Simply put, it is a quickly assembled meal that does not require any form of cooking. Some describe it as a “snack dinner” or, per The New York Times, “an aesthetically pleasing lunchable”.
The term was coined by TikTok user Olivia Maher after she saw a girl on the app who said her go-to dinner is bread and cheese.
“I cannot find the TikTok right now, but a girl just came on here and said how in medieval times peasants had to eat nothing but bread and cheese and how awful that was, and she was like: ‘That’s my ideal meal,'” Maher said in the video posted in May, which has 1.3 million views.
The hashtag #girldinner has since been used by scores of users who have been sharing their own versions, which include a sophisticated mini-charcuterie board or a simple plate of nachos. Videos have garnered about 57.4 million views in total.
There are no strict rules about making the meal. It's typically for one person with no advanced planning required and barely any preparation time. It can be leftovers from the fridge or other already existing items in the cupboard.
In an interview with Today, Maher said a “girl dinner can look like many things, but what matters is the feelings it evokes. Giddiness often goes along with it, because it’s what you want. It satisfies you.”
Although many users resonate with her, some feel the trend romanticises restrictive eating due to portion sizes. One TikTok user describes them as “suspiciously low-cal”.
But the trend is generally seen as positive, championing meals for those who do not have time to cook. The Guardian calls it an “antidote to the mental load traditionally required to get food on the table”.
The many variations of a girl dinner are exciting, says Leila Khalil, marketing manager at Dubai food retailer Earth Goods.
“The girl dinner trend encourages you to mix up foods with tastes and different textures that make it aesthetically attractive, and also engages your senses while eating, which makes it that much more enjoyable,” she tells The National.
Khalil adds there are ways to “elevate your girl dinner” to make it healthy and balanced.
For example, she recommends replacing processed meat with the lean kind, and swapping chips with wholefood snack options such as seed crackers, granola or raw nuts, which are sources of protein and good fat.