By Gabrielle Finora Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University ’24
If you are on TikTok or Instagram, chances are you have heard about the “girl dinner” trend, in which women and girls display their meal choices for that evening. These meals typically consist of a plate of snack foods found in the fridge or pantry. It has gotten so popular that the fast-food restaurant, Popeyes, has started a new menu item referencing the trend. It has caught the attention of dietitians and nutritionists, and other health professionals as the trend may promote diet culture and unhealthy eating habits.
Creator Olivia Maher first began the trend in May 2023 by displaying a slice of bread, butter, cheese, a couple of grapes, and a glass of wine. “This is my dinner. I call it girl dinner, or medieval peasant”.
Social Media and Disordered Eating
Unfortunately for some women taking part in the viral trend, their plates do not show enough food to be enough for an entire meal. While some “girl dinners” resemble charcuterie boards similar to Maher’s, many posts showed concerning, nutrient-lacking dishes of just popcorn or a Diet Coke. It did not take long for health professionals to notice. Having smaller meals occasionally, especially when not hungry, is not the problem at hand. Repeat, unnourishing meals can have a serious impact on overall health and well-being. Furthermore, seeing other peers taking part in the trend may increase feelings of comparison and self-doubt about eating habits.
Exploratory research suggests that social media can trigger body image concerns and increase eating disorder pathology in young people. It is possible that social media usage is a risk factor for developing eating disorders globally (Dane & Bhatia, 2023). It is also important to consider how often a trend can appear on someone’s social media feed if the user interacts with one video. Similar videos may reappear multiple times before the user logs off. Repetitive exposure can further increase feelings of comparison and make users question how much they should be eating too.
Benefits of “Girl Dinner”
Having smaller portioned meals can be helpful for some, especially if making an entire meal is overwhelming. Eating something before bed, even if it is just a snack, is generally better than eating nothing at all. “I can support this kind of meal when it is actually enough for a meal,” says Rebecca Jaspan, MPH, RD, CEDS, CDCES. “That includes adequate protein, carbohydrates, and fat.” She added, “In fact, I recommend ‘snack’ meals to my clients all of the time because they are easy to throw together and satisfying. They just have to be enough for a meal and not a snack.”
There are plenty of ways to make a “girl dinner” that ensures proper nutrition, even in smaller portions. “If you are going to have a ‘girl dinner’, I recommend putting everything on a plate and eating mindfully, just as you would any meal. This way, your brain is still registering that you are eating a meal, rather than a snack”, Jaspan says.
Make sure to follow these guidelines from our head dietitian, Laura Cipullo RD, CDE, CEDRD, RYT, for a fuller plate:
- Always have the three macronutrients: complete proteins, complex carbohydrates, and plant fat.
- Engage all senses by eating in silence. Watching TV or scrolling social media can lead to mindlessness.
- Aim for 30g of protein to help ensure fullness and prevent eating again quickly after.
- Alcohol: If you are drinking, please do so after eating. Drinking on an empty stomach can lead to GI problems like gastritis.
- Pro tip: not enough calories on your plate? Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. This plant oil has anti-inflammatory effects that are helpful in lowering blood cholesterol levels and keeps you fuller for longer.
For meal inspiration, check out our recipe section for dietitian-crafted meals that are sure to please your time schedule and your taste buds. Search for “quick dinners” in the search bar on the top right for recipe inspiration at once. Finally, if you are feeling that you need help with meal planning and preparation, schedule an appointment with one of our talented dietitians on staff.
Dane A, Bhatia K. The social media diet: A scoping review to investigate the association between social media, body image and eating disorders amongst young people. PLOS Glob Public Health. 2023 Mar 22;3(3): e0001091. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pgph.0001091. PMID: 36962983; PMCID: PMC10032524.