Research Article| Volume 31, ISSUE 2, P86-93, March 1999

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Food Choices in Three Ethnic Groups: Interactions of Ideals, Identities, and Roles

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      Ethnicity is one of the many factors that play a role in food choices.This project examined how ethnicity was enacted in food choices among 86 adults in one U.S. city, purposively recruited to vary in ethnic identity (Black, Latino, White). Qualitative research methods were used to conduct semistructured depth interviews about participants’ ethnic identity, food choices, and influences on food consumption. Analysis of these data produced a conceptualization of influences on food choices that spanned the different ethnic groups. Ideals, identities, and roles interacted with each other and the food and eating context in reciprocal and dynamic ways to influence food choice. Differences in ideals, identities, and roles were related to ethnic group affiliation and were most apparent during times of personal transition and in contexts highlighting contrasts. This conceptualization can enhance the ability of nutrition educators working in a multicultural society to identify processes underlying ethnic food choices and apply this understanding to research and practice.


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