Girl Dinner: A TikTok Trend Gone Awry or a Freeing Food Trend?

BRAZIL - 2022/07/06: In this photo illustration, a silhouetted woman holds a smartphone with the TikTok logo displayed on the screen. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BRAZIL - 2022/07/06: In this photo illustration, a silhouetted woman holds a smartphone with the TikTok logo displayed on the screen. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Girl dinner is a TikTok trend that was popular this summer and has got people talking. Here we will be talking about all the perspectives on the girl trend. If you are on TikTok you have probably heard of the phrase girl dinner. Girl dinner is a smorgasbord of snacks that together make a meal. Girl dinner has two sides to it, it can be a charcuterie board without the board or a random group of snacks that don’t make any sense together. Think of a plate of cheeses, fruits, nuts, crackers, and some boiled eggs, versus a bag of goldfish with your leftover Chipotle bowl or a wine glass filled to the brim with mac ‘n’ cheese and a dino nugget for garnish – the last one is an actual meal and its quite brilliant!

"@brookiebarry Girlllll dinnerrrrr #food #macandcheese #dinonuggets #dinnerideas ♬ original sound – karma carr"

The term girl dinner was coined by TikTok creator Olivia Maher in May. In the TikTok that started it all,  she mentions how she watched a TikTok that talked about how medieval peasants couldn’t eat anything but bread and cheese. The creator of the TikTok also said that bread and cheese were her preferred dinner. Olivia then reveals her dinner: two pieces of bread, a block of cheese, a box of grapes, a cup of wine, and a jar of pickles. “I call this girl dinner,” Olivia says, “Or medieval peasant.”

"@liviemaher #girldinner #medievaltiktok ♬ original sound – Olivia Maher"

The trend grew when the creator Karma Carr showed her mostly-eaten ice cream bar with the now viral girl dinner sound that is most associated with the TikTok trend.

"@karmapilled i CANT FIND THE GIRL DINNER PERSONS ACC BUT SHE IS MY HERO (alt: @karma (´◠ω◠`) ) ♬ original sound – karma carr"

The girl dinner trend has generated quite a discourse. One area of conversation is that girl dinner frees women from patriarchal expectations. Adulthood looks different for Millennial and Gen Z women. While their parents lived in houses and had two kids by 25, Millennials and Gen Z are just moving into their first apartment without a roommate by 28. This has challenged our society’s idea of gender roles. If women are delaying marriage and kids, they are also delaying certain gender expectations. Women are expected to be neat, organized, and comfortable in the kitchen, skills needed to take care of a family.  Being unmarried or child-free gives women room to explore how they will use their time, and one way they’re doing that is by taking the hassle out of meal prep. Single women have the luxury of not having a family to take care of after their 9 to 5, so sticking their hand in a bag of popcorn and nibbling on whatever they can find may suffice. There is no one there to judge their feminine ways, they can just follow their taste buds.

Marriage and children are the traditional markers of adulthood for women. Including the capitalistic society that makes it hard for Gen Z and millennials to build a stable life for themselves, women of these generations have a harder time viewing themselves as adults. Author Robin Wasserman in her essay “What Does It Mean When We Call Women Girls?” talks about the most common theme in books, TV shows, and movies is the transition from girlhood to womanhood, which is usually represented by a woman belonging to herself an and then being someone’s wife or mother. The theme explores what is lost and gained in this transformation, and sometimes staying in girlhood is more enticing.  If this is a common theme and the women of today are consuming these types of stories, they might be subconsciously taking in the conclusion that they aren’t ready for womanhood. Instead of digging deeper women find comfort in the relatability and labels of the girl aesthetic: hot girl walks, rat girl, feral girl, strawberry girl, etc. Em Kupor, @EmmaKupor and associate editor of Harper Books, had a tweet that explains this phenomenon  perfectly:

"eating my girl dinner, taking my hot girl walk, listening to my sad girl music, reading my feral girl books, going out dancing with the girlianas, getting bevvies with my girlpops, every day a slow march towards death ( Womanhood).."

Girlhood is fun and it also sells. A criticism of girl dinner is that it’s just another “girl” branding trick for influences to sell their lifestyles.  Girl dinner is just a repackaged activity that we all know well – snacking.  Other cultures have their own form of girl dinner: tapas in Spain, antipasti in Italy, bento box in Japan, and the Brits call the whole concept of girl dinner a ploughman’s lunch, which doesn’t sound very feminine at all. If you have a social media platform, you can be your own marketer and create new trends. A shortcut to more eyes on you is using “girl” in your trend. Women are willingly infantilizing themselves and other women to achieve an aesthetic that replaces the stability of an adult life, of womanhood.

Another criticism of girl dinner is the gendering of a meal. A take on the girl dinner concept is that women only cook elaborate, well-thought-out meals for their husbands and boyfriends. The idea is that women don’t cook for themselves because they don’t eat a lot.  Since girl dinner consists of snacks, there is an implication that girls eat small portions, which can contribute to disordered eating behavior. Men have made their own boy dinner  TikToks and the meals are usually big portions of food. Think of eating a whole rotisserie chicken or a large-sized pizza. The comparison is clear and is not healthy for teens to internalize this information.

"@theskimm Some women find #girldinner to be freeing. Others say – this seems like disordered eating. Here’s why it’s controversial. #foodtiktok ♬ original sound – theSkimm"

Diet culture and health are a big part of the girl dinner discourse, but there are two different points of view. One point of view is that girl dinner frees women from the chains of diet culture. For a lot of women, deciding on a meal can seem more like a morality question than just figuring out what is satiating. It must be freeing for some women to see a TikTok from someone in their age group eating the same type of not-so-healthy or well-made snacks they also like to eat. They will feel less shameful when they don’t meet the feminine expectations in the kitchen. Eating just becomes an enjoyable activity. The other side of this conversation is that girl dinner promotes disordered eating. When trends reach a huge audience, it can be hard for people to know what posts are serious or just jokes. While Maher and the many TikToks that followed were celebrating the girly activity with excitement, some posts have made a bit out of the girl dinner concept. One girl’s girl dinner was sleep while another girl’s dinner was a vape pen with a beverage. These TikToks are extreme examples of the low-effort nature of girl dinners and it’s not clear if it’s a joke or someone’s real meal they are happy to share. If it’s not clear to the 20-somethings and 30-somethings,  the younger impressionable viewers or older people who heard about the trend through other media platforms might take these TikToks seriously. However, nutritionists have fair concerns. Some nutritionists believe that there aren’t enough calories in girl dinner. Nutritionist Nicole Frost talks about these concerns.

"Unfortunately, these types of trends normalize and add to the already misinformed diet culture…women and teen girls require a balance of all three macronutrients consisting of quality protein, complex carbs and a healthy fat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…the female body is incredible and needs loads of energy, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from whole foods to be able to produce hormones, have good brain function and mental clarity and a zest for life."

Rebecca Ditkoff, a registered dietician, believes that people sharing their plates might cause young women to compare how they eat others’ meals and feel like they have to change their diet. Young women may not understand intuitive eating and are open to suggestions, even if isn’t helpful. Gendering the food also puts pressure on girls to eat the girl dinner way to be considered the right type of girl.

Some nutritionists believe girl dinners can be a creative way to get the necessary food groups. This acknowledges the value of the low-effort meal prep that girl dinner offers, while also giving ideas to help create a filling healthful meal. WebMD medical team member Dr. Neha Pathak told the New York Post, “ Whenever I prescribe healthy-balanced meals made up of most fruits and veggies, I know that for a lot of people that’s overwhelming and too much work.” Her more attainable advice is to make a meal that is about a  joyful, healthy you and not a meal focused only on processed foods.  Wellness influencer Olivia Amitrano added that as long as you have a girl dinner that has a base that is strong in protein, has healthy fat, and has fiber you can add the additional stuff like pretzels, wine, or dips to make a filling meal. An example of a girl dinner Amitrano has is some sort of protein with a cottage cheese dip, a side of cut-up veggies, and a source of carbs like toast with hummus or avocado to get that fat serving.

The last take on girl dinner is that is just a fun relatable trend. Women, who tend to have high expectations put on them, want to share an area of life that seems simple and joyful. Part of the reason the girl aesthetic trends works is that people love to be seen and related to. Social media is the most effective when it brings people together. It might also be for marketing purposes, but people enjoy it nonetheless.

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Tell us what you think of the girl dinner trend.  Do you partake in a girl dinner? Share below! Keep up to date with Culturess for more food-related news and coverage. 


Girlllll dinnerrrrr #food #macandcheese #dinonuggets #dinnerideas

♬ original sound – karma carr


#girldinner #medievaltiktok

♬ original sound – Olivia Maher



♬ original sound – karma carr


Some women find #girldinner to be freeing. Others say – this seems like disordered eating. Here’s why it’s controversial. #foodtiktok

♬ original sound – theSkimm