Have you got an appetite for dating?

Posted by Dr Claire Hill on 9th January 2024

Going out for a meal may be an obvious choice for a date. In fact, eating together has been shown to generate, strengthen and maintain social bonds1. But can what you order influence how likely you are to be going for that next date?

Dating and eating

Photo by Valerie Elash on Unsplash

Thankfully Psychologists have been studying the science of dating and eating. One study asked people what foods are considered "dating foods" and "not-dating foods"2. They found that on the menu for a date are foods such as chocolate, fruit, drinks, ice cream, desserts, soup and sandwiches. Reasons given for why these foods were suitable for a date was that they tended involve an eating setting with a fun atmosphere and these foods took longer to prepare and eat. Ones to swerve on a date included garlic, fast food, burgers, onions, wings and ribs. These "non-dating foods" were thought to result in food sticking in teeth or bad breath, cause sickness or uncomfortable feelings, and be messy to eat.

It may seem obvious that being bloated, smelly and stained isn't exactly the stuff of good impressions on a date. But before you head out for that date at an ice cream parlour you might want to consider what else science tells us about how what we eat can influence what others think of us. Studies have consistently found that people who eat a healthy diet are rated as being more feminine and less masculine, healthier and with having a smaller body size than people who eat an unhealthy diet3. And whilst those with a healthy diet are rated as being more moral, they are also seen to be less fun than those with an unhealthy diet4.

Having certain dietary restrictions can also impact your dating life. As my blog on dating as a vegan showed, it can be harder to date if you're a vegan compared to if you're a meat eater. But what about your dating prospects if you have other dietary restrictions? Well if you're one of the estimated 8.5 million people in the UK who have now gone gluten free then according to one study this is also likely to impact your love life5. This study found that people were hesitant to date those who are gluten-free because they saw them as picky, high maintenance, difficult to please, demanding, entitled and concerned about appearance. Quite a penalty for simply dodging the bread basket!

Turns out that it's not just what you put in your mouth on a date that counts either, but that feeding your dining companion (known as "courtship feeding") can indicate dating success. In an observation of nearly 800 dinner dates filmed as part of the TV show First Dates, it was found that nearly all of the couples who engaged in feeding each other said that they would like to go on a second date with each other, compared to less than half of couples who didn't feed each other6. Interestingly, it was more often women who fed their date and the most commonly fed course was dessert, which typically involved chocolate.

So next time you head out on a dinner date, make sure what and how much you eat gives the impression you want to make. And if it's going well, definitely order that chocolate dessert.


  1. Sobal, J., & Nelson, M. K. (2003). Commensal eating patterns: a community study. Appetite, 41(2), 181-190.
  2. Amiraian, D. E., & Sobal, J. (2009). Dating and eating. Beliefs about dating foods among university students. Appetite, 53(2), 226-232.
  3. Vartanian, L. R., Herman, C. P., & Polivy, J. (2007). Consumption stereotypes and impression management: How you are what you eat. Appetite, 48(3), 265-277.
  4. Steim, R. I., & Nemeroff, C. J. (1995). Moral overtones of food: Judgments of others based on what they eat. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21(5), 480-490.
  5. Aloni, M., Geers, A. L., Coleman, M., & Milano, K. (2019). Too picky for my taste? The effect of the gluten-free dietary restriction on impressions of romantic partners. Appetite, 132, 55-66.
  6. Hendrie, C., & Shirley, I. (2019). Courtship-feeding in the ‘First Dates’ restaurant is highly predictive of a second date. Appetite, 141, 104329.