Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2012


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





School of Nursing

Committee Chair

Rick Zoucha

Committee Member

Melanie Turk

Committee Member

Jill Kilanowski


Children, Ethnography, Leininger, Mexican-American, Overweight



The purpose of this focused ethnography is to understand the meaning and cultural influences of healthy eating and the role of nursing in the promotion of healthy eating practices from the Mexican American child's point of view.


No current studies directly measure the meaning of healthy eating from the Mexican American child's perspective. Mexican American children have a unique perspective and understanding of the meaning of healthy eating and can help identify cultural norms and other factors that may be vital in directing culturally appropriate health promotion interventions.

Research Design

A focused ethnography method using Leininger's four phases of data analysis was utilized.


The researcher interviewed twenty-one children aged eleven to thirteen for the study. Fifteen individual interviews and two group interviews were completed.

Data Collection and Analysis

Data gathering and data analysis occurred simultaneously. Leininger's four phases of qualitative data analysis and utilized NVivo9 qualitative data management software.


The data emerged into three themes within the culture. Theme one: Mexican American children connect healthy eating with familiar foods in the context of their Mexican American culture. Theme two: Foods that provide feelings of happiness and well being are essential for healthy eating. Theme three: Sources of food and health information education are valued when provided by familiar and trusted sources.

Conclusions and Implications

For the informants of this study the meaning of healthy eating is closely tied to the cultural life ways learned and valued by the Mexican American culture. Culture cannot be separated from the child when considering the meaning of healthy eating. Mexican American children view healthy eating within the context of culture, associating familiar foods that provide a feeling of happiness and well being with healthy foods. Mexican American children view eating habits as healthy when taught by familiar and trusted sources.

This study provides nurses an enhanced understanding of the meaning of healthy eating and valuable information to improve nutritional health education and promotion activities, better assists children and their families to improve and maintain health and provides culturally congruent care that is valued by the population.