‘Ban the cookies,’ said no one ever

I hope this doesn’t sound too Scrooge-like but I need to caution you about something that you, like most of my friends, probably like — a lot: Girl Scout cookies. You may think this rare treat doesn’t add to anyone’s health problems, but these cookies are considered ready-to-eat grain-based desserts (RTE GBDs), and this type of ‘food’ has a rap for contributing to the raging diabetes epidemic. The good news: I’ll let you in on some tips so you can still enjoy them if you’re not ready to say ‘so long’ to your favorite Tagalong.

Yoni Freedhoff, a Canadian based doctor who has studied public health issues linked to obesity and diabetes, has calculated that Girl Scout cookies provide 30 million pounds of refined sugar to the American diet every year. Freedhoff was critical of the organization’s fundraising choice, and from a doctor’s point of view that’s understandable. With more than a million new cases of type 2 diabetes being diagnosed in the U.S. every year, our sugar consumption is a concern.

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But, are all those good-hearted little Girl Scouts to blame for this diabetes danger? Of course not. Our weakness for the sweet stuff, coupled with our desire to help a good cause makes it hard to say no when we see representatives of this American institution in their badge-covered uniforms, cookies in arm, and angelic smiles coming to our front doors.

And I’m not going to tell you to turn them away. But I would advise you to do a little homework before placing your order. Because among the Samoas, Thin Mints (which are vegan by the way) and Trios (gluten-free), there are some better choices.

I’d put Cranberry Citrus Crisps at the top of the list as a better option, made with real fruit, no high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, and they’re low in saturated fat. You can actually eat four of those and only consume 10 grams of sugar, compared to the same amount of sugar in just two Samoas — and only four grams of fat to the Samoas’ eight.

The Rah-Rah Raisins and the Shortbread cookies are among those with lower carbs and sugars out of the 12 delicious kinds of cookies the Girl Scouts offer. And the Tagalongs, also lower in sugar and carbs, contain some good fat for your brain and a little protein. Now, the Tagalongs have a few more calories, but I’ve written before about why that’s not a big concern and my friend, Margaret Cantwell has written on the futility of counting calories also.

Of course researchers have found that if you eat fruits instead of cookies and cakes (those nasty RTE GBDs) you can reduce your risk of heart disease in the next ten years by at least 30 percent.

But, while replacing all your sweet treats for fruit is ideal, forgoing cookies forever is unlikely for most people. Because I don’t consume gluten, I’ve adapted and even prefer not to be tempted by the gluten-free version of Girl Scout cookies just to be on the safe side. But I understand that most folks prefer to imbibe.

On their website, the Girl Scouts of the USA organization insist that their cookies “… are sold for a short time every year and are considered a snack or special treat.” But I have friends who find it hard to just eat a few now and then, especially when they feel obligated to buy several boxes for such a worthy cause.

If that’s the case with you, consider only keeping one serving size available in a zip lock bag per day — or every other day — and freezing the remainder. Limiting yourself can make the treat that much more enjoyable and your body will be most appreciative that you’re doing your part to avoid becoming part of the raging diabetes statistics.


Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.