6% of three-year-olds obese - study
A quarter of all three-year-old children are overweight, with a staggering 6% of those obese.
A new study revealed a youngster's health is related to its parent's social class, with almost one in 10 toddlers from disadvantaged backgrounds classified as obese.
More than 11,000 families were quizzed for the national survey, which also showed that two-thirds of parents bracing themselves for next week's Budget are already struggling financially.
Prof James Williams, principal investigator and co-director of Growing Up in Ireland, said: "Some 25% of our children have an elevated body mass index (BMI) and there is evidence this is related to social gradient and social class.
"Every (case of) childhood obesity and overweight predicts very strongly the situation in later adult life and all of the health issues and implications in terms of osteoporosis, coronary heart disease and diabetes.
"To identify which groups of children are in these categories is very important from the point of view of interventions, education campaigns and policies."
The child of a mother who had an education level of secondary school or less is almost twice as likely to eat foods such as crisps, sweets, chips, and non-diet fizzy drinks, compared to 36% of those from degree-level backgrounds, researchers said.
Elsewhere, the survey showed some 61% of families with a three-year-old reported experiencing difficulties in making ends meet - a jump from 44% just over two years ago.
Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, said: "This research highlights the heavy economic strain being experienced by families today, which is deeply disturbing. The research shows what we already know on a personal basis, families are finding it very tough to make ends meet."
Growing Up in Ireland is a Government-funded study tracking the development of two cohorts of children. The research is led by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Trinity College Dublin.