Why I Don’t Buy Girl Scout Cookies

Why I Don't Buy Girl Scout Cookies

Apparently today is National Girl Scout Cookie Day. I’m not quite sure who got to decide that (perhaps the Girl Scouts?), but it’s a pretty slick marketing ploy. Social media is all abuzz, parents are delivering cookies to coworkers, and you can even find Girls wearing cookie costumes, shilling for über-processed junk-food.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of the Girl Scouts, and have tremendous respect for their organization. But I won’t buy their cookies.

I am an Eagle Scout, so I fully understand the positive impact a youth program like the Girl Scouts has on kids’ lives. And I’ll admit, as Boy Scouts we were always jealous that the Girl Scouts had cookies as their fundraising tool. We sold popcorn, which always just felt kind of lame and certainly couldn’t compete. (Unless there’s a National Boy Scout Popcorn Day that I’m not aware of?)

A couple of weeks ago, two very cute Girl Scouts rang our doorbell, wanting to sell us cookies. Matty and I gave them a donation instead of buying a box. My gripe about the cookies isn’t that they’re cookies – we can all enjoy a sweet treat every so often (though please don’t use the word “moderation”), and I’ve been known to enjoy my fair share of Thin Mints right out of the freezer.

Girl Scout Cookies Ingredients List

So why won’t I buy Girl Scout Cookies anymore? Put simply, they violate all three of my rules!

They’re all made with refined flour.

Most of them contain high fructose corn syrup.

And almost all of the flavors contain partially hydrogenated oils. That means they have trans fats – even though their marketing prominently claims “Our cookies have zero grams trans fat per serving.”  They can do this because of the trans fat loophole in the labeling laws.  Artificially created trans fats have no legitimate place in our food supply; there’s no safe intake level of them, and it’s definitely possible for these cookies to be made without them. Other manufacturers do it, so why can’t the Girl Scouts?

Most of the cookies also contain “natural” and artificial flavors. Both natural and artificial flavors have become a big pet peeve of mine, since they’re found in nearly every product these days. Taken individually, they may not be so bad. But as a whole, they’re impacting our ability to know and appreciate what real food actually tastes like.

And now for 2013, their new Mango Cremes with NutriFusion cookies are “enhanced with nutrients.” They’re adding “natural whole food concentrate” of cranberry, pomegranate, orange, grape, strawberry, and shiitake mushrooms to the cookies – in a minuscule amount – and using that to market them as healthier. That’s nothing more than blatant healthwashing. (On the flip-side, at least that particular flavor doesn’t contain trans fats…).

Last year, around this time, there was a huge uproar about the use of palm oil in the cookies. Yielding to pressure, they’re now giving lip service to the palm oil issue – only 15% of the palm oil they’re using this year is sustainable. But at least they’re working on it.

How about we apply some pressure to get them to remove all trans fats and fake flavors from their cookies, and to stop pretending their new cookies with added vitamins are any less unhealthy than the rest of their cookies?

The Girl Scouts can – and must – do better for our kids and for everyone who buys those cookies. What do you think? 

(If you’re with me, but are still jonesing for Thin Mints, try my friend Adair’s awesome Chocolate-Covered Mint Leaves instead).

Girl Scout Cookies. Now, With Trans Fats!” © 2011 Mike Licht. Used under Creative Commons License.

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55 Responses to Why I Don’t Buy Girl Scout Cookies

  1. amee February 28, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

    hi! just wanted to comment. nice discussion here in both the post and the comments. I was a girl scout forEVER…when cookies were $1.50/box. :) pretty disappointing about all the “crap ingredients” in these. Isn’t there a “Nutrition” badge they need to get???? not only are the ingredients crap but they’ve sized down the cookies too. and the box. half the cookies for way more money with crap ingredients. grrr. Do i get a “Voice Your Opinion” badge? 😉 lol

  2. Amy March 2, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    A bunch of sites have recipes to make your own – some suggest high fructose corn syrup though (which is surprising to me).

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/24/girl-scout-cookie-recipes-thin-mints_n_2534957.html

    http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2012/03/5-homemade-girl-scout-cookie-recipes-we-love.html

  3. Kristi March 11, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Great post! I hadn’t realized how bad GS cookies were for you until recently — thank you for shedding a little more light on the topic! I think it’s amazing that you made a donation to the troop in lieu of cookies — I will do that from now on too!

  4. joolz June 10, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Last year I was very excited because one of students approached me to buy the girl scout cookie dough her troupe was selling instead of the regular GS cookies. Apparently their scout leader had nutritionist come in and talk to the girls about the health risks of heavily processed unnatural foods and a food service worker talk to them about safe food handling procedures. The girls that were interested then set about discussing what they learned with family and community members and requested donations for their troupe. The group then took a field trip to a local bakery where they made several large batches of healthy-ish whole grain cookies with different assortments of nuts, seeds, chocolate and raisins. The dough was sweetened with molasses, honey, and turbinado. People who had donated a specific amount of money received chilled cookie dough as a thank you for their support the day after the field trip (another words they weren’t selling the cookies per se but it was understood that donations would receive yummy cookie dough thank yous) I thought this was an awesome idea since the value was better I donated 10 bucks and got two big fat rolls of cookie dough (maybe 3 lbs?) The cookies were delicious! I could bake them as needed instead of binging out all at once and the girls got a genuine learning experience. I wish more groups would consider trying something like this. Especially because someone is obviously taking advantaged of the GS cookie institution- ever notice Keebler makes the exact same cookies for 1/2 the price?

    • Andrew June 10, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

      I love this!! (I just don’t hope that Girl Scout Headquarters doesn’t find out…) :)

  5. Vicky Clayton June 11, 2013 at 5:40 am #

    Sarah,
    So bitter. No need to cuss. As long as you don’t feed children food like these cookies and many many other products that are very bad for arteries then just go ahead and gobble all of em up…….

  6. Lisa September 30, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    This year, our local council added mango cookies to the menu. Not one mention of actual mango in the ingredients list!

  7. Vicereine October 1, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    I used to LOVE Girl Scout cookies and they would rush to hit me up for sales because I would buy enough to last for the year. But since learning about ingredients in the cookies and making a choice to try to eat better the cookies don’t have nearly the same appeal as they once did. Nothing against people that eat them or the organization, but it’s hard to eat things that you know are far from beneficial. I didn’t made a conscious choice to not eat them, it just…happened…my tastes changed. Believe me…it was a sad day for me too…

  8. Austin January 22, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this post. These are my thoughts exactly. Why do the masses not get it?

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