For a brief stint I was in Girl Scouts and I managed to eat more Thin Mints and Samoas than I ever sold. Like many parents today, my mom thought she was helping to enrich my life by getting me involved. Although the intentions may be good and other facets of the organization may be truly empowering, I’ve really come to question why any of us keep buying and eating those infamous cookies. My concern goes well beyond our personal health and here’s why…
Everyone knows cookies are cookies and that they’re best eaten in moderation, but where do we draw the line? With high fructose corn syrup, trans fatty acids, and chemical ingredients in vast amounts of industrialized food do we really want to teach young girls that with a sweet smile and some determination they too can help contribute to the health crisis in the United States? Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes are at record highs. Meanwhile, The Girl Scouts of America actually uses the tagline: Every Cookie Has a Mission: To Help Girls Do Great Things. Call me uptight if you want to, but knowing the ins and outs of our collective health crisis while also knowing there is an abundance of natural cookies sold globally I think it’s time to raise the bar. As a holistic nutritionist and food lover I often say fake food = fake health and real food = real health. This is what I want to see these young girls learn and apply. That doesn’t mean none of us can have cookies! It means we’re better off choosing wholesome ingredients (that taste delicious too). And that goes for vegans as well. Just because PETA offers a list of vegan cookies from the Girls Scouts doesn’t mean running out and stocking up is the best idea for you, the animals you care about, or the environment.
Coaching: Avoid conventional “fat-free” cookies which usually have extra sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sugar that isn’t used by the body is stored as fat anyway. Plus, nature-approved fats help the body feel satiated more quickly and slow down sugar absorption while decreasing insulin spikes.
0 Trans Fat or 1 Big Legal Loophole?After reformulation of the Girl Scouts cookies recipes in 2007 the organization announced that all their cookies had zero trans fats per serving. However, hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils can still be found listed in the ingredients. This is because the U.S. government allows numbers to be rounded off. Plenty of attention has been given to the link between trans fats and complications with heart health, so why do we want to eat these cookies or have our kids eat them? The same pause ought to be given with the artificial flavors and colors that are listed in so many of the Girl Scout cookies as well.
Our Purchasing Power
When we buy Girl Scout cookies we are rewarding an organization for poor nutritional-pushing products. Our purchasing power has the ability to change the economic and nutritional landscape of any market, but we have to do it together. Millions of Americans each year say to themselves “It’s just a box or two” and that keeps the status quo nice and cozy. So, the next time you see a young girl offering you some Thin Mints or Samoas, just say no. Better yet, if you’re feeling brave and motivated, share with her (or the Girl Scouts of America) that you’re concerned with the ingredients and that you’d love to support a healthier choice when it becomes available. Now I know you might be wondering, what if the cost outweighs the profits for them or it’s just too impractical? Well, then maybe it’s time for a new, creative fundraising plan. Regardless of how long they take to make health a real priority though you can always skip their cookies and make a direct donation instead.
Voice Your ConcernContact the Girl Scouts of America by phone, email, or mail: http://www.girlscouts.org/help/contact_us.asp
Where does all that cardboard, plastic, and foil go for any pre-packaged cookies? In the trash? Lighten the load for landfills and recycle as much of it as possible. Better yet, reduce overall waste and make some homemade cookies with natural and vegan ingredients. If you’re baking with palm oil make sure it’s grown and harvested sustainably. Orangutans are seriously threatened due to their habitat being rapidly converted into land that’s used for the production of palm oil (another questionable ingredient used in Girl Scout cookies and by natural cookie companies too). Keep in mind, that even if it is from a sustainable grower, tropical oils have to be transported thousands of miles which is one more reminder for practicing moderation.
All around, you can enjoy cookies that are healthier for you, your community, and the planet.