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Thoughts From Specialists on Girl Dinners: Embracing the Trend with Style

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

If you’ve spent any time on TikTok in the last month, you’ve likely heard the sound of ‘This is my meal. I call it Girl Dinner’. TikTok creator Olivia Maher coined the term, but creator Karma Carr started the song, and the popular jingle has turned into a hashtag that’s been used over 945 million times. 

In case you’re unfamiliar, a ‘Girl Dinner’ is essentially a plate of small bites or a grown-up lunchable that’s supposed to be a full meal. Common plates include leftover pasta, a few pieces of deli meat, a hunk of cheese, and maybe a cookie. Some ‘girl dinners’ have been as simple as a bowl of cereal or hummus with crackers.

“Some may call it a personal charcuterie board for one, but I like to think of it more as a glorified snack plate,” says Lauren Twigge, MCN, RDN, LD. “While the concept has received pushback, ‘Girl Dinners’ can be a convenient way to build up balanced meals for one, use leftovers, and add some color [to your plate].”

But, what precisely does “Girl Dinner” means, and is it healthy? We turned to two registered dietitians to break down the trend, explain its potential health benefits and risks, and teach us how to make sure our ‘Girl Dinners’ are balanced.

Pros and Cons of a ‘Girl Dinner’

At its best, a ‘Girl Dinner’ is a form of intuitive eating. “The great part about this trend is it allows you with total freedom to add different components to your plate, even if they wouldn’t normally complement each other in a traditional recipe,” says Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices. “This is a great opportunity to mix and match foods and reduce waste by using up any leftover nibbles of food you have on hand.”

For many women (and men), at the end of a busy day, they just want something low effort. So, sometimes pulling together a small plate of your favorite foods and kicking up your feet is all you can manage, and experts agree that’s perfectly okay. There’s nothing wrong with having an occasional ‘Girl Dinner’, but when it becomes part of your weekly routine, a restrictive tendency, or a meal full of heavily packaged and processed foods, that’s where it becomes an issue. Burgess says it really comes down to what’s on your plate as to whether a ‘girl dinner’ is healthy (or not).

In general, most people should aim to eat 2,000 calories per day with about 500 to 700 calories consumed at dinner, says Burgess

Although this is simply a beginning stage and each person’s individual calorie requirements can significantly differ from this—stuffing your plate with only a small number of chips or a teaspoonful of PB probably won’t adequately nurture you,” she states.

Disordered Eating Risks

While the trend aims to be harmless and a way for women to display their effortless meals, some have cautioned that the glorification of these small meals could be disguised as disordered eating. In fact, some users have even showcased a can of soda or simply a plain hamburger bun as their ‘Girl Dinner’.

In certain cases, the trend has led to women picking at their dinners and not sitting down to enjoy a nutrient-rich, well-rounded meal. This can, over time, be detrimental to their relationship with food. Insufficient calorie intake may result in weight loss, while not eating enough during mealtime can also lead to decreased satisfaction and overeating later on.

“Consuming an adequate number of calories and a variety of food groups is extremely important, especially for young women,” says Twigge. “Food provides your body with the energy it needs to perform all of its daily tasks, both visible and invisible.”

Another concern is the promotion of distracted eating associated with ‘Girl Dinners’; they are often paired with a glass of wine and screen time.

“It is always beneficial to focus more on your food than on a screen,” she says. “This allows you to fully savor your food, eat more slowly, and be more mindful with eating.” Not to mention, indulging in a glass (or two) of wine while picking at food is also not necessarily a healthy behavior.

Of course, conversations surrounding food and nutrition are highly nuanced, and it’s important to remember that something that may trigger disordered eating for one person may not be triggering for another. There’s also nothing wrong with finding inspiration from some of the superior examples of relaxed, balanced, and flavorful ‘Girl Dinners’, but it can become problematic when body and calorie comparisons come into play.

“If you have experienced disordered eating thoughts or behaviors in the past, it’s best to avoid triggers and consider reducing screen time or refraining from watching ‘Girl Dinner’ videos altogether,” says Burgess.

How to Assemble a Balanced ‘Girl Dinner’

Obtaining enough nutrient-dense food during dinner and throughout the day is crucial for optimal energy and overall well-being. Research indicates that adequate intake of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids (among others) is essential in maintaining hormonal balance, reducing the risk of anemia, promoting healthy bones, and regulating mood.

If you decide to participate in the ‘Female Supper’ fad, it is crucial to ensure that you are incorporating an equilibrium of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and wholesome fats on your plate. Burgess asserts that since supper is frequently the largest meal of the day, it is important to make certain that you fill your plate with an ample amount of each ingredient to assist in keeping you feeling full for a longer duration.

A ‘Female Supper’ that she recently prepared consisted of: 1 cup of diverse sliced bell peppers (vegetables), 1/4 cup of creamy guacamole (wholesome fat), a chicken Sausage link (protein), and 2 Medjool dates (carbohydrates) filled with peanut butter (protein and wholesome fat).

However, if you are seeking a guideline on how to construct a ‘Female Supper’, Twigge suggests that you should envision: ½ plate of variety (typically fruits or vegetables), ¼ plate of high-fiber carbohydrates, and ¼ plate of protein. “I also like to incorporate an option that contains fat as a dip, snack, or topping to create balance on the plate and ensure an adequate calorie intake to keep you feeling full and content,” she states.

These are her suggestions:

  • Variety: carrots, cucumber, baby bell peppers, celery, tomatoes, berries, sliced pears, papaya, or side salad
  • High-Fiber Carbohydrates: whole wheat toast, high-fiber crackers, whole wheat tortilla, rice, pita bread, whole grain noodles with olive oil and parmesan, plantain chips, beans, or legumes
  • High-quality protein: dairy milk, beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, roasted edamame, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, sliced grilled chicken, cheese slices, and deli meat
  • Fat for a dip, snack, or topping: nuts, guacamole, peanut butter, hummus, or olive oil and balsamic vinegar

She also mentions that you may want to exchange that glass of wine for a nutrient-rich beverage such as dairy milk (plain or flavored), a dairy milk-based smoothie, or green juice. A plain glass of water or a can of seltzer are also excellent choices for promoting hydration.

‘Female suppers’ fundamentally do not revolve around deprivation. Women have long been conditioned to view food as the adversary, but this trend is all about commemorating the simple enjoyment of snacking or grazing for a meal. However, it is vital to remember that your body requires nourishment from high-quality ingredients and food.

“If you are interested in creating your own ‘Female Supper’, make sure that you customize it according to your own level of hunger and calorie requirements,” states Twigge. “If you encounter an example online that appears to be small, remember that you are always in charge of what you place on your plate. You can enhance the protein, fiber, and variety to build up your ‘Female Supper’ to be both gratifying and nutritious.”

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