A majority of the public would be willing to have fewer children's TV programs in exchange for a ban on advertising directed a children under 12, according to a survey released yesterday at the annual convention of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

Sixty percent of the 1,188 respondents in the Yankelovich, Skelly and White study, conducted for Woman's Day magazine, favor that trade-off, while another 3 percent believe government regulation of product safety should be increased even if it raises the cost of food.

Half of those surveyed favor a ban on pesticides though this might result in more expensive fruits and vegetables. And 49 percent said they would be willing to accept less-appetizing-looking products in exchange for a ban on artificial colors.

According to the survey, these trade-offs are in line with some of the major concerns people have about food: 71 percent worry about pesticides, 62 percent about additives and 68 percent believe natural foods are healthier than modern processed foods.

More than 77 percent of those interviewed said they are more interested in nutrition than they were a few years ago. A considerable amount of this interest has been fuled by an increasing concern with physical fitness.

At the same time, the majority of the public has not translated this interest in nutrition into a commitment to improved eating habits. While the study shows a significant decrease in the consumption of candy, soft drinks, potato chips and other snack foods and a corresponding increase in the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, only 24 percent of those surveyed said they felt strongly about eating what's good for them. Another percent try for a balanced diet but "don't make a big deal of it."

This paradox is blamed on more relaxed and casual lifestyles and stress on self-fulfillment, attitudes which are not conductive to regular meal times and eating well-balanced meals.

Almost 45 percent of the women interviewed blamed poor dietary habits-on snacking. Over half of all the respondents (both men and women) agreed that controversy over product safety was another barrier to good nutrition and 51 percent of the women who work said lack of time was a problem. Lack of time translates into eating out in fast-food restaurants where, well over half of the respondents felt, food is not as nutritious as what they eat at home.