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Why You Should Never Buy Girl Scout Cookies

Settled in to these resolutions yet? Then it must be time for Girl Scout Cookies to go on sale. I used to think there was something spectacularly special about them. Our dietitian, Mary Hartley, RD, reminds that they may be a sentimental favorite, but they are not healthy food. In fact, there’s nothing remarkable about these cookies.

Never once in my years in the Scouts do I recall having a conversation about fruits and vegetables, exercise, or nutrition. I do remember ending each meeting (spent entirely sitting down) devouring packaged chocolate chip cookies and Kool-Aid. I remember my troop leaders pushing us to sell, not teaching us the ingredients in the cookies or why the nutrition mattered. I might be guessing here, but I don’t expect that’s changed much today.

To be more specific, let me tell you exactly why any of us shouldn’t be buying these cookies.

1. GMOs. Most brands try to cover it up, but the Girl Scouts own their use of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. You’d almost think they were proud of putting engineered food in products they’re making our children sell by the language on their site, They slide the responsibility on to their bakers, saying it’s their call what they use. Some of the reasons to avoid GMOs, since the US doesn’t require labeling while 61 countries do, include a link to allergens and altered DNA of the food.

2. Consistency. Two bakeries produce Girl Scout Cookies – ABC and Little Brownie. They have different recipes, ingredients and nutrition facts for each cookie. That makes for a whopping 20 calorie difference between a Samoa from Little Brownie and a Caramel Delight at ABC.

3. Palm Oil. In order to get the palm oil used in most of their cookies, major deforestation occurs, destroying the natural environment of orangutans. It’s a sustainability issue they came under fire for in 2011 and vowed to make changes. This year’s boxes have a “Green Palm Sustainability” logo, indicating their partnership in the certified production of palm oil. If it’s that tricky, why not source a new ingredient?

4. Mystery Descriptions. The Caramel Delights are a vanilla cookie with caramel, toasted coconut, and chocolaty stripes. The ingredients list never mentions vanilla nor caramel. Mango Cremes are a vanilla and coconut cookie with mango-flavored creme; vanilla nor mango are in the ingredients list. The Lemonades don’t make a single mention of anything lemon in the ingredients.

INFOGRAPHIC: Girl Scout Cookie Calories

5. High Fructose Corn Syrup. The majority use corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup. Depending on which bakery your cookies come from, others may or may not have this toxic ingredient. For instance, the Peanut Butter Sandwich from ABC does, while the Do-Si-Do (same cookie, different name) from Little Brownie does not.

6. Trans Fats. The majority of these cookies do have trans fats, which is found in the partially hydrogenated palm oil listed at the top of the ingredient labels. According to Hartley, partially hydrogenated is synonymous with trans fat, a saturated fat that has a negative impact on cardiovascular health.

7. Business Education. The Girl Scouts adamantly stand by the “business experience” these girls garner from cookie sales, which include goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. I know that in the past 10-12 years as an adult buyer of Girl Scout Cookies I’ve never once been asked by a Scout to buy – their moms and dads make excellent salespeople though. At the grocery store, I usually see the kids lackadaisically holding signs while their parents do the hustling.

These cookie sales do a huge disservice to our girls. I feel the same about Boy Scout popcorn and the catalog of crap food the schools force our kids to sell every fall.. I won’t buy it, and my daughter won’t sell it.

Boy Scout Popcorn vs. Girl Scout Cookies: Which is Worse?

The fact of the matter is we’re amongst an outraged minority who care about the childhood obesity epidemic, affecting one-third of American children with consequences varying from type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea to psychological effects like bullying and body image. According to, 50 percent of advertising and marketing messages directed at children promote food and beverage. And with these sales, even their extracurriculars do. To those who say it’s just a cookie or it’s just once a year, it’s really so much more.

I believe in the soul of the Girl Scouts and the good that that organization can do. Teach them entrepreneurship, leadership, money management by running a farmers market booth or selling CSA memberships. Teach goal setting by being more active with their families and planning healthier meals at home. People skills come by volunteering at community organizations and events for at-risk youth, pet shelters, food banks, or their own schools. The opportunities exist to teach these skills in a way that is more impactful, and it doesn’t have to be via junk food.

Also Read:

10 Breakfast Foods with as Much Sugar as a Candy Bar

Guilt-Free School Fundraisers That Replace Candy

9 Kid-Friendly Resolutions Your Kids Can Make and Keep

January 10th, 2013

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(Page 1 of 1, 19 total comments)

Mike Lewis

I'd love for anyone on this thread, including the Registered Dietitian who wrote this garbage, to be the first scientist to prove with peer-reviewed research that GMO food is unhealthy. Good luck.

posted Jan 21st, 2015 7:31 pm


GMO's have been proven in numerous studies to alter the DNA in human gut flora, leading to food sensitivities, allergies, IBS, leaky gut syndrome and ultimately tumor growth and cancer. This doesn't happen after one cookie here and three cookies there--it happens after chronic ingestion of GMOs (which means not just GS cookies, but 85-90% of the processed foods found on your supermarket shelves). So unless you are eating "organic" or "non-GM labeled" foods... you ARE CHRONICALLY CONSUMING GMOS. That being said... until there's an organic and/or Non-GMO label, I will have to continue declining the cookies. I will not support any food manufacturer that produces a product using this toxic stuff. If the Girl Scouts organization doesn't want to educate the scouts about something as natural as healthy nutrition, then it's up to the consumers to educate them. When the entrepreneurial Scout starts to take notice that more consumers are not buying and are demanding non-GM ingredients, they themselves may start to request it (even if it's just to make their quota).

posted Oct 27th, 2013 12:23 pm

Bill MacDonald

If you have a problem with the nutritional value of GS cookies, the answer is not to "just" boycott their purchase. First, consider donating the money you would have spent in the past do the girls selling them but don't take the cookies. Second, depriving children of the occasional "goodie" only serves to increase their desire. Educate, discuss and control.

posted Apr 17th, 2013 2:45 pm

Greg Shea

I was shocked to read the ingredient list on the box of GS cookies. Several people have said something like "a few won't kill you" or "everything in moderation".

This is the attitude that is very dangerous. The effects are cumulative. And all calories are not the same (another myth).

We need to completely avoid HFCS, labelled in Canada as glucose-fructose. I see the corn growers want to call it corn sugar in the US.

Everyone needs to watch Dr. Robert Lustig's excellent YouTube lecture: "Sugar: The Bitter Truth".

And, as usual, nothing is said about the "flour" used to make the cookies. Read: Wheat Belly by Dr. Davis and act now to help us defeat T2 diabetes, obesity, and a host of other self-imposed diseases and conditions.

Thank you.

Greg Shea (Lake Cowichan, BC)

P.S. Apple day is a great idea. How about orange day for the girls (needed in winter)?

posted Apr 6th, 2013 3:18 am


In moderation, GS cookies are just a s good or bad as anything else. The lesson is to teach kids to eat 2 or 3, not the whole box. This goes for everything. Boycotting GS cookies is stupid and does not address the problem-people eat to damn much!!!!!!!

posted Apr 4th, 2013 1:04 pm


High Fruictose Corn Syrup - " this toxic ingredient". It's this kind of extreme, fear mongering, not based on scientific fact, that causes so much confusion and fear amongst consumers. The next time you read a study that shows that HFCS causes weight gain, check to see if they had a control group that was consuming the SAME NUMBER OF CALORIES through consuming table sugar (i.e. sucrose). You will see that the studies that directly compare the effect of sucrose on the body to HFCS conclude that they have the same effect. Sucrose and the most common form of HFCS have the same ratio of glucose to fructose and the body reacts to them in the same way. Once again, if you eat more calories and don't increase your calorie consumption (i.e. exercise) you will most likely gain weight over time.

posted Mar 27th, 2013 1:29 pm


As a former girl scout leader, I would like to comment. While I don't disagree that girl scout cookies aren't the most healthy items, I believe in moderation. I have lost 70 lbs on weight watchers, while eating girl scout cookies- not the whole box, but a few at a time. Also I don't know where you live, but here in small town America where I live, I see the girls selling the cookies at the stores, not the parents. Much more affective by the way- having a cute girl asking you to buy than a parent. The girls do learn about money management and get to actively use the procedes. My daughters have been to China with a girl scout trip, and to Holland, and backpacking with llamas, all with the help of girl scout cookie sales.
I bet if you look at the ingredients on any cookie box, you will find things you don't want to eat in large quantities. Again, the key is moderation!

posted Mar 22nd, 2013 4:07 pm


Response to my recent letter, re: High Fructose in GS Cookies--
Our licensed vendors use a variety of ingredients in the production of
Girl Scout Cookies, including, in some cookies, high fructose corn syrup
(HFCS). Our bakers have indicated that HCFS is a specifically helpful
ingredient in the browning process, and helps cookies retain freshness.
For those cookies where HFCS is used, our bakers indicate that it is a
key ingredient in ensuring the quality of the cookie.

As leaders in the baking industry, we trust our bakers to develop
recipes using ingredients that will produce the best quality,
best-tasting cookies while simultaneously address industry trends,
scientific trends, and of course, consumer preference. For a list of
specific cookie ingredients, please see Meet the Cookies.

posted Feb 27th, 2013 3:25 pm


I'm a guider at heart - so it really hurts to agree.

HOWEVER, Boy Scouts have an alternative - and I encourage you to support them then.

Apple Day happens on one day a year, usually in October near the apple harvest. As a rule, Apple Day is actually a 'thank you' to the community - so the scouts give the apples away for free. (They will accept donations though.)

However, if you're looking for a way to still support this great organization, without encouraging sugary sweets, I highly encourage you to keep your eyes out for scouts in your community on Apple Day.

posted Feb 14th, 2013 2:14 pm

Former Scout

wait a second. Girl Scout cookies may have some weird ingredients, but don't punish the girls and the troops because the organization is doing something wrong. If you really want to not buy the cookies, then I suggest you donate what you would have spent, or at least a portion of it to the troops directly. You have NO idea what that money goes to. Not only does scouts build lifelong friendships but it teaches invaluable skills to young women in need. They are just as influential as their much better recognized big brother, and work with far fewer resources or recognition. And by the way, my mother NEVER let us get away with not selling the cookies ourselves. We were NEVER allowed to say the words "Do you wanna buy some cookies" because she believed it was annoying and a lazy way to sell. We had the highest-record selling troop for 8 years running. you obviously have no idea what you are talking about and I'm surprised someone let you have a podium to talk about it.

Diss the cookies if you want to, but don't threaten to stop supporting what ultimately amounts to an amazing and beyond helpful organization for the young women of a still severely sexist nation.

posted Feb 11th, 2013 4:23 am


When I was a kid (long, long ago), supermarkets didn't have a bakery section, or an aisle filled with commercial cookies. They had Fig Newtons, something like Chips Ahoy, Vanilla Wafers, and not much else. In general, if you wanted cookies, you had to bake them from scratch, or make a trip downtown to the local bakery. Girl Scout cookies were a special, once-a-year treat. Now, there's a wide choice of delicious cookies available in every supermarket---some healthier, some not. Now, people just buy GS cookies to support Scouts. Back then, people didn't eat nearly as many sweets, and the GS cookies were a special treat. It's not that bad for you to eat them once a year, but I agree the organization should be more socially and environmentally conscious. That's a good lesson for the scouts, too.

posted Feb 2nd, 2013 6:45 pm


I'm sorry you had a crappy scout leader. Just like any organization that involves volunteers, people are going to have different experiences. This is my daughter's second year selling cookies and I have to say that other than following her around the neighborhood for safety, I do very little to help her sell. She does all the transactions, handles the money and counts the cookies. If we have someone that wants to buy, we wait until after school so she can do the transactions. Not one box was sold at my husbands work or mine (I don't work). She worked her butt off and sold 760 boxes by pushing her wagon around the neighborhood and standing outside grocery stores. She has learned how to make change, answer questions and be polite. As far as cookies being healthy? They are a dessert, a snack. A "once in a while" food. The girls in my troop HAVE been taught about healthy eating. There is actually a badge that Brownies can do called "Snacks". The girls make a veggie tray, a smoothie, trail mix and other healthy snacks. The girls loved doing the badge and it was the first time some of them had ever tasted certain veggies. We also did a badge that involved proper oral health. A "tooth fairy" from one of our local dentist office came and gave them a lesson on brushing and flossing. The money we get from cookies this year will pay for a multitude of things including an overnight camping trip to learn about map reading, compass usage, knife safety, trail signs, knots and outdoor safety. As far as the troops only getting a portion of the cookie money, this is true. Our troop gets $.70 for every box. People need to realize, however, that the Girl Scouts is funding entirely by cookies sales. Those buildings and salaries don't pay themselves. Without cookies, there would be no Girl Scouts.

posted Feb 1st, 2013 4:48 pm


Amen! And furthermore, look at how little profit is actually made from those $3.50 (or more) per box of cookies! If you are teaching business sense, it would make GOOD business sense to find something else to sell!

posted Jan 25th, 2013 9:23 pm


I totally agree with the author here! Which is why I WILL NOT buy Girl Scout cookies (I do not buy Store "crap" cookies either). I make my own HEALTHY cookies for my family (yes, take the time and make them!) I'd rather donate the money to the girls. Have kids sell FRUIT- Farmers Market sales of fresh VEGGIES that they have grown themselves (great learning experience)--Crafts they have made. They will still learn selling skills, people skills, setting goals, politeness, etc. AND they can learn about HEALTH . Teach these kids to be healthy AND prosper. I educate myself and family on food health. I buy organics when possible, farm fresh eggs, raw milk and raw honey. It does cost more, but I spend less money on other things that are NOT as important (and more people need to start doing for the sake of their children.) Parents need to get more involved with childrens health and realize these "companies" are using our children to sell their crap.

posted Jan 25th, 2013 3:23 pm

Scout Advisor

Girl Scout Cookies are a snack. And there is plenty that is remarkable about these little cookies. They give the girls ownership by allowing them to have the courage to go door to door selling cookies to complete strangers (with adult supervision). By selling these cookies the girls in turn earn money so that they can participate in activities throughout the scouting year. Everyone knows that they are not healthy. It is after all a cookie. Do you go to the store, grab a pack of Oreos and say, "I'm buying these today because they are healthy."? No, you buy them because they taste good (to some). Same thing with Girl Scout Cookies. You buy them because they are only available once a year, they taste good and yes at times they remind you of something in your past. Cookie Booth sales are great for shaping the girls into strong women. We are often standing out there in the freezing 20 degree weather, under snow storms selling our cookies. And yes the adults have to be there to supervise the girls because other adults today are disrespectful, our job as advisors is to ensure the safety of our girls first and above everything else. They count the money, they get their customers and they make their sales. And all of this under not so great conditions but yet they do it and this builds character.
Girl Scouting today is about a lot more then cookies, much like it has been for the last 100 years. It all has to do with the parents and leadership. There are badges that the girls earn for Healthy Habits such as eating healthy and brushing teeth, badges for learning how to prepare meals, etc. But if the leadership that is there chooses to teach the girls that "unhealthy" things are what should be consumed then that is what the girls will learn. As a troop we eat healthy snacks during our meetings. There is a variety of carrots, apples, oranges that we eat (adults included- children after all learn by what they see around them). We also explore various fruits and vegetables that they don't typically eat (jicama) and integrate foods from other countries into our meetings so that the girls grow up to be well rounded individuals. And during every meeting we play games that get us moving. Every year we do a 5k and donate money to those that are hungry and we participate in cleaning the area rivers which consists of walking over 2 miles at times. And we do these things multiple times a year. We as a group discuss what is healthy for us and how we can do things that are better for our bodies. We participate in relay races and sports "competitions" (all for badges). And this year the girls are very interested in running and we are therefore going to participate on other 5k's. We also camp and hike often and the girls choose and prepare meals for these outings. Meals that are healthy.
So don't assume that because your Troop Leaders were less then desirable and chose to teach you the things they did, that every troop is the same way. There is more to Girl Scouting then cookies. Advising others not to buy Girl Scout cookies is like telling them to avoid helping to teach our future. And things in life are not always the way that you have been exposed to. It is ignorant to think that your troop was the end all and that things are not different in other places (outside of your little bubble).

posted Jan 24th, 2013 4:08 pm

Scout Mom

Please do not assume that all troops are conducted like your experience in scouts. My daughter's troop normally has fruit & water for their meeting snack. And always end it with a few games of freeze tag, red light/green light, simon says, etc. Also my daughter has sold the majority of her cookies by herself. She has gone door-to-door for the past three weekends, where she does every bit of the selling. From the doorbell ringing, to the sales pitch, to making sure they entered all information on the form correctly, & ending with a big thank you for supporting Girl Scouts. She has also made it her mission to get at least a case of cookies donated to the troops overseas. This work ethic is the same for all 10 girls in her troop. And when it comes to booth sales, the only thing that the moms really do, is oversee the handling of the money.
I have always encouraged my children to make healthy choices, but I have also made it a point to teach them about moderation. Are the cookies healthy for you? Absolutely not. They aren't meant to be your main diet.

posted Jan 24th, 2013 2:22 am


Never say never. My daisy scout has learned a ton about business and is going to be a CEO one day. She's made us go out in freezing rain to sell door to door. If you do it right, you can teach your kids a TON about math, setting goals, politeness, etc.

posted Jan 18th, 2013 11:12 pm

Phenomenal Lass

Cookeis aren't supposed to be a diet mainstay. Eating one once in a while isn't going to kill you. And yes, GS cookies do provide valuable lessons to girls. Of course, girls will only do what mom and dad require of them.

posted Jan 16th, 2013 5:38 pm


I asked a young boy scout if the popcorn was GMO, and he had no idea what I meant. His mother understood the question, but didn't know the answer. Next time I saw them she's actually checked it out, and found it IS GMO corn. But the kid still didn't have a clue, so neither the Boy Scouts nor Mom thought it was worth educating him.

posted Jan 15th, 2013 9:16 pm


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