In Australia, children are not eating according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines despite the incorporation
of numerous public health initiatives in the school setting. Literature regarding children's views
about what influences their food choice is limited. Incorporating children in the creation of strategies to
build healthy public policy aligns with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Ottawa Charter framework.
In this qualitative study we used participatory action research to determine why children make the food
choices they do. Five action cycles were used to collect data from school children and the school canteen.
Two of the action cycles, which are the focus of this paper, used Discovery Days (where children worked
in groups to design a canteen menu) to collect data from 100 students on each day across grades two to
six. Each group recorded and presented the reasons they made the food choices for the menu. Each day
was captured by video and audio recordings were transcribed then analysed using a Conventional
Content Analysis to identify themes and then theoretical concepts. Emerging theoretical concepts
describing children's decision-making criteria included pleasure, texture, social acceptability, versatility
and eating context. Our study found children are reliable informants about factors that influence their
food choice. Using theoretical concepts as reported by children could be the foundation required to build
more effective programs to facilitate healthy decision-making, supportive environments and health
policy in the school setting to create healthy food that is desirable to children.