Controversy Over Meal Trend Explained

  • “Girl dinner,” or arranging your favorite foods nicely on a plate, has gone viral on TikTok.
  • One nutritionist said she thinks the meals encourage us to eat what we desire, which is ultimately very satisfying.
  • But some have criticized the trend, arguing it may lead to unhealthy eating habits.

A new trend showing aesthetically pleasing, easy-to-prepare food has taken over TikTok. It’s called the “girl dinner,” and it involves essentially putting a bunch of food you might have in your refrigerator together to make a meal.

Popular snacks featured in a typical “girl dinner” include cheese, salami, olives, pickles, fruit, vegetables, bread, and eggs. They are typically arranged nicely on a plate, so it feels like a special treat.

The trend even has its catchy jingle — a woman singing “Girl dinner” over and over again to the sound of upbeat music. So far, the sound has been used in over 2,300 videos.

The term “girl dinner” was coined by Olivia Maher, 28, who lives in Los Angeles, when she posted a video of her dinner of bread, cheese, grapes, and wine on May 12.

In the video, which now has over 1.2 million views, she said, “I cannot find the TikTok right now but a girl just came on here and said how in medieval times peasants had to eat nothing but bread and cheese and how awful that was, and she was like, ‘that’s my ideal meal’. This is my dinner. I call this ‘girl dinner’ or ‘medieval peasant.'”

“The name ‘girl dinner’ came to me while on a ‘hot girl walk’ with a friend discussing our favorite low-maintenance way to eat when our boyfriends aren’t around,” Maher told Insider, referring to a viral TikTok label given to intentional walks.

Maher decided to have a “girl dinner” later that evening after her walk, and she posted a quick TikTok to share her experience, figuring that “other women out there might do the same and feel just as giddy about it.”

The response was immediate, and the trend took off quickly. Many people on the platform are now sharing their versions of “girl dinner,” often gaining millions of views.

“I’ve loved watching everyone’s version of a ‘girl dinner’ and seeing how excited and proud they are of this niche little way of eating we ladies indulge in,” Maher said. “It feels like such a feminine experience to have a meal like this, but of course, anyone can tap into that side of themselves and enjoy!”

Brooklyn-based cookbook author Marissa Mullen, 31, who goes by the TikTok username @thatcheeseplate, also jumped on the trend using recipes from her cookbooks. So far, her video has over 1.5 million views.

“As a woman who lives alone, I don’t go above and beyond when cooking dinner during my solo nights in,” Mullen told Insider. “More pots and pans equate to more dishes to clean, and I don’t need to impress anyone with my fancy cooking skills. I think that many women are collectively acknowledging that easy, low-effort dinners like cheese plates and snacky items are a way to decompress after a long day.”

Mullen told Insider that her favorite “girl dinner” is fresh peaches, nectarines, and cucumbers with burrata, fresh sourdough bread, prosciutto, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. “The key is that you do not need to cook anything, the only effort is to unwrap from the fridge, maybe slice a few items, and enjoy,” she said.

But like many things that go hugely viral online, the “girl dinner” trend has also attracted some controversy.

The ‘girl dinner’ hasn’t gone down well universally

As the trend has blown up, it also attracted negative attention. Some of it is lighthearted, with users creating parodies of a “girl dinner,” but others have questioned whether there may be negative aspects to these types of posts, expressing concern that some of the meals aren’t balanced enough, and questioning whether many of the plates contain enough food to count as a full meal.

“OK I am pro girl dinner I understand girl dinner I get it girl dinner heals your soul BUT some of these ‘girl dinners’ look a little suspiciously low cal to me,” TikTok user @siennabeluga said in a video which has over 720,000 views.

The video’s top comment, written by TikTok user @alonia92, currently has over 23,500 likes. It said, “Literally. Some of them look balanced with veggies/fruit/multiple proteins (cheese and meat). Some are olives and a piece of salami. Scary.”

“Looking at these pictures that are popping up on my For You Page, I’m like, ‘That’s your dinner?’ That is a 3 pm trip to the kitchen for me,’ TikTok user @nickicox said in another video, which currently has over 210,000 likes.

There has been increasing concern over people going viral on TikTok by sharing their meals. Some dieticians have accused the popular “What I eat in a day” trend of promoting eating disorders and encouraging people to compare themselves to others, which can lead to poor self-esteem.

However, because the “girl dinner” trend shows only a small portion of what someone has eaten that day, it provides fewer opportunities for comparison than videos that show everything a user eats in a day. And while some dietitians recommend eating a bigger dinner to reduce late-night snacking, there is no evidence that eating a smaller, low-calorie dinner is bad.

Dr. Emily Manoogian, who studies how the timing of our meals affects our health, told BBC Future that it can be beneficial to consume most of your calories earlier in the day, as this means your body can use the energy you feed it throughout the day, rather than it being stored in your system as fat. However, she added that it is better to not specify the best times to eat, as this can be difficult for people with responsibilities and irregular time commitments.

A TikToker called Kathrine Kofoed, whose bio states she also works as a nutritionist, posted a video saying that she found the “girl dinner” trend “so satisfying” because it encourages us to think about how we can satisfy our five different senses of taste — sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami — instead of focusing solely on the nutritional qualities of the dish.

Many of the plates featured in this trend include foods with a wide combination of flavors and textures. Kofoed said she thinks that eating a “smorgasbord” of our favorite things is a great way to satisfy our desires and cravings, which can also help us to feel satiated and nourished for longer after eating.

Ultimately, there is no one way to eat that works for everyone. To many TikTokers, it seems picking out all of their favorite foods to eat together is hugely satisfying — especially if they don’t have to cook anything, and are left with minimal dirty dishes to deal with afterward. The “girl dinner” may be here to stay.

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