TikTok girl dinner trend

Content warning: this article discusses my own disordered eating, to some degree.

Until Sam shared The New York Times article, Is It a Meal? A Snack? No, It’s ‘Girl Dinner’ with the blogger team, I hadn’t heard of this latest Tik Tok Trend. I confess, I barely use TikTok. I have seen my fair share of TikTok food trends, however, as they are EVERYWHERE. You cannot be on social media without coming across some mention of a TikTok food trend. It’s easy to see the appeal of quick flashes of images that distill what may seem complicated to some down to a simple, manageable process, as inspiration. I have tried to “get into TikTok” but it just hasn’t stuck for me.

sliced apple beside sliced cheese and sliced apple on brown wooden table
A person standing before a wedge of brie, cutting a small triangle. Surrounding the brie is a small triangle of orange cheddar, a strawberry, a cold cut, a few blackberries and an apple. Perhaps preparing a “girl dinner”

With the girl dinner piece in the NYT, it describes a girl dinner as “akin to an aesthetically pleasing Lunchable: an artfully arranged pile of snacks that, when consumed in high enough volume, constitutes a meal. It goes on to describe the girl dinner as a mini charcuterie board (to me) – some kind of fruit, a block of cheddar, sliced salami, a sleeve of fancy crackers and a dish of olives. “Girl dinner is “both chaotic and filling”, as one TikTok commenter put it, requiring none of the forethought, cooking or plating.”

As with many of the TikTok trends I’ve seen, they are hardly creating something new. More often than not, they are simply giving a new name to something that has existed in some form for eons. I rarely pay attention (unless trusted food friend tells me one may be worth trying) but when Sam shared the NYT article, the gendered term, “girl dinner”, gave me pause for thought.

The origins of the TikTok girl ginner Trend seem simple enough. Olivia Maher, a showrunner’s assistant currently out of work because of the writer’s strike, posted a video on TikTok this spring extolling the virtues of a humble, medieval-peasant-inspired assemblage that she called “girl dinner”.

No slight to the individual, but when it becomes a wider reaching trend, one attributed to a gender, it may be useful to think if it’s helpful. Is the trend offering something useful? Is it feeding into problematic habits? I mean, if there are people out there who didn’t realize that if they are making their own dinner, and they are in the privileged position of having options, they are allowed to eat whatever they please, including an assortment of things that others may consider a snack, then I’m glad they have finally caught on. But, why does it have to be labelled a girl thing? I’m sure there are many guys who do similar things (and we wouldn’t call it a boy dinner). Too often, when something is called a girl thing, it becomes a negative association. It becomes “girly” or “silly”. See pumpkin spice lattes and turkey bacon, for example. This has been blogged about on FIFI here. In this case, it would worry me that this girl dinner trend is trying to appeal to the idea that women should eat smaller things for dinner. You will never see a trend called girl pizza which shows a woman ordering a small pizza with green olives, hot peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and eating the whole pizza while chilling on their own with Netflix.

I have done the girl pizza thing in the past. I would usually tell myself I was only going to eat half and then I would pick my way to eating most of it, maybe leaving a bit of the crust, in shame (see diet culture). I also ate the girl dinner. For a lot of my 30s, I would come home from a long day at work and eat canned dolma dipped into tzatziki or hummus. It wasn’t because I was a giant child who needed a form of Lunchable for dinner. No, I was single, busy, had agency to eat what I wanted and felt like eating. Some days I made elaborate meals for friends. Some days I felt like eating pizza. Some days I felt like eating dolmas and salads.

turkish grape dessert on dish
A white, rectagular plate with four dolma (stuffed grape leaves) Photo by Юлия Чалова on

I didn’t think of the ways I was eating as being related to being a woman. For sure, I have reflected on my eating habits over the years in relation to disordered eating and the unhelpful diet culture many of us women grew up in, in the 70s and 80s. The NYT article talks about the fear that the girl dinner is a form of masking disordered eating. But fans of the trend point out that it’s not about deprivation. It’s about enjoying the simple joy of snacks as meals. In my 30s, I was still struggling with forms of disordered eating. FIFI blogger, Diane, also shared this article, by Yoni Freedhoff about what he believes people are getting wrong about Ozempic. In it, he provided a good definition of disordered eating that is handy for my purposes here. He describes disordered eating as highly restrictive dieting that leaves a person battling hunger, cutting out their favourite foods or entire food groups, and involves a constant mental battle replete with perseverant and maladaptive thinking around one of life’s seminal pleasures which society claims should be doable if you just want it badly enough.

I certainly had rules in my head about foods I should and should not eat. I struggled with restriction and binging. But reducing it to how I ate snack-like plates, on occasion, for dinner, would be too simplistic.

If you are a snack lover like me, you probably enjoy ordering a variety of items at a restaurant so you can try a little of each, rather than one big thing. That’s what this girl dinner trend seems to speak to. The lover of snacks and variety for dinner. I just wish we could unleash it from a specific gender (and inherent implications).

On Twitter, I noticed Nigella Lawson tweeted, “And we call them Picky Bits”. Another person, Tom Hillenbrand, said that most Germans (note not only German women) eat like this every evening. They call it Abendbrot.

I prefer Picky Bits to girl dinner. Just me? Dear readers, do you like the term girl dinner for this trend? Do you worry about the attribution to a gender? More importantly, what do you like to snack on for dinner?

Nicole P. lives in TO with her husband and two dogs and enjoys running, HIIT workouts with a bit of spinning and yoga thrown in.

2 thoughts on “TikTok girl dinner trend

  1. Don’t even tempt me to go down the rabbit hole of all the ways I think Girl Dinner as a moniker for a charcuterie board for dinner is ridiculous … Also, dolmas dipped in tzatziki and hummus sounds delicious, thank you for reminding me about that idea!

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