching than you'd planned. Perhaps the biggest difference between how women and men celebrate their big televised event is that women care a bit more about how their snacking and sipping is going to affect their bottom line. We want the maximum enjoyment from the slimmest amount of calories. I think that's especially true because we're watching waif-thin actresses take the stage, as opposed to beefy linemen who look like they've never seen a calorie they didn't like.

To help you celebrate the Academy Awards this year, I'm putting together bites and drinks to let you indulge without worrying about having to add an extra cardio class to your list of to-dos. They're all very photogenic, too, so you can happily Tweet or Pin them to your Oscars board!

Grown-up Popcorn

To help with portion control and avoid greasy finger cross-contamination, I like to serve popcorn in small bowls or disposable Chinese food-style containers. You can get these from party supply stores, and they hold approximately three cups of popped popcorn—enough to get you through at least one-quarter of the awards show. You can go with plain and super low-cal air-popped popcorn (31 calories/cup), or you can dress it up with my recipe for Truffled Popcorn:

• 12 cups hot popped popcorn

• 2 tablespoons truffle oil

• ½ teaspoon sea salt

Place the popcorn in a large bowl. Drizzle it with the truffle oil, sprinkle with the salt, and toss. Provide tongs so guests can fill their bowls or cartons with popcorn. WARNING: It's addictive!

Color Pop!

Peppadew peppers are so fabulous for parties. If you haven't tried them, they're bright red (and also golden) piquanté peppers that grow in South Africa. They come in mild and hot, and their flavor is a tangy combination of sweet and hot. Best of all, they come party ready—stems removed and ready to be stuffed with tasty fillings. For a super easy, colorful appetizer that looks fabulous on a platter, try my Peppadew and Olive Bites (makes 40):

• 1 14-ounce jar of peppadew peppers, drained

• 8 oz. crumbled feta cheese

• 40 pitted green olives

Place the peppers on a platter. With clean hands, place a little of the crumbled feta into the cavity of each pepper. Using 4- to 5-inch toothpicks, skewer one stuffed peppadew and one olive. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Sweet and Salty

I'm a sucker for fig jam and use it on everything from yogurt to sandwiches. It makes phenomenal little bites when you pair it with a salty cheese, like manchego. Thinly slice the manchego and place a square of it over a cracker or crostini, then top with ½ teaspoon of the fig jam. So good! If you can find them, Raincoast Crisps from Lesley Stowe make a crunchy and healthy base for your bites. And if you're vegan, just skip the cheese on this one and the peppadew bites. They'll still be tasty.

Juicy Intermission

While all fruit makes a great snack, it usually doesn't hold up well once you cut into it, and it certainly can't last for several hours on a tray. I like to pre-cut a huge bunch of grapes into small bunches (10 grapes = 34 calories) so guests don't have to wrestle with the vine. Then simply wash, drain, and chill the mini bunches in a large bowl. Your friends will appreciate having something that's super healthy and refreshing to enjoy while stargazing.

Sips

Even if you watch it in your sweatpants, a black tie affair like the Oscars deserves an elegant sip. I'm a fan of bubbly because it pairs with nearly everything and makes you feel like you're truly celebrating something. A girls' night in calls for something extra fun like a sparkling rose. I like Chandon Rose, which is pretty affordable at $22 a bottle. It has a gorgeous pink color and a nice balance of creaminess and fruit. You can also take any bottle of sparkling wine and dress it up with crème de cassis to make a Kir Royale, or with St. Germain elderflower liqueur. Whichever you choose, fill six flutes each with an ounce of the liqueur and then pop open a bottle of chilled bubbly and fill each glass to ¼-inch from the top. That's a delicious cocktail with nothing artificial for just 165 calories. And the winner is … you!

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, is a best-selling author and nationally recognized health expert, and the former Food and Nutrition Director at Health magazine for nearly eight years. Prior to that, she was part of the editorial team at the Discovery Health Channel and was managing editor at FoodFit.com. Frances is the author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide and co-author of the best-selling The CarbLovers Diet and The CarbLovers Diet Cookbook. Frances earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York.