TikTok's Viral Girl Dinners Should Just Be Called "Mom Meals"
A registered dietitian weighs in on (basically) every meal I've ever eaten since having kids.
TikTok videos on “girl dinners” have already racked up over 252 million(!) views for good reason: There's something addicting about seeing what other people really feed themselves and realizing, hey, they're just like me — literally.
While girl dinners aren't necessarily positioned as a mom thing, the odd combo of ingredients looks a lot like the third dinner I eat after grazing through kid food prep, scraping the leftovers off my kids' plates, then realizing late in the game that I should probably make a plate of food and sit down for an actual dinner.
What is a "girl dinner," exactly?
For those who spend their time keeping children alive rather than reading the internet, "girl dinner" is the summer's most relatable TikTok trend to hit the interwebs. The New York Times defines said meals as "whatever you want for dinner, without having to consider the food preferences or nutrition needs of others."
Often but not necessarily plated, girl dinners tend to involve some combination of "medieval peasant" food, i.e., cheese, bread, fruit, and/or any combination of other snacky/ leftover food.
What are people saying about this quote-unquote trend?
Some are celebrating the trend as a well-deserved act of self-indulgence no matter what hits that (third) plate: "I think the 'girl dinner' trend is a great option for busy people, especially parents who want something satisfying but don't have time or energy to cook after preparing a more kid-focused meal," says registered dietitian and Gentle Nutrition author Rachael Hartley, who uses "snack plate" and "girl dinner" interchangeably. "It's also great for people who work late since they can come home, throw some favorite foods on a plate, and enjoy."
If that's not an exercise in intuitive eating, I don't know what is! However, commenters who do not "ooh," "ahh," or "yum!" at girl dinner videos have been suggesting that bits and bobs on a plate ("14 pickles, 7 Triscuits, and like, two slices of cheese," describes TikToker @Nickicox) are more akin to a 3 p.m. kitchen trip than an actual meal.
In other words, girl dinners don't always serve up ample calories and may, in fact, be misconstruing disordered eating as a vibe — eek. Hartley agrees that dissenters might be onto something. "Because it's possible to fill up a plate with mostly raw veggies and fruit and camouflage how little one is actually eating, a girl dinner can be used to promote disordered eating," she explains.
All that said, Hartley goes on to tell me that the variety inherent in the typical "girl dinner" can help you meet your nutritional needs — even if you rely mostly on convenience foods like prepared hummus, crackers, and crudites, which can provide a mix of satisfying flavors and textures. Read: I might never cook for myself again.
Are "boy dinners" a thing?
Speaking of cooking, turns out "boys" do it too: To no one's surprise, videos on "boy dinner," which strives for caloric efficiency and minimal effort, have also cropped up on TikTok. One TikToker described boy dinner as what you see in a single dude's grocery cart at 6:30 p.m. — think frozen pizza, deli meat, and potato chips, or a package of sausages and can of sauerkraut. (So, like, full ax murderer.)
"There's nothing wrong with doing frozen convenience foods for dinner, like frozen pizza or boxed mac and cheese," says Hartley, who is not, for what it's worth, amused by the arbitrary gendering of foods. "Where I get concerned nutritionally with 'boy dinners' is when they consist of only meats, like a steak with nothing else."
Sure enough, a lady-presenting TikToker defines "boy dinner" as a dry chicken breast on a fork.
Hey, to each their own! But also: An actual breast of chicken that has not previously been hacked into bite-sized pieces and/or fallen on the floor several times sounds like what I feed myself when I'm trying. (Just me?)
According to Hartley, my extra efforts may be all for naught. "The variety and balance usually included with a 'girl dinner' gives it a leg up nutritionally," she says. So, girl dinners ftw!