LIVE

A mom who goes by "Chef Texy" on TikTok has faced an avalanche of hateful, racist backlash for sharing traditional family recipes with her 13-month-old. But her flavorful meals get a seal of approval from experts.

By Maressa Brown
November 25, 2020
Advertisement

While every milestone comes with its own unique joys and challenges, there's something particularly special about finally being able to share your favorite foods with your child. After all, many recipes are intertwined with family traditions and sweet memories you're excited to share with the next generation. That's how a food video blogger and mom named Graca Walters, aka Chef Texy on TikTok, felt about introducing her 13-month-old daughter Zuri to African and Caribbean-inspired dishes. But upon documenting the meals on the social media platform, she was met with hateful backlash.

Walters, who grew up in the Congo, told TODAY Parents that she is simply giving her daughter what her mom gave her, and she likes curry, lamb, and Jamaican food, as well. "Where I come from, we don’t have baby food in containers and jars," explained the 31-year-old.

toddler-fed-curry
toddler-fed-curry
| Credit: Getty Images

But when Walters recently shared TikToks of the flavorful and filling dishes that she serves Zuri, she had to contend with cruel, racist comments. On a video of homemade oxtail and rice, someone wrote, “Who would ever feed their kid that disgusting food?" Another troll claimed they needed to call Child Protective Services (CPS) after seeing the lamb curry that Walters prepared for her daughter.

Walters has since called out critics for their racism, spotlighting a comment that said, "I thought Black can cook, guess I'm wrong"—and close-mindedness.

"It hurt my feelings a lot in the beginning," Walters shared with TODAY. "I’m not doing anything wrong."

Experts agree. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children over 12 months old like Zuri need foods from the same basic nutrition groups that adults do. "If you provide your child with selections from each of the basic food groups and let him or her experiment with a wide variety of tastes, colors, and textures, he or she should be eating a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins," notes the AAP.

Amna Husain, MD, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician and founder of Pure Direct Pediatrics based in Marlboro, New Jersey, notes that there's a common misconception that children cannot handle spice or flavor. "In fact, taste preferences begin before birth," says Dr. Husain. "Some studies have detected odors and compounds of garlic, cumin, and curry in the amniotic fluid. It’s also shown that women who eat a lot of certain strong taste, such as curry and garlic, during their pregnancies have babies that readily accept these tastes and flavors when they were given solid food."

That said, Dr. Husain encourages parents to feel empowered to share new, vibrant flavors with their children. "It’s important not to fall into a pattern of feeding your baby bland, unflavored foods from 6 to 12 months of age," she notes. "Your baby can handle spices in a large variety of foods from a very young age."

She also recommends continuing to offer foods that your child dislikes. "Repeated exposure can help your child to grow accustomed to a particular food, but patience is key," says Dr. Husain. "Lead by example and remember to eat the food that you would like your children to eat as well."

Caroline Weeks, RDN, LD, a clinical pediatric registered dietitian nutritionist at Mayo Clinic, adds that while there are no specific guidelines to what level of spice is too much, it's important to use your best judgment. One rule of thumb: Steer clear of anything that would make your own eyes water, as that experience can be even more intense for a toddler.

And as with any new food, it's important to keep an eye out for any kind of allergic reaction or fussiness that follows a meal. But ultimately, sharing traditional, flavorful dishes with your toddler can be a horizon-broadening, bond-strengthening experience for you both. Here's hoping Walters' posts serve to shut down the haters and inspire other parents to explore their own unique family recipes with their kids.

Comments

Be the first to comment!