"The results highlight the importance of focusing on the palatability of school meals," said lead author Juliana Cohen of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University.

London - If you struggle to lose weight or say no to an extra helping of pud, don’t blame your lack of willpower - blame your parents.

A person’s attitude towards food and exercise is largely set by the tender age of ten, a study found.

Healthy eating habits become engrained in childhood, according to Newcastle University researcher Heather Brown - which means that’s the best time for parents, schools and governments to intervene.

Dr Brown said our attitudes towards even the simplest things, such as whether to eat breakfast everyday, may be decided by the time we are ten.

She studied hundreds of pairs of siblings in America, and concluded that variable factors, such as whether they lived near parks, only made a difference to weight when they were younger.

By the time they were older, their attitudes were set and those factors had little effect. She said: “Parents are important role models. If they have an unhealthy lifestyle then their children are more likely to emulate their behaviour into adulthood.”

Writing in the journal Obesity, she said: “This demonstrates the importance of early childhood interventions - to promote a healthier population.” - Daily Mail