We review recent research on the effect of social context on food intake and food choice and assess the implications for nutritional interventions. We focus on studies of modelling of eating behaviour and the impact of perceived eating norms on the amounts and types of food that individuals eat. We suggest that social context influences eating via multiple mechanisms, including identity signalling and self-presentation concerns. However, building on existing theoretical models, we propose that social factors may be particularly influential on nutrition because following the behaviour of others is adaptive and social norms inform individuals about behaviours that are likely to be optimal (‘if everyone else is doing it, I probably should be’). Guided by understanding of the potential underlying mechanisms, we discuss how social norms might be used to promote healthier nutrition.