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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February 18, 2013 2:34 pm

I don’t buy them either (or any packaged cookie) for the simple fact they really don’t taste that great. Then again maybe they really don’t taste that great because of all the reasons you mentioned. GREG

February 15, 2013 10:14 am

Okay first off I love there cookies well only 2 the thin mints and also there samoas there so good and yes I do agree they could make them more healthy like use natural sugar or use agave nectar to make the sweet taste and they need to expand there selections like maybe a substitute chocolate like Carob for the people that have diabetes and far as expanding there selection how about my fave a oatmeal carob chip that would be tasty 🙂 The hard thing is this day and age nothing is as natural as they say any more Orange juice has like over 26 grams of sugar and most juices do and then meats are pumped with Hormones and plants too so nothing is as natural as it seems any more you really have to go out of the way to find the organic stuff that cost a… Read more »

Vicky Clayton
Vicky Clayton
March 22, 2013 5:25 pm
Reply to  Sarah

My gosh trans fats destroy your arteries….wake up!!!!!

June 11, 2013 12:55 am
Reply to  Vicky Clayton

shoot first everything is bad for you and hello like I said nothing is as good as people claim shit to be and I know trans fat is bad for you and all but shoot just eating a few box’s won’t kill me and it goes to a good cause any ways to what ever if people told me not to eat or do something because others say it’s bad or it may kill me shit I would be like okay and so why should I give a damn I do what I want when I want and shit if I die so be it I don’t care I love these cookies and mostly anything that says it’s okay but is not life is too short to even give a damn !!

July 16, 2013 12:25 pm
Reply to  Sarah

Please use punctuation next time! Your whole post is one giant run-on sentence!

Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family
February 11, 2013 8:39 am

This is quite the conundrum for me. I don’t eat foods made with these ingredients so I don’t buy the cookies, but I feel a little guilt for not supporting their organization. When the girl scout came to our door she offered us the opportunity to purchase cookies that would be sent overseas to our troops. So that is what we did. I feel bad about that though because now I have sent trans fats to the troops.

It would just be simpler if they would be make a cookie with REAL ingredients in them and then I could buy, and enjoy, them.

February 11, 2013 8:00 am

I’m so glad to see you talking of these concerns. Artificial flavoring is being dumped into all sorts of products. Trans fats, none of us need. The use of Palm Oil is contributing to deforestation of the jungle and Orangutans are being threatened.

February 10, 2013 8:57 am

I’m a GS leader, and have helped girls sell cookies for 12 years. I stopped eating them myself years ago. I’d like to thank you for giving the girls a donation. Donations go straight into the troop funds, and it is a great way to support a good organization.

February 9, 2013 6:35 pm

Great idea for a post, Andrew. There was always pressure to support my coworkers’ kids by buying all the stuff they were selling, and I felt torn because most of it was junk – frozen cookie dough, Girl Scout cookies, chocolate bars, and cinnamon rolls. I didn’t want any of it in my house, but I felt bad saying no. I think a donation is a great compromise. Wonder if there is any way to convince the schools and kid-centered organizations to move towards healthy fundraisers? It would be better for everyone involved.

February 9, 2013 12:31 pm

I was a CampFire Girl (back when it was an all-girls org.)- a very SHY CampFire Girl, I loved camping and the outdoors stuff but HATED selling the candy. (I have no idea, now, what the ingredients are/were like.) So I am jumping up and down and cheering (in a very quiet way) for that CA troop. I had for about 10 years a couple co-workers whose daughters were Scouts, and always bought the shortbread from them, as it had the shortest (no, honest, no pun intended) ingredient list. Having the fewest chemicals, they tasted the best . . . but shortbread should not be made with palm oil (which is gross, anyway). It needs to be made with butter. Gluten-free shortbread is actually one of the easiest GF things to bake, anyway, because it doesn’t have any leavening. Oat and sorghum flour, potato starch, butter, sugar. Delicious! GSA certanly… Read more »

February 9, 2013 7:46 am

Haven’t bought them for years, they seem pretty scary to eat. But my girls were girl scouts. So I helped them to sell them.

marilyn kyle
marilyn kyle
February 9, 2013 6:12 am

I agree completely with your stand, but more importantly, the cookies don’t even taste good! People buy them to support the cause, and Girl Scouts, Inc take advantage of the charity angle and don’t even try to make a nice product. Shame on them! A simple donation is a much better idea.

Jo Davis
Jo Davis
February 8, 2013 9:21 pm

BRAVO!!!!! My sentiments exactly for many years. I have been donating my boxes to the local food bank, because I, like you, want to help out, but the recipients at the food bank certainly don’t need this junk! Thank you for posting this.