TELEVISION advertising could be to blame for unhealthy eating habits as young viewers recognise twice as many unhealthy food brands as healthy ones.
A new study of children aged three to five found that children recognise more unhealthy brands, even in cases where healthy brands are advertised just as much.
Parents' own eating habits could also influence children's knowledge of unhealthy brands, as they choose food for both themselves and their children.
However, a 'window of opportunity' was identified in which parents could teach their children about healthier foods during their pre-school years in order to encourage better eating habits in the long term.
The study also suggested that food education takes place in creches and pre-schools – and should include teaching children about which foods are unhealthy.
Spokeswoman for Safefood, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, said: "This research reiterates the growing recognition of the need for further restrictions on marketing and advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar."