Investigating Diets of Asian Youth in the U.S. Using a Theoretical Framework



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Childhood overweight and obesity is a significant public health concern, especially among children of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. This dissertation provides insight into one such population: Asian youth in the U.S. Three studies - two literature reviews and one quantitative study - compose this dissertation, which aims to understand dietary behaviors of Asian-American youths using a theoretical framework.

The first study is a systematic literature review of existing health education/promotion theories and models used to study eating/feeding practices for preschool-aged children. The main purpose of this study was to review and critique theories and constructs utilized in nutrition research on preschool-aged children, while also providing recommendations for strengthening theory utilization and diversifying nutrition research in the future. Forty articles were included, of which 43% had clear identification of theory/constructs and a strong theoretical framework. The most common finding was modeling's effect on children's dietary behaviors, followed by the relationship between parental restriction/control and children's dietary behaviors.

The second study was a systematic literature review of dietary behaviors of children of Asian background in the U.S. The aims of this review were three-fold: (a) to review literature regarding Asian-American youths' dietary behaviors, (b) to critically evaluate the methodological quality of such research, and (c) provide recommendations for future nutrition-related research on Asian-American youths. Fifteen articles were included. Major findings included: (a) frequent consumption of milk, fruit, meat, unenriched white rice, vegetables, and high-fat and high-sugar items among Asian-American children and (b) acculturation's effect on Asian-American youths' dietary behaviors.

The third study was an investigation of cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences on dietary behaviors of Asian-American preschool-aged children on WIC using Social Cognitive Theory. Analyses included descriptive statistics and multiple linear regression on a sample of 68 Asian caregiver-child pairs in Texas. Results revealed consumption of 100% juices, fruits, vegetables, and white rice. In addition, adult fruit consumption frequency, adult potato consumption frequency, adult other vegetable consumption frequency, and outcome expectancies were statistically significant predictors of child's fruit and vegetable consumption.

The findings from this dissertation will help nutrition education and health professionals culturally tailor obesity prevention programs for Asian Americans.