When I first started giving Solomon and Celia solid foods, choosing what foods to offer them first and how to prepare them felt like a daunting responsibility. Somehow popping the lids off of factory sealed jars of baby food didn’t feel quite right, but no one had ever taught me how to cook for a baby. I followed my instincts and muddled through, starting the kids out on simple whole foods like bananas, cooked and pureed carrots, and avocados, and progressing pretty quickly to feeding them bits of the meals we were eating.

As a new parent and a food lover, I longed for a guide to raising kids who would grow to enjoy a variety of foods. What I could have used in my kitchen at the time was the stunning new cookbook and guide by Fanae Aaron, What Chefs Feed Their Kids: Recipes and Techniques for Cultivating a Love of Good Food. (Lyons press, 2012).  (Learn below how to win a copy of the book.)

Aaron, who is a Hollywood art director for commercials and movies, wrote the book to help answer some of the questions she had as a first-time mother about feeding her son, Cody. She interviewed 20 award-winning chefs about their own strategies and techniques for raising healthy and adventurous eaters. For who better to guide us along the path of feeding our children well than renowned chefs, who spend so much time contemplating and preparing food?

The book is full of tantalizing recipes (and gorgeous photos) for the whole family from the chefs Aaron interviewed (who are also parents), including Cauliflower and Parmesan Macaroni, Shaking Beef, Curried Chickpea Salad, Honey Ginger Ice Cream, and Warm Roasted Nectarines.

Just as valuable for parents of young children are tips from the chefs and from Aaron on feeding babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Here are a few of the many words of wisdom from the book for parents of toddlers:

  • Share your food
  • Toddlers like to be helpful and involved
  • Make food fun
  • Play smelling games
  • Eat at ethnic restaurants
  • Try to avoid being a short-order cook

The book encourages parents, from chefs to new cooks, to include children in gathering, preparing, and eating meals as a family. “While many parents slip into a routine of feeding toddlers separate meals of bland foods like pasta with butter, chefs bring their children to the table with them, introducing them early on to foods with the complex textures and flavors that they themselves enjoy, “ according to Aaron.

Your family will enjoy the flavor, texture, and colors of this 5-ingredient pasta.  Chef Jimmy Schmidt, father of three boys, three-time James Beard Award winner, and owner of the Rattlesnake Club restaurants in Denver and Detroit, created the recipe.

To be eligible to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment below sharing your best advice for (or questions about) feeding babies and toddlers. Please leave your comment by midnight on November 21st. We will select a winner on Tuesday, November 22nd.

Recipe: Sweet Red Pepper Linguine

  • Prep Time: 10 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 15 min(s)
  • Total Time: 25 min(s)
  • Servings: 6

Your family will enjoy the flavor, texture, and colors of this 5-ingredient pasta.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ Tbsp. sea salt
  • 3/4 lb. linguine (whole wheat or high fiber preferred)
  • 3 red bell peppers, cored and cut into fine julienne to mimic the size of the noodles
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 ½ Tbsp. salt. When the water returns to a boil, add the pasta and cook until just tender.
  2. Add the red peppers to the cooking pasta for 1 minute to warm and slightly soften. Scoop out a cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and peppers into a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Add the melted butter and half the Parmesan, tossing to coat well. Adjust the seasoning with salt as necessary and add some of the pasta water if the pasta is dry.
  3. To serve, twist the noodles into a mound in the center of each plate. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top at the table.

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  • Ali

    Have a lot of patience and start off really small. Don’t expect them to eat everything on their plate every day. One day they’ll eat everything and another day nothing.

  • Melissa Prins

    Ok… here’s my question…My 3 year old son Parker has a diet that consists of goldfish (crackers! lol), cheerios, bananas and spaghettios….He’s been like this for 8 months now… I can’t get him to try anything else… Any suggestions? Its so bad he doesn’t even like mac n cheese! lol

  • Tanya

    I think it’s important not to freak out about a picky eater or force them to eat. Provide them with healthy options, if they have a favorite healthy option, provide it regularly with new healthy options. As long as their are no health concerns, just go with the flow :)

  • Rona Kronenberg

    I would love suggestions on how to get my 2 year old to eat a bigger variety. My 5 year old will try anything once. The younger one will just look at some items and refuse. This book would be super helpful!

  • Jenn

    Got a 17 month old with a serious sweet tooth-glad he loves fruit

  • http://unwiredchef.blogspot.com Jill

    My kids are open to trying new foods because we started young, served things multiple times (taste buds change!), and limit unhealthy snacks. Broccoli and green beans can be an afternoon snack if you serve them with a smile!

  • sandra

    I started our feeding my kids what we were eating, but it seems like as they’ve gotten older they’ve gotten pickier! So, unfortunately, I do feel like a fall into the short-order cook category. :-(

  • Brooke

    I present the same food several times because what they won’t eat today, they may eat a week from now

  • Dana

    Early on with my son and now my daughter, I decided I wouldn’t fight with them over food. I would decide what went on to their plate and they would decide how much to eat. Now that my son is older (2.5) I do give him options for breakfast (ex. cold cereal or oatmeal) and lunch (ex. quesdilla or a pb & j), but for dinner he gets what we are having. So far he hasn’t come back after not eating anything at dinner and asked for a snack.

  • Leah Kocsis

    my toddler often refuses to taste things. I’d understand her not liking something she’s tasted but without even a bite… well, it’s tricky. I’d love suggestions on how to encourage her (she’s 21 months) to try things. Any suggestions?

  • http://www.WhatChefsFeedTheirKids.com fanae aaron

    Hi Leah,

    Try making it a fun game! Try playing a guessing game like do you think it’s going to be crunchy or soft, sweet like mellon or sour like lemon? You can get a almost any child to try something by piquing their curiosity. Also, I learned from chef Jamie Schenker in NYC to eat that my son will eat something if he sees me eat it nonchalantly first.

    Best,
    Fanae, author
    What Chefs Feed Their Kids

  • Amanda

    I’ve got an 11 month old with reflux, who is eating solid foods but can’t have anything “acidic”. There are so many great foods that would be considered acidic (even apples!) that I feel very limited in the foods that I can offer him. How can I encourage an adventurous spirit when it comes to food when he has such dietary restrictions?

  • Karen

    Hi there, I would love new and fresh ideas to feed my adorable Two year old as is seems she is a fussy eater and it is very difficult to please her. Many from a desparate Mother x

  • Amanda

    How can I get my 2 year old to eat vegetables? I have offered them from the beginning and her father and I eat them in front of her every night at dinner. We always put some on her plate and she will not even touch them! I am worried she needs the vitamins! Should I start sneaking them in her food? Any good recipes for that?

  • sandy

    I have always fed my daughter real food! Not processed food. I made her own baby food, and when she was old enough, she started eating what we were eating for dinner. I would just simply puree the food or chop it into small pieces. Also, I have always seasoned her food instead of serving it plain. At 1 yr old, she was eating things like chicken curry (not spicy), and today, at 4 yrs old, it’s still one of her favorite meals. Which I think is pretty adventurous for a toddler/preschooler.

  • Shar

    when my daughter came home from China she didn’t want to eat any food…she had been fed primarily formula…best advice for me was to give her one new food at a time, don’t introduce too much at once

  • Mary

    What one needs when feeding babies and toddlers: loads of patience and tons of perseverance.

  • Mollie

    All kids are different. What works on one, will not work on all. (I have five). Just keep offering and be adventurous on your own plate.

  • Jen

    I don’t force anything on my kids. The ‘eat a rainbow’ each day game is working in our house right now!

  • Jessica

    We do a variety of things with our two year old son. First and foremost, we encourage him to try whatever we are serving, which is almost always what we are eating ourselves. If we try to spoon it for him to take a bite, he refuses. Instead of making an issue out of it, we give him space to try it. I don’t force him to eat anything, but I also don’t cater a whole new meal to him. We always have a set plan for what he can eat at a meal, so he doesn’t make special requests or demands during

  • Wendy

    When our daughter was smaller, we got her to eat healthy foods be giving them fun names or letting her find fun ways to eat them. We call whole carrots “bunny carrots”, and she likes them better than baby carrots. After the tops are cut off and the seeds removed, she slips mini sweet peppers over her finger tips. We make a big deal out of every bite saying she’s eating her fingers. Now that she’s in kindergarten, she takes sweet peppers to school for snack or lunch.

  • Marni

    How do you get your child(ren) to stay at the table for dinner? Our 4 year old is a ball of energy and I don’t think it is possible for him to be still :)

  • Anne

    My dad is the master of nonchalantly introducing foods. His kids and now the grandkids love figs, “Pop Pop” soup (beans and veggies!), sardines… etc. My mom taught me to keep a bag of frozen soup mix vegetables for an “appetizer” of cooked mixed veggies with butter or olive oil while cooking the main meal.
    We feed toddlers off our plates and went without ordering off the “kids menu” for years. I also never make “separate” meals, although we do scrape off spicy toppings and sauces as needed.

  • Emily

    I think we have to make the effort to feed our kids different whole foods even when it’s easier to pick up a package of something. My oldest (4) ate everything as a baby, but I found myself relying on convenience foods more for a few months after his sister (2) arrived. Now he’s picky as can be and I feel like there’s no going back. I really wish I’d continued to make the effort during that time, even though I was exhausted.

  • Adam Courtman

    Kind of like smoking, the best thing for your kids is to not start. Keep them off sugar and convenience foods and they will never know any different. A few months back, on a car trip, my wife and I realized that our three year old thinks that mcdonalds only sells coffee, apples and yogurt. Moreover, a diet of real food produces diapers that are more easy to cope with.

  • http://allergickid.blogspot.com/ Libby

    Mine’s older now (8) and we have the rule that he doesn’t have to eat everything on his plate, but he is required to try it, even if he’s disliked it before. When he was little it was easier, because I noticed that he would usually object to texture, rather than flavor, so mashing or pureeing would get him to eat almost anything. Lately I’ve had to resort to other methods like getting him to eat asparagus by letting him know it’s the only cooked veg he’s allowed to eat with his fingers.

  • Ashley Z

    I’m pretty lucky my 2 yr old eats like a teenage boy. He’s not picky, the only thing he won’t eat is regular potatoes. This means no french fries ( YEAH!) I think he eats like this because we just let him try everything and make his own conclusions about what he likes and what he doesn’t. Once he was through all the baby foods and I was sure their were no allergies, I would make versions of our dinner that he could eat.

  • Micaela Torregrosa-Mahoney

    I had to be careful introducing solids to my youngest because he had some allergies that manifested while he was exclusively breastfed. I skipped the baby cereal stage and went straight to solid fruits and veggies. His favorite vegetable, still to this day, is bell pepper. I play with color on his plate, add vegetables to typical kid foods like pizza & mac ‘n cheese, and try to introduce new foods to the rotation at least every other week.

  • Linda

    I was wondering, at what age should I insist on not pureeing foods anymore? My 22 month old daughter is very picky as far as textures are concerned, but she will eat virtually any meal if it is put through the food processor! (She has no problems eating snack foods and fruit, but she won’t eat chunks of meat, cheese, beans, rice, or pasta)

  • Lori

    My 5 yr old son lives off of PB&J, grilled cheese sandwiches, mac ‘n cheese, pizza (is very little sauce), and grilled chicken dipped in ketchup. Occasionally he will eat mango, banana or cantaloupe. When we try to force him to try something new he throws up. Sometimes he even throws up when something he likes has a “funny texture”, which can be rather traumatizing in a restaurant. The only vegetables he will eat are the ones I puree and sneak in mac ‘n cheese. I would LOVE some new ideas.

  • http://www.sabusykids.com Debi Pfitzenmaier

    My advice: do the best you can..then realize that you can only control what you present to your child. The rest is up to him.

  • http://www.jocnou.ro Jocuri Noi

    Oh my God that food is a dream .. another successful recipe Good for you!
    I tried it, is delicious

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