I don't really believe the old ideas about what children do and do not like when it comes to food. I think they are capable of loving spicy food, different foods, and healthy foods more than anything.
When we introduced solids to our daughters, we made everything ourselves. It is easy and actually not very time-consuming. I made food purees and finger foods from the food I cooked for us, cutting down on extra prep and cooking.
Example- if I steamed brocolli for us, I would cook some extra and leave it in a bit longer. I would then puree it with a bit of the cooking water and cool it. We would freeze it in food cubes using an ice cube tray and defrost as needed. When they were ready for more complexity, we would blend some of the food cubes.
Making Food Cubes
steam or prepare vegetables, legumes, or meat
puree with some liquid until smooth
portion into ice cube trays (and small glass or plastic containers when baby has a bigger appetite)
defrost when needed
Early on we introduced meat, beans, grains, and all kinds of veggies and fruits. The sweeter foods are definitely easier. But I was careful that not every meal was based on something that contains a lot of natural sugar, such as fruit or a veg like carrots or a baby cereal.
Once our babies were good with soft pieces of food and finger foods, it made it so much easier. I would make small, soft pieces of the food I prepared for us. I would create little plates of different foods for them to try and play and eat.
To introduce spicy and pungent foods, we simply let them try things like curries and pasta sauces. I think that children are like adults, sometimes they have what I call "food moods" and sometimes they simply don't like something.
I know that texture is a big reason for children not liking food. So if you have tried something and they didn't like it, maybe try changing its texture by preparing it differently.
However, I really try not to force the issue. I don't like eggplant. Never have, never will. And it is a texture thing, so I understand if there is something they just don't like. It's okay.
Some great first foods:
Any kind of vegetable
Cooked legumes (chickpeas are very popular here!)
Tomato based pasta sauces (add beef you grind yourself or ground mushrooms to make it beefy)
Dairy such as real yoghurt or cheese
Whole grains, cooked like oatmeal
Good quality meat and fish
Curries and pilafs
Whole grain pasta (or made with rice or another grain)
Tofu- but not the sugary flavored ones
Bread products at a minimum
We have avoided the major chokers- foods that are the major cause of food choking for children. It was suggested to me by a pediatrician to avoid the following until age 5:
hot dogs -unless sliced lengthwise, but nutritionally should not be eaten by anyone, in my opinion
raw carrot -especially those "baby" carrots, which you know aren't baby carrots right? They have been cored out of giant carrots and bleached.
whole grapes -unless sliced lengthwise
~next up? Feeding toddlers. It doesn't have to be a battle!