Aim To report a study conducted to describe the determinants of Turkish school-aged children's dietary habits and body mass index. Background Over the past two decades, children's unhealthy dietary habits and obesity have increased rapidly. Nurses have an essential role in minimizing health-risk behaviours and promoting healthy lifestyles. Using the Interaction Model of Client Health Behavior to measure children's dietary habits and body mass index values helps to prepare health-promotion interventions. Design A descriptive, correlational study. Method The study was conducted, based on a sample of 420 fifth-grade students and their parents in one city in Turkey. The data were collected during 2007 using a questionnaire designed to assess the dietary habits and anthropometric indices. Data were analysed using quantitative analysis to identify key variables. Findings The girls scored healthier on dietary habits than did the boys. Although dietary self-efficacy was statistically significant as an explanatory variable of dietary habits for both genders, the dietary attitude was the only explanatory variable of dietary habits for the girls. No difference was detected in the prevalence of overweight between boys and girls. Conclusion Nurses are well-situated to give children dietary self-efficacy improvement, dietary attitude enhancement, and family-centred and school-based intervention programmes to reduce their unhealthy dietary habits. The model guides researchers to identify the background characteristics of children that result in the body mass index.