Matthew Amster-Burton, the author of the new memoir-style cookbook Hungry Monkey, says there's no reason a baby shouldn't eat sushi, bacon-jalapeno pizza or chocolate malt milkshakes.
Amster-Burton is a food writer based in the food-lover's city of Seattle. When his daughter, Iris, was born five years ago, he had high aspirations of raising a fellow "foodie."
"My hope, of course, was that she would happily throw herself into a plate of anything, the way I do now at age 33," Amster-Burton tells Steve Inskeep.
But Iris can be as picky an eater as any child — just as her father was when he was growing up.
Amster-Burton's advice to parents: Don't despair if your child turns up her nose at a wide variety of foods, and don't be afraid to break the "rules" of feeding young children
"Part of the reason I wrote this book was because when Iris was a baby and I was looking for books about feeding babies, most of them were, in one way or another, scary," says Amster-Burton.
Experts warn against giving kids certain foods because of the risk of creating allergies, choking hazards and an unbalanced diet, but Amster-Burton says those situations are "uncommon and not really worth worrying about, for the vast majority of people."
Instead, Amster-Burton challenges parents to let their kids navigate the world of food without getting between them and their plate. This includes providing access to salt, sushi, spices and, yes, sugar.
Regarding the sweet stuff, Amster-Burton says: "If you're brave enough to let it be, it's kind of self-regulating. Efforts to restrict sugar in kids tend to backfire and tend to make kids look for sugar anytime the parents aren't looking."
Meanwhile, Iris' tastebuds seem to fluctuate from day to day. Amster-Burton tracks her whims with what he calls a "sushi index," which he developed at the Japanese restaurant they frequent together.
"The sushi index is how many different items off the sushi conveyor belt Iris will eat," he explains. "If she's on a picky day, she'll eat some rice and a cream puff. Other days, she'll eat absolutely everything — a piece of raw mackerel, a spicy tuna roll, and so on."