One of the latest viral trends sweeping the TikTok sphere is “girl dinner,” and it’s generating a light-hearted dialogue about the abnormal meals — or rather snack plates — that women eat for dinner.
Girl dinner is like an adult Lunchable or a personal charcuterie board, typically consisting of foods like fruit, cheeses, pickles, crackers and cold meats, requiring little to no preparation or culinary skills. Girl dinner is not a set recipe, and the foods don’t need to have any cohesion to be included.
Despite its silly name, the girl dinner movement has generated some serious concerns from social media users about the lack of calories and sustenance, and how the trend could potentially promote disordered eating and unhealthy body standards.
However, dietitians and nutritionists across the country have weighed in, making it clear that while girl dinner doesn’t always meet nutrition requirements, it can be done in a way that is healthy, nourshing and still fun. Students participating in the girl dinner trend should be mindful of what they are including on their plates, ensuring that they are incorporating appropriate quantities of the right foods.
Antonia Leão frequently has meals that resemble girl dinners, consisting of snack food rather than fully cooked meals.
“Young women should just eat sometimes what they feel like eating, and it’s okay if they don’t count their calories all the time,” said Leão, an English graduate student. “They’re just humans, so I think it’s okay for them to do it in a comfortable and healthy way.”
The trend can be taken to the negative extreme through eating only unhealthy snacks or not eating enough. However, when done correctly, it can have a positive impact on participants’ diets because the snack plate style meal encourages variation, said Alissa Smethers, a registered dietitian and a social and behavioral sciences professor.
“I think it can actually be a really great trend because it has a lot of room for a variety, and when you have variety you can include more nutrients and more easily meet the nutrients that you need,” Smethers said.
While everyone has individual and personal nutrition requirements, generally an ideal dinner should include fruits and vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and a source of healthy fat while meeting personal caloric specifications, according to United State’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Adding the right amount of ingredients can make girl dinner an appropriate substitute for a typical cooked meal. The meal can include lean meats that are low in sodium, like turkey breast, and can include cheeses or vegetables. There’s also the option of deconstructed tacos or breakfast plates, Smethers said.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that moderately active women from ages 18-25 consume 2,200 calories a day, but college students often lack nutrition.
Time constraints, unhealthy snacking, convenience high-calorie food, stress, high prices of healthy food and easy access to junk food were common barriers to healthy eating for university students, according to a November 2018 study published in the National Library of Medicine.
Students often eat out of necessity or being on-the-go and tend to grab foods that are highly processed. These foods don’t always have the positive nutrients that individuals should be trying to consume, especially during college years, said Gina Tripicchio, a social and behavioral sciences professor and a research scientist at Temple’s Center for Obesity Research and Education.
“I think [college students are] highly aware of their eating habits,” Tripicchio said. “But I think that college students are under a lot of pressure and stress. And again, they have a lot of barriers and factors that influence what they eat and when.”
While college is a stressful time that can complicate students’ eating habits, there are ways to remain health conscious and still enjoy tasty foods regardless of budgets and time constraints.
Girl dinner doesn’t have to mean smaller portions and a limited diet, and in reality the trend has the potential to open doors to more colorful meals and improved meal frequency.
When following proper nutritional guidelines, girl dinner can be a strong method for increasing diet variety and food intake, allowing young people to engage in a lighthearted social media trend while still being mindful of their own health and well-being.