Is ‘Girl Dinner’ Healthy? The TikTok Creator & Experts Explain

Content warning: discussion of eating disorders.

When Olivia Maher, a 28-year-old content creator from Los Angeles, first shared her “girl dinner” video on TikTok, she just wanted to see if other people, like her, had ever proudly cobbled-together a meal from leftover bits. “I just thought, ‘I can’t be the only person who does this,'” she told WH.

In the video, Olivia shows off a dinner comprised of bread, butter, grapes, cheese, gherkins, and wine. “I call this ‘girl dinner,'” she narrates. The newly coined phrase now accounts over 700 million views on TikTok (plus a popularized sound effect by creator Karma Carr with over 250,000 posts linked to it), most of which depict other women’s version of their own charcuterie board-adjacent snacks-turned-meals.

The term “girl dinner” has gone viral this summer, but it’s not exactly a full meal, nor is it just for the girlies. (Ahem, women.)

A lot of people have questions about what “girl dinner” means, and whether it’s healthy. So, Women’s Health spoke to Olivia and several experts about the intentions, health benefits, and risks behind the latest trend.

Meet the experts: Jessica Saunders, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology at Ramapo College of New Jersey, specializing in body image, eating disorders, and gender. Rebecca Ditkoff, RD, is a registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition by RD. Dr. Silvi Rajaogopal, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

What is ‘girl dinner,’ really?

Olivia describes the activity as a “once-a-week kind of thing.”

The meal in her video was comprised of items she had on hand at the time, which is an integral component of the “girl dinner” phenomenon: You don’t have to cook anything. Instead, you eat a random collection of foods in your pantry or fridge until you are full.

It might be a slice of burrata from mid-week restaurant leftovers, some cantaloupe from breakfast, and an artichoke washed down with some Cheerios. It’s glorified snack time.

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At its best, girl dinner is a meal that relies on intuitive eating, and redefines the idea that healthy habits need to look pretty.

“I just get to enjoy exactly what I want and the bits of everything I want to have,” Olivia says. “I’m just left feeling satisfied and giddy at the experience.”

The TikTok trendsetter also views her “girl dinner” as a more cost-effective quick meal when compared to ordering takeout or heading to the store.

“I don’t want to cook something. I don’t want to go grocery shopping,” she says. “[I think] like, ‘What do I have around the house that I need to get rid of?’ I’m not throwing out food [as much] this way.”

Other TikTok users hopped on the trend, showing off their unconventional meals.

Most videos posted with the “girl dinner” hashtag show women enjoying their own version of Olivia’s “meal”—ranging from nachos to leftover Chipotle with peanut butter and carrots.

One TikTok user connected the phenomenon to the division of labor in heterosexual couples, connecting the trend’s reliance on “ingredient only” meals to the societal expectations that women in hetero relationships bear the weight of domestic work. Enjoying a “girl dinner” can free them from cooking for their (usually male) partner.

The phrase has also quickly taken on a meaning beyond Olivia’s original intentions, and turned into a punchline on the Internet.

One popular video describes “girl dinner” as simply going to sleep. Even Popeyes temporarily changed its sides offering to “girl dinner,” per CNN.

But is it actually healthy?

Well, it depends on how you approach the trend. Olivia’s original video showed a relatively good-for-you melange of snacks. But unsurprisingly, an unplanned meal of random ingredients might not be the epitome of a healthy diet, some experts caution.

“[Olivia’s video] had positive aspects to it, and it was a pretty big spread. There were multiple food groups represented,” says Dr. Jessica Saunders, an assistant professor of psychology at Ramapo College of New Jersey, where she specializes in body image, eating disorders, and gender. It seemed like Olivia was using her dinner “to illustrate her freedoms around food and how she perceives food and takes care of herself on her own,” Saunders adds.

However, the trending “girl dinner” has presented in ways that aren’t always healthy. For one, sharing examples of food and joking about inadequate meals can be problematic for some viewers, according to Saunders.

“The target audience for much of TikTok are adolescent girls who might not understand what normal, intuitive eating is and might think, ‘This is what I’m supposed to eat for dinner,'” she says. She also noted that some of the “girl dinner” meals she’s seen online are too small.

“If you’re engaging in that kind of eating as a way to restrict your calories, or eat in a certain way to [show it off on TikTok] but not necessarily listening to your body and what your body needs, then it wouldn’t be helpful, it would be really detrimental,” Saunders explains. “It puts you at risk for more restrictive eating.” Saunders and other experts for the piece also noted that many trending girl dinners don’t have enough nutritional value, so they’re not the most fulfilling meals, either.

Similarly, Rebecca Ditkoff, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition by RD, warns that the “comparison of plates” aspect of the trend could be dangerous if people start to use it as an example for their diets. She also finds the phrase “girl dinner” itself slightly problematic in its emphasis on gender. “The term of ‘girl dinner’ [seems] very rooted in how girls ‘should’ be eating less,” she says.

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There is already existing research about how social media puts young girls at potential risk for developing, or exacerbating, eating disorders. In 2022, a study by the Center For Countering Digital Hate found that the app’s algorithm will feed adolescent women harmful eating disorder content within minutes of joining the app.

A trend that promotes sharing what you eat could also be harmful for those in eating disorder recovery, according to research.

How do I have a healthy girl dinner?

Having a plan is essential for a fulfilling diet, according to Dr. Silvi Rajaogopal, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. But obviously, meal prep is at odds with the phenomenon of girl dinner, which is appealing because it removes the hurdles of preparation, cooking and washing dishes. So, ultimately, experts say it isn’t the healthiest choice.

“If the foods you have at your disposal are whole foods and less processed things, you can put together a decent meal [with the girl dinner method],” she says. “However, if you leave the meal up to chance and haven’t put intention behind the ingredients themselves for their nutrition profile, you may end up consuming actually far more calories, with far less nutritional value.”

Nourishing your body is worth the extra time, says Dr. Rajagopal. We have busy lives, if we don’t prioritize and plan, we’re left to [eat] whatever is in front of us,” she says. “We should respect ourselves from a health perspective and [eat what] actually fuels our bodies as women.”

You can’t magically nourish yourself. You have to actively think about how to create a healthy meal. “It doesn’t work that way. It takes work for everyone,” Dr. Rajagopal explains.

But, if you prefer the girl dinner lifestyle, Dr. Rajagopal recommends whole ingredients that aren’t processed, so your “quick” meal still gives you adequate nutrients and sustenance.

A good spread includes a protein, fat and carbohydrate, and falls into at least four or five of the main food groups: grains, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables and fats, says Ditkoff. Make sure your meal takes up the surface of a 10-inch plate.

Here’s a suggested menu for your next girl dinner, courtesy of Ditkoff:

  • Turkey slices
  • Grapes
  • Cashews
  • Cheese
  • Crackers or chips
  • A “fun food” like gummies or a fun size Snickers bar.

Save your ‘girl dinner’ for special occasions.

Olivia is aware of the criticism. She says having a “girl dinner” is more of an an individual experience, rather than an example for everyone.

[When people post small ‘girl dinner’ meals] we don’t know what they ate earlier in the day, maybe they had a really huge late lunch, and they just needed to have a little something in the evening to get them to complete their day,” she says.

Her intention was never for it to fuel the flame of diet culture, or turn into an “eating disorder repackaged.”

“I think [girl dinner] should be seen more as a celebration of food and eating and living the way that you want to and the best way possible,” Olivia says.

Headshot of Olivia Evans

News Editorial Assistant

Olivia Evans (she/her) is an editorial assistant at Women’s Health. Her work has previously appeared in The Cut and Teen Vogue. She loves covering topics where culture and wellness intersect. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, running, and watching rom-coms.