The campaign launched by heart charity the British Heart Foundation is designed to explain to children why some foods are less healthy than others, rather than merely banning unhealthy foods - a method that does not work, according to the organizers.
A survey done by the charity found that more than one in three children do not know what chips are made of despite being a firm favourite for most. Nearly one in ten of the 1,000 eight to 14-year-olds questioned thought chips were mostly made of oil, while others suggested eggs, flour, and even apples.
BHF director general, Peter Hollins, said: "Kids have lost touch with even the most basic foods and no longer understand what they are eating."
"Banning foods or telling children not to eat them is not enough - we must engage children in understanding why certain foods are less healthy than others, and encourage them to become interested in what's on their plate."
It is estimated that a further 440,000 British children will become overweight or obese in the next two years and a quarter are predicted to be obese by 2020.
Moreover research published in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the risk of heart disease in adulthood is more strongly related to how quickly children gain weight between the ages of two and 11 than their actual body weight at any particular age.
The BHF's new campaign, Food4Thought, uses billboards to attract the attention of 11 and 12 year olds with pictures of beefburgers and other foods covered by a 'censored' sticker. They are then directed to the campaign website (http://bhf.org.uk/food) to find out about the foods' ingredients.
The campaign is also targetting the government, food industry, local authorities, schools and parents. The BHF is urging the government to stop the marketing of unhealthy food and drink products to children, ensure nutritious food is affordable, accessible and appealing for children and parents, and provide children with opportunities to learn practical cooking skills.
Hollins added: "There is no single solution to improving children's diets, but we must address the problem urgently in a coordinated way. If we do not, I fear many of today's children will die prematurely from heart disease as a result of society's hesitation or reluctance to act."
The campaign has been backed by a several celebrities, including England cricket star Andrew Flintoff, girl bands The Sugababes and Girls Aloud and actress Fay Ripley.