Supposed To

I got a jar of extra-virgin coconut oil because it’s supposed to be the healthiest kind of fat out there. A friend of mine, who’s not supposed to have animal products of any kind, eats a tablespoon straight from the jar every day. But then another friend said her nutritionist told her it’s bad for the environment because it destroys the native habitat of gorillas or something like that.

I was excited about the coconut oil, because I’m trying not to use canola oil. It’s supposed to be made from this weird seed that’s all GMO. And of course we’re not supposed to have shortening, because it’s hydrogenated, even though Crisco says right on the can it’s non-hydrogenated now, but still, it looks like the exact same Crisco as always, so I’m not sold on how all of a sudden it’s supposed to be okay for us. I was using olive oil, but my brother told me I’m supposed to keep it in the fridge, and it gets solidified when it’s cold and then it won’t pour out of the bottle. Plus that one author keeps saying how more than half of the olive oil sold in this country is supposed to be fraudulent, that it’s rancid or not extra-virgin or something.

So I’m not sure what to do with the coconut oil. If it’s bad for us, I don’t want to give it away. It’s just sitting on my shelf, next to my ground flaxseed, but when my friend was over and saw that she went berserk. “You’re supposed to keep flaxseed in the freezer!” she said. “And don’t grind it until right before you use it. And at least put it in a dark place. Light’s supposed to be awful for flaxseed.”

I had the flaxseed because I was taking flaxseed oil, but a health expert wrote an article about how it’s better to get the omega-3 fats from the seeds, and we’re not supposed to take flaxseed oil as a supplement anymore. Then I started buying the fancy cage-free omega-3 eggs laid by chickens that eat flaxseed, but my father-in-law, who used to be a chicken farmer—I’m totally not kidding—said even cage-free eggs are supposed to come from chickens that are not, in actuality, very free of cages.

Now I get my eggs at the farmer’s market here in town. An Amish family raises the chickens. They’re supposed to be organic, though I don’t know if Amish people do all of the things that are supposed to happen to make something organic. Like I’ve heard of Amish buying Jell-O and having cell phones. I was buying my milk at the farmer’s market, too, for a while, from a woman who’s supposed to be Mennonite. It’s raw milk, and it’s illegal to sell, so when I buy it, I’m supposed to say, “I’d like some milk for my dog, please.”

Before the raw milk I was drinking plain unsweetened almond milk, because of the hormones in the conventional dairy (I also thought the conventional dairy just tasted bad). And then someone forwarded me a blog post about almond milk having carrageenan, which is supposed to be a carcinogen maybe, and I got freaked out and poured the almond milk down the sink. Then I looked at the side panel of the carton, and there wasn’t even carrageenan in my almond milk. Carrageenan is supposed to come from seaweed, and aren’t we all supposed to be eating more sea vegetables? Aren’t they supposed to be a Superfood?

Maybe I can make cookies with the coconut oil and bring them to work. I can’t bring them to my kid’s preschool, because we’re not supposed to bring any food that’s not in a package, and it’s supposed to be only Popsicles or lollipops because of nut and gluten considerations, which I get, I suppose. But the lady at the vitamin store says refined sugar is toxic and absolutely the worst thing for you, which is confusing because that speaker on the TED Talk said all fructose is toxic, and fructose is in fruit, which I am supposed to encourage my kid to eat. Although the pediatrician I heard on the radio promoting her book about picky eaters said you’re not supposed to encourage your kids to eat any one specific thing—you’re just supposed to present food to them and empower them to make their own choices.

Which is what I thought I did from the get-go, and then I found my kid climbing up on the counter and ransacking the cupboards for anything remotely sweet and mass-produced, which in our house is quite likely a box of off-brand Ritz crackers. She loves crackers and cookies and bread, and she has A.D.H.D., and gluten is supposed to make A.D.H.D. worse. Or maybe it’s what’s supposed to give her A.D.H.D. in the first place. I thought it was partially hereditary, but whatever.

So what am I supposed to do, lock the cupboards? Lock up my daughter? Move us all to a desert island where we’ll live on cassava root and die of malnutrition, I suppose. Although if we eat a lot of fish on our island, we’ll be mostly following a paleo diet, and that’s supposed to be very good for you.

This post originally appeared on Food Riot, where I contribute.