By Mike Pomranz
Updated September 16, 2015
This here? This is manly food. Apparently.
© Wild Horizon / Getty Images

What’s a manly meal? What’s a girly meal? What’s the difference? Does it matter? The answers seem to be a bit contradictory.

In a recent study led by Luke Zhu, a business professor from the University of Manitoba, researchers looked at how gender stereotypes affected the way people think about food. What they found is that feelings about gender affected not only what we want to eat, but also how we perceive foods that could otherwise be seen as gender neutral.

In the first experiment, 93 people were primed with either masculine- or feminine-stereotyped word puzzles before choosing between healthy and unhealthy foods. Regardless of their own gender, people who were shown feminine puzzles leaned toward healthy foods, while participants who were shown masculine puzzles went the unhealthy route. So if you can’t finish that bag of Doritos, you should just watch some MMA.

Zhu thinks the study speaks to how perceptions of gender and eating have become intertwined. “There is such an implicit association between gender and healthy eating now. And if [food companies] violate that association, it backfires,” he told Quartz.

The second experiment took identical blueberry muffins and packaged them with one of four options: the word “healthy” and a ballerina, the word “mega” and men playing football, or a mix of the two. What they found was that those who received the mixed muffin packaging said those poor muffins tasted worse than the other muffins, even though all the muffins were the same. To be fair, though, I would have no idea what to make of a muffin labeled “mega” with a ballerina on it at all.