Maude Perreault is a Registered Dietitian and Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph. Dr. Perreault completed her dietetic training at the Université de Montréal – CHU Sainte-Justine, and obtained her PhD from McMaster University. Dr. Perreault’s clinical and research interests are centered around early life nutrition intervention to support optimal growth starting in utero, and optimal eating and feeding practices later in life. Dr. Perreault also support parents through her online private practice, with a focus on helping parents team up and tackle “picky eating” with their toddlers. Her work was supported by a Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Vanier doctoral award and a Career Enhancement Award from the Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientists Program. Through her research and clinical work, Dr. Perreault’s mission is to support children as they learn to eat, and parents as they learn to feed, with the goal that children and parents can enjoy pleasant family meals, get optimal nutrition and develop a positive relationship to food.
It is essential to establish healthy eating habits early in life, as good nutrition is needed to support optimal growth and development of children. As early as infancy, children learn how and what to eat through their environment and interactions with caregivers. Eating behaviours that track into adolescence and adulthood are largely established by the age of 5 or 6, making the preschool years an important window in the development of eating behaviours and dietary preferences. However, coinciding with the development of eating behaviours, the preschool years are also a time of slowed growth (relative to infancy) and development of child autonomy, often resulting in challenges often described as "picky eating". In our experience as scientists and clinicians, picky eating is a significant struggle for many families and it challenges their ability to establish healthy eating patterns. This session first aims to explore the current literature related to food parenting and parent-child interactions during mealtimes, and the implications of these interactions on the nutritional status of picky eaters. The session will also discuss whether the eating behaviours, skills and parent-child feeding interactions differ among children born preterm during the early years and discuss implications for future research. Lastly, this session will discuss the potential and applications of various interventions including a novel online health intervention to promote positive food parenting.