The Dietary Preferences Of Men vs Women: Why He Orders A Burger And You Order A Salad

Culturally, there are certain foods that we associate with masculinity and others that we think of as more feminine. Heavier meat-based meals like steak, hamburgers, and fried chicken are associated with men, and lighter options like salads, fruit, and sandwiches with women. Is it all just from advertising, or are these stereotypes grounded in scientific truth?

By Madison May2 min read
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Shutterstock/Regina Foster

From observing what my dad, brother, and boyfriend like to eat versus the eating habits of my mom, sister, and myself, I’ve noticed a definitive difference in the foods a gender prefers. Studies also back up my observation, demonstrating that women eat about a third less of the meat consumed by men. Overwhelmingly, it’s clear that men love eating meat, while women prefer lighter foods with more fruits and vegetables. 

M Is for Man and Meat

While marketing certainly reinforces and influences gender-food stereotypes, there is also a factual validity behind the diet preferences of men and women. It turns out science and human history not only confirm, but also explain, the contrast in the eating habits of the genders. The differences in diet between men and women stem all the way back to our ancestors’ roles in prehistoric times. We all learned in history class that our predecessors were nomadic hunter-gatherers. More specifically, the men were hunters while women were more often the gatherers. Men would go out and hunt game, and bring it back for the women to cook. In the meantime, women foraged for fruits and nuts. 

This explains why women prefer fruits and fruit flavors, and are also more likely than men to eat raw veggies and nuts, whereas men prefer some cooked vegetables more than women do. Our gatherer origins also explain why, visually, women are more attracted to the presentation of a meal, in regard to variety and bright colors. In fact, women are better at perceiving colors than men are, an ability that was needed for finding and distinguishing colorful fruit and berries in the wild. 

Men are more concerned with how many calories, and therefore energy, they can get out of a food item. 

As for men, they’re better at tracking moving objects and perceiving distance, a crucial skill to have when hunting game. Likewise, men who took on the physically demanding role of pursuing and killing prey are more concerned with how many calories, and therefore energy, they can get out of a food item. Men’s overwhelming preference for meat in comparison to that of women goes beyond caveman roles and is grounded in their nutritional need to this day. Meat contains essential nutrition for men, including creatine which is essential for building muscle mass, protein for higher muscle percentage (which men have compared to women), and amino acids that are essential for injury protection. This is especially important for men, as they are more prone to injury, due to being greater risk-takers and enjoying a more active lifestyle.

The hunter-gatherer origins of mankind also explain why studies found that women prefer grazing or snacking on foods, while men prefer to eat something larger in one sitting. That is, eating throughout the day while foraging versus bringing back game to cook and eat all at once. Women are more likely to crave sweets and delicacies like the fruits and berries they would gather, whereas men crave entrees and comfort food, the game that they hunted. It all makes sense! 

Marketing to Your Target Audience

Naturally, marketing and advertising agencies were aware of these differences and took advantage of them. It's clear, however, from both observation and research that men and women inherently look for different criteria in regard to food.

Let’s look at two excellent examples of gender-specific food marketing. First up, Organic Girl – the brand’s name says it all. The fact that it’s leafy greens, perfect for salad, it’s organic, as women tend to be more health-conscious, and has the word “Girl” in the title makes this product undeniably marketed toward women. 

Next, let’s look at Dave’s Killer Bread. The man’s name “Dave” plus the word “Killer” give this bread a rugged, masculine appeal. The packages also contain an inspiring backstory about how the brand helps ex-cons get back into doing meaningful work – the perfect men helping men tale. 

Closing Thoughts

Of course, these are all generalizations, and ultimately personal taste goes down to the individual. Most people have a lot of overlap. There are, however, undeniable distinctions in the eating patterns of the two genders. This is something to keep in mind when cooking or planning meals for the opposite gender. It’s only natural that our man can’t find anything to eat from the menu of our favorite local cafe or that we may cringe at the thought of eating fried chicken yet again while he absolutely loves it. In fact, it means we are evolutionarily successful. Instead of forcing ourselves to follow fad diets that go against our natures, like being vegan for men or keto for women, it’s usually best to eat what is suited to us biologically.

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