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…).

Starting around 2012, there was a huge uproar about the use of palm oil in the cookies.  Yielding to pressure, they started phasing in sustainable palm oil in 2013, and at least one of the cookie manufacturers now claims to use 100% sustainable palm oil.

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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Adair @ Lentil Breakdown
February 8, 2013 4:19 pm

Thanks for the link love. I read the ingredients last week for the new mango cookie and had to chuckle at its complete lack of mango. It did look like they were trying harder with this flavor, but I agree about the healthwashing.

February 8, 2013 4:11 pm

It’s a lot cheaper and just as useful fundraising wise to give a $10 check to any kid who rings my doorbell selling crap for their organization. The profit margin is probably pretty low on this stuff so I think a $10 check is just fine and I’ll take the tax deduction!

February 8, 2013 4:07 pm

Great post, Andrew. Just today, everyone in my office was eating them and I had to refrain from getting too preachy about trans fats. I did really love Thin Mint cookies, though – so I developed my own version of chocolate mint cookies to satisfy my Girl Scout cravings!

February 10, 2013 6:59 pm
Reply to  Cathy

Will you share your recipe? 🙂

February 8, 2013 3:59 pm

I no longer buy them either. Did you see the article about the California GS troop that is not selling cookies this year because of health reasons? You should check it out.


I wish more troops would follow suit! They have a huge opportunity to make a change here, and the CA troop has given it a great start.

Anne F
Anne F
February 8, 2013 3:42 pm

I don’t eat them either (not vegan.) I usually donate to Operation Cookie Drop instead. Girl Scouts send the cookies to U.S. soldiers, sailors, etc. overseas.

I feel a little badly about sending junk food to members of the armed forces, but I figure if someone is fighting in Afghanistan, trans fats and HFCS are the least of their worries.


Sally Hanselman
Sally Hanselman
February 8, 2013 2:41 pm

I’ve been a Girl Scout leader for 10 years (my girls are now in high school, and actually, we are learning about our foodprint as part of our badgework this year). Let me tell you, the worst part of Girl Scouting is Girl Scout cookies but not so much because I think they aren’t really that good for you! I hate it that when we come across people, the first thing they ask is, “Do you have any cookies?” NOT “Where was the last great adventure you took?” or “What new leadership skills have you learned?” or, “Where have you last made a positive impact on the world?” My favorite thing, actually, is when someone does what you did…make a donation. Much better all around for us, and for you, too! That said, I’m going to eat one Thin Mint a week and just decide I’m helping a Girl Go… Read more »

Momma Jo
Momma Jo
February 8, 2013 9:31 pm

Can the donation be make so it stays in your troop?

Beth (OMG! Yummy)
February 8, 2013 2:39 pm

Ha – funny you should write this today. I bought my daughter some cookies yesterday that have enough preservatives in them that we could buy them 5 days before they are going to be eaten and not worry that they’ll go stale. But because she was the one that laughed at me and reminded me about their ingredients, I gave in and let her enjoy a package. Because if she knows what she’s eating and what it means, then I’ve won the battle. And I usually feel the same way about a couple packages of thin mints each year. Having said that, I completely agree with what you are saying – why can’t they be made with better ingredients? It’s not like they are cheap – they’re not. So charge us a bit more and make them healthier. It should be part of the girl scout and boy scout motto… Read more »

February 8, 2013 2:22 pm

Tweeting! Brilliant! Commencing #Twittervention.

February 8, 2013 2:10 pm

I could not agree more! I have been avoiding buying GS cookies since 2006 when I started learning how to read food labels (on my naturally sweet little journey away from diabetes’ door). From an ex-girl scout’s POV, I hated selling the cookies because it ended up being a competition for prizes and seemed to hold little philanthropic meaning to the girls selling them. Then to look at the box and realize that the ingredients used caused cents to the dollar, while cookie prices continue to increase? Setting aside childhood drama… I mean memories… and financial nitpickiness, know that this sale of empty calories is a fund raiser, not a public service. I think writing to The Girl Scouts of America about this question of, “why can’t you raise money AND awareness?” is something that – if it hasn’t already been done – needs to be done. It’s time to… Read more »

Momma Jo
Momma Jo
February 8, 2013 9:29 pm
Reply to  Kristin

Well put and agree Kristin.
More than the cookies the cooperate giant it all has become.

Same reason we are no longer members of the NRA, or United Cerebral Palsy (my son is severely afflicted) is because the bucks being paid out to the board members is above greed and those in need such as with Cerebral Palsy are not seeing the funds. You should see the Girl Scouts Cooperate office in Portland Oregon. How much more could the money be used for the Girl Scouts to have adventures and learn then supporting some fat cats. /rant Plus the cookies are from a life time away or so it seems of when we enjoyed them.

February 8, 2013 2:09 pm

Good for you for speaking up on this issue, Andrew. I loved being a Girl Scout, and I loved selling cookies as a kid (and wearing my sassy green sash), but the cookies really *are* packed with ingredients I’d never buy for my family. I generally make an exception when a GS comes to my door because of the nostalgia-factor, but you’re right: nothing will change unless enough folks speak up.

And about that Boy Scout popcorn? The ingredients list on those tins is a horrorshow.

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