Pictures of cupcakes, doughnuts and cookies on children's clothes encourages ...

Pictures of doughnuts and cupcakes on children's clothes may encourage unhealthy eating, paediatricians have claimed.

Clothing retailers sell garments adorned with junk food images and slogans such as 'donut worry be happy' and 'you had me at pizza'.

But University of Michigan researchers fear that the trend turns children into 'walking billboards' for junk food. 

Dr Megan Pesch warned the messages could be contributing to the rising numbers of children who are obese or overweight.

Almost 10 per cent of the clothes studied had images of food. Pictured, the slogan 'donut worry be happy'

Garments had phrases such as 'you had me at pizza' across the front

Pictures of doughnuts and cupcakes on children's clothes, such as this pictured, encourage unhealthy eating, paediatricians have claimed

She said: 'Turning our kids into walking billboards of junk food reinforces the appeal of these foods.

'Whether intentional or not, we are sending positive societal messages about consuming unhealthy food to children and their parents that may influence unhealthy eating behaviours long term.'

However, Dr Pesch admitted the influence of such garments on the food choices of children is not currently clear. 

She led a team that studied 3,870 items from large children's clothes retailers in the US - Caters, The Children's Place, Gymboree and Old Navy.

One in 11 items included graphics of food, with two thirds of them being unhealthy products including cookies, pizza, ice cream and chips.  

A third of the items sold by the four retailers made food 'fun' or 'silly', such as a pizza riding a skateboard. 

Dr Pesch, a mother of three, found the images were often in bright colours such as pinks and purples to make them more attractive to children.

Among the examples was a dinosaur with a thought bubble of a hamburger, an ice-cream carrying a purse and a fizzy drink and chips 'high-fiving'. 

Others included shirts with unicorns, rainbows and a cupcake with the words 'dream big', as well as a chocolate chip cookie dancing with a glass of milk. 

There were also clear gender differences - clothing for young girls tended to be mainly focused on cakes and desserts.

Clothes for boys were more likely to feature foods such as pizza, pictured, with slogans like 'snacks before snoozes'

Pictured, pyjamas that say, 'chocolate made me do it' in pink

The study found clear gender differences - clothing for young girls tended to be mainly focused on desserts while boys' clothes was focused on fast food 

Dr Pesch said the clothes are of a concern because children form relationships with food from a young age. Pictured, pyjamas that say, 'hey, hey, mac and cheese all day'

Among the examples discovered by Dr Pesch were a fizzy drink and chips 'high-fiving' with the word 'besties' (pictured)

Dr Pesch studied 3,870 items from large US children's clothes retailers - Caters, The Children's Place, Gymboree and Old Navy 

While boys' items often featured fast food and salty products such as pizza, Dr Pesch and her colleagues noted.

This reinforced images of girls being 'sweet', it was reported in the paper published in the journal Eating Behaviors.  

Dr Pesch said the findings are important because habits formed in childhood often remain well into adult life. 

She said: 'There is nothing wrong with a doughnut or cookie once in a while. They are "sometimes foods" and completely fine in moderation.

'But children's association and relationship with food begins developing at a young age. Obesity is much more easily prevented than it is treated.

'We spend a lot of time studying how children

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