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Does one's gender affect food preferences?

It seems to me that men and women like different types of food, even if you adjust for outside factors. Due to societal demands, women are more likely to be dieting than men and, therefore, they eat a lot more salads than men. This is not the sort of factor than I am interested in. Aside from outside factors, such as dieting or trying to look feminine or masculine or "cool" or cosmopolitan, are there food preferences that are inherent in one's gender?

I note that the women I know seem to prefer sweet drinks. Men will eschew these drinks for beer, a bitter drink. Women seem to like fish and chicken more than men do. (Yeah, you could argue that this is due to the dieting factor, but it does not explain the large number of women who order these dishes with cream sauces or cheese sauces.) It seems to me that women prefer milder flavors, as well. Most scotch drinkers I know are men, as are those who prefer heavily spiced or extremely hot (due to peppers) food.

Am I right (or just a male chauvinist pig)? Can you supply some examples of the difference in preferences of the two sexes?

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  1. I don't know. I'm a feminine southern lady and I hate sweet drinks, drink scotch and martinis, love spicy food; don't diet but exercise a lot. I don't know if it's a gender thing, but the men I know prefer hunks of meat (steak) more than the women I know do. I prefer a much smaller meat patty for a hamburger than my husband does, stuff like that.
    Interesting question.

    1. I think it'd be pretty hard to trace this stuff to biological rather than modern cultural (and specifically Western, at least using your examples) differences, but I could certainly be wrong. I'll be curious to see what others, esp. others with some training in anthropology/biology, have to say.

      Edit: In fact, I'd have to say I don't recognize your generalizations at all in my own experience, e.g., preferences for types of meat.

      1. This question amuses me, especially since servers often seem to think that what I ordered should really be for my husband and vice versa. Apparently I like "guy" food!

        2 Replies
        1. re: buttertart

          The same for when I go to bars with one of my closest male friends, who is far from girly. While I'll drink almost anything, I tend to steer away from drinks that are too sweet. Yet he likes all of his drinks blended and sweet, preferably served inside a hollowed-out pineapple with a paper umbrella. I've been to many a bar where my vodka-soda goes to him, while his pina colada goes to me.

          1. re: jacinthe

            With us it doesn't extend to drinks (he drinks Scotch, Irish, or Pernod, I drink the same with an occasional Martini or G&T thrown in), but the food preferences really throw servers off. I often order "dry" things like chops and steak, he prefers stew-y or soupy preparations. Maybe it's the old association between water and femaleness? Yin vs yang? (He also has a gift for ordering the one thing the place is out of, no matter whether it's the most ordinary item or the most exotic, but that's another topic altogether.)

        2. <just a male chauvinist pig>

          Yep . . .

          I prefer martini's and my scotch old, single, and neat (like my men). The more complex the spice the better for me (although a simple, fresh, but perfectly executed vegetable will equally please). I also travel the distance to scoville for heat.

          My male SO prefers chocolate, chicken, fish, sweet sodas, and the occational chunck of of raw beef.

          Variety is our spice!

          1. In my experience, there is a marked trend in most men to like heavier foods, especially involving meats in all their shapes and guises. It is true that there is cultural conditioning for women to eat lighter meals but at least in my case, I have always felt naturally inclined towards healthier stuff with the exception of my incurable sweet tooth which I try to keep under control. I remember my male friends in high school and how they would hit the all-you-can-eat parrillas (barbecue places in Argentina) and help themselves to endless piles of meat whilst my female friends and I would generally opt for a tapas-style place or Italian. Of course there are exceptions but I definetely believe that there is a strong biological component to each gender's food preferences. These two links talk about studies that have been carried out which seem to illustrate this fact:



            1. In the drinks department, I'm not big on "girlie" drinks. I don't go into convulsions when I see gooey chocolate desserts nearby either.

              While not the reason I drink them, i've gotten an impressed look or two from some guys when i've ordered a scotch or two, or a few pints of guinness. I loves me some single malt . At home, i'm mostly a red wine gal, and would love a guy to share a bottle. Or bring his own, lol.

              I SO do not prefer milder flavors. And fire me up with the hottest peppers you got.

              1. I think there may be a gender preference for lighter vs heavier foods between men and women. Sometimes women order a lighter meal just because they can't eat a whole rack of ribs in one sitting. But the women I hang with are great with spicy food, like a steak (just may not eat the whole huge pound of meat), and prefer beer and wine to cosmos.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jeanmarieok

                  Is that a question of lighter food, or just less of it? The one thing I might agree with is that men can eat more than women (not this particular woman, who out-eats her SO, but nevertheless) due to a bigger bodily frame. But that's not quite what the OP was asking.

                2. I have read that men biologically crave meat whereas women will prefer foods with fat (chocolate for one). Part of it is hormones.

                  I do know guys that like eating salads but it does seem odd.

                  1. DH, BIL, Sis, & I all have pretty much same food preferences (love steak) & the spicier the better. Difference is mainly in alcohol preference. Based on no scientific research, I've always thought this is the biggest difference between men's & women's *diet*.

                    All - wine & well made, non dry/non sweet drinks (fresh margaritas & creative cocktails)
                    DH - also fine scotch, martinis, some beer
                    BIL - also beer, martinis, no scotch

                    Looking forward to trying out the following this Summer....

                    1. I think it's nearly impossible to judge gender issues because everyone is affected by their culture. In the West, women are seen as eating more vegetables (and salads). In Japan, women are seen as being irresistibly drawn to sweets and chocolate in particular while men are seen as being drawn to beer.

                      I think women eat chicken and fish with sauces because they are fooling themselves. It's the same way people eat sugar-laden frozen yogurt and think it's good for them. It's a way of ducking reality, not a matter of taste.

                      1. I agree that there seems to be evidence that gender impacts a person's taste, but like all stereotypes, it is definitely not true in all cases. As a young female, I find that most of my peers don't share my eating and drinking habits. I abhor most sweets, with the exception of a piece of dark chocolate 4 times a year. My favorite drink is a dry gin martini, and even if I know Riesling pairs well with food, I will probably opt for a full-bodied Zin. I love meat and am happy to have it frequently, and can handle a full slab of ribs without difficulty. Whenever I work in a mostly female environment, I am always amused at the constant barrage of cakes and cookies and sweets people bring in. Maybe I, like some men, prefer to get their sugar from booze? Or maybe life is too short to subsist on chicken breasts and salads!

                        1. I prepare mostly chicken and fish, consume two million times more chile than salt or sugar, drink way too much straight bourbon and rum, was once thought to be a gay pirate, but am just this boring old het fart.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            I am female and like salads, ribs, steaks, pasta, basically everything you can think of. I just don't eat as much of something as the guys I know. Unlike Sam, I've never had the pizazz to be seen as a pirate, gay, or otherwise.

                          2. All socialization. All of it. Some cultures preach different nutrition to pregnant women based on (believed) sex of the fetus, for heavens' sake! Not one example is inherent.

                            I'm sure there's some bozo evolutionary biologist out there that has funding and is trying to find data to back up (or more like - to torture data into seeming to support) whatever macho stereotype they currently like, but it's all social modeling and mimicry, conscious or no.

                            Oh, and have I mentioned that I have a thing for gay pirates? Just sayin'.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Mawrter

                              Well, having been the person to say nay to this thread right off, the one thing I will entertain is that portion *size* may be—or have been in our distant past—linked to body *size,* which could have gender implications, no?

                              But in terms of the what rather than the how much, I'm with you.

                              1. re: Mawrter

                                I really have to agree with your post. The cultural pressure on women absolutely affects their food choices. Just the other night, I remarked to DH that every woman I know is watching her weight. With the exception of some kind of chocolate addiction, (and I do believe it is an addiction for most women), they are all starving themselves at regular meals and grazing the entire rest of the day. Why? Because eating half a broiled chicken in one sitting seems to be unacceptable, that's why. And it is coming from the other women, not the men. The last time I went to a steakhouse, two of the three other women who were at dinner packed half of their petite filet mignons in take-away boxes because "they couldn't finish it " (it was seven ounces, pre-cooked. No appetizers -- hard to believe). I really do think women do this because it is expected of them. It most definitely affects how much of something they will eat, especially in public.

                                As for the what, I see trends but nothing definite. Some of my daughter's friends seem only to eat bread and meat (don't get me started), although she, thankfully, eats a decent number of vegetables, fruit and salads, but not enough if you believe what the FDA tells you. She swoons over chocolate, as does my husband. I don't seem to have the chocaholic gene, and really prefer fruit flavored things over chocolate, I also love veggies, salads and fish, but can enjoy a good hunk of a pork chop or a decent size steak when hungry. I also struggle with my weight, mostly a losing battle.

                                Yep -- I think it is cultural. It just isn't acceptable, and woman are looked at with a critical eye if they don't conform.

                                1. re: RGC1982

                                  These women need to start going to more Chowdowns and re-thinking their cultural norms...:-) The women I eat with have no problems finishing a steak, or whatever.

                                  FWIW, I like chocolate well enough, but don't crave it, and will almost always choose a non-chocolate option when dining out. Hubby OTOH, thinks all special occaison meals should end with chocolate.

                              2. Well, it's so culturally bound.

                                In the US, for example, there is a distinct culture gender-different emphasis on pies vs cakes. Not uniform, but notable. Guys tend to prefer pies to cakes.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Karl S

                                  You're kidding, right? Although in my own household that's true, come to think of it...

                                  1. re: Karl S


                                    My brothers had fits on the few occasions I dared to ask for a birthday pie instead of cake. The only reason they put on a nice shirt and came to the party was for cake. I like cake well enough, it's the frosting I don't care for.

                                    I think the premise of this thread is like so many theories and stereotypes: there may seem to be trends in behavior, but there are too many people who don't fit the trend to be able to make any meaningful statement about the pattern.

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      I never heard the pie/cake thing, but I will definitely keep my eyes and ears open now that you've mentioned it!

                                    2. Might be a generalisation, however my experience here in Kenya, with a predominantly Indian background.....the women tend to prefer white meat based dishes, cheesy vegetarian and desserts, men like their chops, steaks and heavy meals. Men drink beer and whisky, women drink white wine and cocktails. However we definitely have exceptions, case in point myself and my sister. Nothing can get between me and a good steak (medium rare) and a gentlemans jack poured over ice, and she has to have her meat and a guiness regularly. Her husband OTH is a pescatarian (hate that term, but best way to describe him), enjoys a good G&T and eschews most of the experimental foods....however that might have alot to do with the fact that we come from a chow family whereas his was far more traditional.

                                      1. As for desserts, chocolate or fruit based?

                                        Do women like chocolate much more than men, or is it just desserts in general?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: EdwardAdams

                                          I always found men to go nuts over dessert. They just inhale that stuff. One minute it's on the plate, the next minute is gone. If it were up to my man, we'd probably live on chocolate cake or coconut cream pie '-D

                                          Me, I'm a lover of salads and med-rare steaks alike, but I'm an omnivore, and I eat with gusto. I think smaller portions are a cultural thing -- women aren't "supposed" to eat a lot, b/c we're such bloody dainty creatures, right?


                                        2. Almost 40 woman here. I'll eat just about anything but don't usually go for desserts. I prefer savory to sweet. I also hate sweet drinks and instead have an IPA by my side right now.

                                          Earlier tonight I made a homemade pizza, which has become our quick dinner of choice. DH ate it, loved it, and said: "Yours is more balanced than when I make it." When I asked him to clarify, he said that he could actually taste the vegetables, whereas he tends to overload it with meat. Not sure if its a cross-the-board gender thing, but he eats a lot more meat than I do. Larger portions are a given, since he's almost a foot taller and much bigger than I am!

                                          1. I do think it is all about socialization....

                                            For example I love steak, Fiance loves steak, but if I am sick for a week when I get better all I want is a huge burger, whereas he probably wants chicken. I grew up on a beef farm though so to me beef is comfort food.

                                            I love chocolate deserts, or fruit pies, I dislike cake. Fiance loves cake, and fruity stuff. But his best friend who is a male is the biggest chocolaholic I have ever met and my brother loves chocolate. Well brother and I probably love chocolate because my Dad loves chocolate he has stashes of chocolate hidden and really hidden in his desk.

                                            I like salads sometimes, so does Fiance. I had an old BF that had a heart condition and had to eat healthy they were always giving us the wrong dishes because I am pretty petite but I work out a lot so I put away a lot of food sometimes.

                                            I also love uber spicy food, much more so than anyone I know, but I am female. My Fiance, his brother, his father, my father wouldn't touch a lot of things I eat. But then again my brother and uncle love spicy things so I think it is that my uncle would make us spicy chili and other things we liked when were little. All in the socialization.

                                            Although cheese seems to be liked much more by my lady friends than my male friends... I don't know why. My brother really likes cheese though and so does my father so that is who I got it from.

                                            1. I think it's interesting that , on the TV diet commercials, the 'male' version stresses losing weight while not sacrificing portion size while the 'female' version emphasizes losing weight and not giving up chocolate.

                                              1. I HATE these stereotypes.

                                                I am a woman and I love "manly drinks"...I'd take a scotch or a jack and coke over a sweet drink anyday. I'm not big on salads, I LOVE steak and potatoes...

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: foodlover23

                                                  Right. And for everyone who thinks your Scotch & steak are cool or sexy on a woman, there's someone tsk-tsking about how unladylike it is. Hardly anyone just plain ol' doesn't care... there's little neutral territory.

                                                  Which is why the original question was interestingly phrased... yes, *gender* (cultural/learned) affects food choice, but not *sex* (biological/innate).

                                                  When you choose the "manly" food/drink, you may be doing it to be a rebel against conventional gender roles, or trying (but inherently failing) to choose the food without the statement - "I'd like the single malt and a medium rare rib-eye, hold the gender baggage, please" - but you can't *not* know the gender messages about food unless you grow up in a cave.

                                                  What if I don't want to be a "salad date" but I just had the carnivore special for lunch, and I crave some arugula for dinner? Am I a well-socialized lady who knows her place, or just a person eating some greens? Does it matter if I'm wearing a ruffled pink suit or Carhartts, leather and lots of ink?

                                                  The food/gender game, like all social choices, is being played and mapped onto our choices with or without our permission. We can't opt out, but we can have discussions like these to help everyone unpack the gender baggage.

                                                  Naturally, the best solution is to eat some of everything! :-)

                                                  1. re: foodlover23

                                                    lol, i hate to tell you, but a jack and coke is a very sweet drink.

                                                  2. This is a belated comment to this topic--stumbled upon the page Googling "gender food" looking for what people are saying these days and (frankly) as preparation for writing a news release upon a forthcoming book--Bridge Table or What's Trump Anyway? The sub-title reveals the gender food connection: "An affectionate look back at sociable bridge & ladies lunch"--so menus and food are a secondary theme.
                                                    I am an old lady, and like that southern lady I hate sweet drinks -- drink martinis (not the modern sweet ones--the classic) and love spicy food. When I was young I could always out-eat my husband. I don't like cookies and sweet desserts, but I adore rich and creamy ones that are not too sweet. I like whipped cream on my cake--loathe frosting.

                                                    In doing research for my book I began with Laura Shapiro's Perfection Salad, and really got into all the sociological aspects. Women, i.e., ladies, of the 19th century really were stuck with stereotypical food. As were men. I quote the book about a children's book of the century in which the Dad is very concerned about a son who prefers pudding to roast beef--and indication of lack of masculinity. There's a book (serious and scholarly) by Jessamyn Neuhaus, Manly Meals & Mom's Home Cooking: Cookbooks and Gender in Modern America. Now she questions the premise of gender food, or that people over the decades really eat the food cookbooks describe. She believes cookbooks have an agenda, and have (therefore) promoted the whole idea of gender food--if it were a natural and organic preference for different foods, why do cookbooks have to keep on talking about it, she asks. And it is clear from the research I did, that corporate America had a great influence on food (and, they say, corrupted Fannie Farmer) selection. Just regarding barbeque--men's domain, traditionally.
                                                    What I expect to find in my Googling, is what I've already discovered with this website--perhaps it's really different amongst young women (I know my boomer daughter does ALL the grilling in her family).
                                                    What I THINK I KNOW FOR SURE IS THIS--I would probably plan an entirely different meal for say, two couples coming for lunch, or a women-only bridge foursome. But then as I said before, I'm an old lady -- an old sociable bridge playing lady, trying with my last gasp to bring back sociable bridge to boomer generation. And there IS some evidence there's a spurt of interest--all that good publicity about bridge making it possible to reach 90 without dementia, appeals to boomers. Will they take up the ladies lunch menus of sociable bridge from the past???
                                                    That's what I have to intrigue a few Big City Newspaper Food Editors to consider if sociable bridge is to become fully Retro--do an article on tea sandwiches, and creamy somethings served in or over something else (for the required neat plate) along with tamed salads (embalmed in jello-o) etc., etc. And two-dessert menus.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: aurora89

                                                      Aurora, what a fascinating post. Welcome to CH & good luck with your project! Just wanted to point out that there are plenty of people from outside your generation that are Not Boomers.

                                                      Like me, for example. I'm Not a Boomer and I'm no teenybopper, either - as much as we may dislike admitting it, GXers are pretty much... middle-aged. I think more of us care about food than gender, although maybe I just think that because I care so much about both, and live in a socially conservative area.

                                                      I think there's plenty of interest in all things retro, but I bet you'd get more traction on the retro/hip/pomo bridge concept with younger people, like maybe GenY, than with Boomers. Just me, although living in their shadow I'm the first to admit I'm very sensitive to the It's-All-About-Boomers attitude. (Though I may have the last laugh on that score, since I think I may be the parent of a nouveau boomer, or a boom-2.0-er, or whatever we're gonna call these cute little monkeys running mayhem all over my life - and as we age, it seems as though our points of connection are more about our children's ages than our own.)

                                                    2. We often get proferred the wrong dishes in restaurants

                                                      It comes from my wife ordering the pate followed by steak and me ordering the girlie salad and main course plaice.

                                                      1. i think one's culture shapes those things, including gender based preference, more than the actual genetics of gender. But that is not to say men and women are tabula rasa, with no biological components

                                                        1. I guess I'm one of the outliers to your observations. I enjoy chicken in a predominant number of dishes, eat salads more often than not, don't enjoy super-spiced dishes (although there was a time in my life when machismo was more important than enjoyment of said food), and would take fish over beef because I don't enjoy beef as much. I enjoy SMS but can't stand a lot of gins, enjoy wine over beer, and am turning myself into a pear due to the significant drop in recent physical activity.

                                                          Likewise, the females in Clan Ranger are all true carnivores (could easily enjoy beef at every meal but I force the issue of variety by offering fish, chicken, duck, etc.), consider salads (and most green vegetables) similar to a cat nibbling on grass ends, and aren't into super-sweet drinks.