If you’re one of those people who is thinking about what they’re making (or not making) for dinner by the time lunchtime rolls around, welcome. Meal prep for the entire week isn’t for everyone and sometimes the fridge is empty save for a few leftovers, a block of cheese, and some hummus. Anyone who’s ever thrown a makeshift meal together out of whatever snack foods and appetizers they had laying around has made what hundred of millions of TikTokers are calling a “girl dinner.”
Some posters sharing their meal choices to the catchy “Girl Dinner” theme song are posting what looks like a hearty charcuterie board you’d get in a nice restaurant, complete with meats, cheeses, veggies, and other bites. Others are posting a plate of chips, a bag of popcorn, or a cheese stick and handful of strawberries as their “dinner,” whereas that might be a light midmorning snack for many people.
What do nutrition experts think about the TikTok trend with almost 800 million posts — can glorifying eating snacks for dinner or lighter portions influence people who might be susceptible to disordered eating? Keep on scrolling to find out what you should know before you grab a girl dinner and how you can make sure your meal is balanced and filling.
Take note of what you have eaten throughout the day.
Did you have a big, filling midday meal that was more like a dinner? You might in the mood for something lighter in the evening in that case, which is okay. “Even if someone has a smaller dinner that’s balanced like a charcuterie board, but they had a pretty big lunch, then that makes sense. The concern is when it’s consistent and there’s not enough nutritional value,” explains family physician Dr. LaTasha Perkins.
But if the rest of your meals that day weren’t packed with nutrients, just having a bag of chips for dinner that night is not enough to get you through until the next day. Some of the “girl dinner” posts can leave out the context of what else the person ate that day. “It’s possible they had a bag of chips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s not clear and it normalizes disordered eating,” says Perkins. “It’d be great to have that context, people saying ‘this is my girl dinner because my lunch was full and delicious.’”
The idea of a ‘girl dinner’ isn’t inherently bad.
Hey, if you’re saving time on preparing an elaborate meal (especially if you cook for one or yourself and a toddler) and have more time to relax and get a restful night’s sleep, go for the girl dinner when you can. If it’s a balanced, “snacky” dinner, filled with veggies, eggs or other proteins, dips, cheeses, and breads, that is absolutely okay, says dietitian Amanda Wahlstedt, RDN, CDN, MSc.
“However, the issue I find with the ‘girl dinner’ trend is the glamorization of smaller portion sizes and its reinforcement of gender stereotypes,” says Wahlstedt. “By labeling it a ‘girl dinner,’ there is an implicit understanding that girls (or women) are expected to eat a certain way. This expectation often involves smaller amounts of food or the inclusion of lower calorie foods, perpetuating weight pressures and diet culture among women.” That expectation of a properly “feminine” way to eat, in very small portions or replacing meals with snacks, can add to harmful messaging that can already be challenging for people who are in recovery from or currently dealing with eating disorders to fight.
Here’s what you can whip up to make sure your girl dinner is balanced.
If you’re going with “girl dinner” tonight, make sure it has a representative from each of the major food groups, with plenty of vegetables, fruits, protein, dairy, and grains, Perkins says. A homemade charcuterie board should have meat or protein like salami, turkey, eggs, smoked salmon, or nuts and seeds, plus cheese, dried or fresh fruit, and veggies like olives and peppers. And don’t discount the sandwich as a quickie dinner option. “Old school sandwiches like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an apple or banana on the side gives you grains, fruit, and protein,” says Perkins.
It may help to do a little bit of meal prep once a week so that you have enough options on hand and don’t need to raid the very bottom of the pantry. Wahlstedt suggests pre-boiling some hard boiled eggs and keeping them in the bridge, roasting some sweet potatoes, or sticking DIY trail mix bags in your cabinets. You can also make sure you’re stocked on a main protein that you can easily build a meal around — her recommendations include rotisserie chicken, smoked salmon, or beans.
Remember that you need enough nutrients for your body to do what it’s supposed to do.
It’s no secret that your food is fuel, but keep that in mind when you’re throwing a meal together. “20 percent of the immune system is in your GI tract and the things you eat help you stay healthy,” says Perkins. Restricting your eating significantly can make you feel even worse, and can lead to the following red flags of disordered eating: irregularities in your menstrual cycle, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, or low immune system health.
Above all, be mindful not just about what you’re putting in your body but what you’re putting on your social media feed and who is the audience. What you share could influence someone else positively, certainly, but repeatedly posting about something that seems harmless but isn’t a balanced, nutritious eating pattern could actually cause harm.
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