June 24, 2024

What is “girl dinner” — and can the TikTok eating trend be healthy? Here’s what nutrition experts say.

Ever throw together a plate of random snacks or leftovers for a quick and easy meal? You might’ve made a “girl dinner.”

“Girl dinners” are the latest trend taking over TikTok — and experts say there is both good and bad to the social media phenomenon, which has now reached even wider attention with the fast-food chain Popeyes introducing a “girl dinner” option consisting of only sides.

The catchphrase was first used to to describe a no-cooking-required collection of items like bread, cheese, fruit and other odds and ends for dinner. With more than 392 million views for the hashtag #girldinner on the video-sharing app, the trend has sparked more comical takes (or more concerning ones, depending on how seriously you take it) with some users posting videos of just chips or even nothing as their “girl dinner.”

“The trend, like any trend these days, has been taken out of context, and there are girls eating just popcorn or just drinking Coke Zero and calling it ‘girl dinner,'” Laura Ligos, a registered dietitian nutritionist, told CBS News. “I can fully support making a simple throw-together meal that includes protein, carbs, color and enough calories to be sustainable. However, I cannot support girls underfeeding themselves. So it’s just a matter of making sure to put enough food on your plate for ‘girl dinners.'”

For the most part, Dr. Mike Sevilla, a family medicine doctor based in Ohio, thinks the trend is harmless — and can even act as a way to start conversations about proper nutrition.

“It’s definitely not a long-term solution,” he says, but acknowledges quick, snack-like meals are often easy to reach for with busy schedules. ‘It’s an opportunity for me to educate (patients) on a more healthy type of eating.”

Family physician Dr. LaTasha Perkins hopes the trend doesn’t influence young people — of any gender — to take up unhealthy eating habits. 

“I was definitely concerned about disordered eating being normalized,” Perkins says, sharing her dismay over some of the videos “making light of something that really could ultimately be deadly.”

Healthy “girl dinner” ideas

The good news? There are ways to make a “girl dinner” well balanced and nutrient dense.

Ligos says she often recommends her clients include the following on snack plates: 

  • At least one protein: “Meat, hard boiled eggs, cheese, or if you’re feeling fancy, chicken salad or smoked salmon,” Ligos suggests.
  • Something colorful: Fruits or veggies are a good fiber option, she says.
  • Something fun: Options like crackers, olives or pickles can add flavor. 
  • A proper helping: “Make sure it’s big enough to keep you full — one slice of meat and a handful of grapes isn’t gonna cut it,” she says. 

Sevilla tells his patients to think of their “girl dinner” — or any meal, for that matter — as a plate made up of different food groups.

“At least half of that (plate) should be vegetables, 25% should be more healthy types of proteins… and the other 25% are healthy types of carbohydrates — not processed sugars,” he explains.

Perkins says a light meal that mimics a charcuterie board is a good option because it provides a variety of elements to help meet nutritional needs.

“Having almonds and dried fruit and cheese gives you some of the food groups like fruit, protein and dairy,” she explains. 

She also suggests making healthier swaps or additions to your plate to optimize nutrition. 

For example, if instant ramen is your quick meal go-to (something Perkins saw in multiple “girl dinner” videos), adding an egg and vegetables is a way to get protein and other important nutrients. 

Lacking all the food groups on your plate? Add an apple for a fruit and fiber boost, or nuts for protein and healthy fats. 

“Find ways you can make it well-rounded,” she suggests, noting that there’s no need to shy away from canned or frozen vegetables for an easy and affordable option.

“Girl dinner” and disordered eating

While there are healthy ways to enjoy the trend, it can also go in another direction.

“Unfortunately, disordered eating runs rampant on apps like TikTok where ‘girl dinner’ is blowing up,” Ligos says. “Just know that you need to eat enough to fuel your body, and if this is a meal, it needs to be a meal not a snack.”

Perkins agrees, adding that it’s important — especially for young people — to understand that food is essential for body and brain function.

“There’s this feeling of invincibility with youth,” she says, adding that food choices in your younger years can impact your adult health. “Is your ‘girl meal’ feeding your brain? You need to make healthy choices as often as possible. So a ‘girl dinner’ that’s not balanced, it’s not a choice you should make every night.”

She also says to make sure your adoption of the trend isn’t being driven by disordered eating. 

“If you’re doing ‘girl dinners’ and you’re weighing yourself every morning (or) don’t see yourself as beautiful, then there’s something else there that we don’t want to ignore,” she says.

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image or eating concerns, the National Eating Disorders Association’s toll-free and confidential helpline is available by phone or text at 1-800-931-2237 or by click-to-chat message at nationaleatingdisorders.org/helpline. For 24/7 crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741-741.

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