Open thread: Binging on Girl Scout Cookies

My name is Mrs. Q. I am a cookie-aholic.

I come from two parents who can’t say no to cookies. My dad puts back lots of unhealthy foods like donuts, cookies, and tons of bread. My mom can eat a whole sleeve of Thin Mints in a night.

Last year, cookies were my drug of choice. They got me through long nights of blogging. Even though I would eat balanced meals, I would undermine it by eating lots of “healthy” cookies. Once I had one cookie, I would eat at least five more. My husband finally put his foot down. He called for a cookie ban in the house: no cookies were to be bought or made by either of us. He has terrific willpower and is not into dessert, preferring to eat seconds at dinner. I come from a family that is dessert-focused so it took some adjusting for me when we first started dating.

Actually, the cookie ban worked really well.

But now that I’m gf/cf, I can still find store-bought cookies I can eat. Sometimes I defy the cookie ban and buy them. The package of cookies above is my usual drug of choice. I can eat this package in 24 hours. It’s binging. I know I do it. I can’t stop because they taste so good.

That brings me to Girl Scout cookies. I’ve read three posts (Spoonfed, The Lunch Tray, and Mama Says) about how bad Girl Scout cookies. Of course, I agree.

However, the thing that bothers me most about Girl Scout cookies is that most people don’t buy just one box. The last time I bought Girl Scout cookies was two years ago in March. This was before my nutritional epiphanies, but on some level I knew they were bad for me. I bought four boxes from a coworker anyway. Would you ever buy four boxes of cookies at once at the grocery store? Somehow buying Girl Scout cookies normalizes over-buying…and overeating.

After I bought those boxes, I came back later in the week, like a junkie looking for a hit. Since it is a once-a-year kinda thing, I wanted to load up. I asked her if she had any extras or leftovers. She did and I bought a package of cookies that I never would have ordered because I didn’t like that flavor normally. But I needed to get my fix.

So. The cookie ban is on again here at home. And Girl Scout cookies? Probably not the best choice for young girls to sell for a whole buffet of reasons. Why can’t they do popcorn (whole kernel) like the Boy Scouts? What should they sell instead? Do you buy Girl Scout cookies? What foods do you binge on?

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72 Responses to Open thread: Binging on Girl Scout Cookies

  1. Anonymous January 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I'm gluten free as well. After 20 years of not knowing, I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease summer of 2010. I've never been much of a cookie fan. I don't really binge on anything – even more so now after my diagnosis. I never liked Girl Scout cookies or Boy Scout popcorn for that matter. We always make home-made desserts at my house. Nothing can compare to the taste of a cookie fresh from the oven and it's healthier for you!

    The store-bought cookies I enjoyed the most were these GF animal cookies I used to get from the brand Barbara's Bakery, but ever since the company changed the look of their products, they haven't been making them!! I was extremely upset! Despite that minor loss, it's nice that GF foods are becoming more popular as the diet becomes "trendy" since more and more tasty snacks are popping up for me to try.

  2. Martha January 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Love Girl Scout Cookies! No, they're not healthy at all healthy, but neither are the my favorite Kashi Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies. They're cookies! It's a treat.

  3. Mrs. Q January 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    Regarding my dad and bread — it's very dysfunctional. He'll eat half a loaf at once slathered in margarine. It's not about enjoying the bread, he's binging. I want him to eat bread and enjoy it like most people do

  4. Anonymous January 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    I'm with Scattered Mom — give me a fresh, made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookie any day over a GS cookie. I think the reason a lot of people buy GS cookies is because they are "guilted" into it by their cute little nieces, cousins, co-workers' kids, etc. I buy a couple of boxes every year from my cousin's daughter because she is a good kid and I want to help her troop, but otherwise, I'd never buy GS cookies. I think they are gross and taste chemical-y and processed. Not yummy like an at-home cookie made with fresh butter and eggs and no preservatives.

    Having said that, I don't think the cookie tradition should be gotten rid of, nor do I think occasional class parties with cookies or what-have-you should be. Just because some folks can't hold back from snarfing an entire box of cookies doesn't mean everyone else should be punished. I think when you start talking about banning things or doing away with certain things, you are getting into dangerous territory. The more you deny yourself or someone else something, the more they are going to see it as forbidden and end up gorging on it at some point. Most dietitians I've talked with have said as much.

    I am about your age Mrs. Q and when I was growing up, we had access to all the junky stuff kids today do, but I don't recall eating huge quantities of it all the time. And we had class birthday parties with cupcakes and so forth, but none of us was ever overweight. My mom made sure we ate well, so these treats were not an issue. We knew what was good for us and we saw things like cupcakes and cookies as special-occasion treats, not something we should have in huge quantities every single day.

    Perhaps the problem lies with parents not taking the time to educate their kids about making healthy choices. And perhaps some parents are too quick to rely on convenience foods or too quick to give in to their kids' whining for something that's unhealthy. And perhaps schools are offering less and less in the way of physical activity, which in turn is making our kids less active. When I was in school, we had PE class every day plus a morning and an afternoon recess.

    And I do have to agree with some of the others in that this blog has become a bit preachy lately. I've enjoyed the school lunch posts immensely and I think it is one issue we all can agree on — school lunches def. need to change for the better. However, it seems too much time is now being spent lecturing about the evils of certain foods or on the gluten-free issue, which only applies to a very small segment of society.

  5. Aerin January 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    I don't think that Mrs. Q is suggesting that we ban every "unhealthy" food, just that we buy and eat mindfully. That means thinking about what we buy and consume, and right now she is thinking about Girl Scouts and cookies.

    I'm in Canada, and he we have Girl Guides instead of Girl Scouts. Guides also sell cookies (including the delicious Thin Mints!). I was a Guide as a child, and I support the work they do. However, I don't buy the cookies anymore, because they do not use Fair Trade chocolate. I just can't reconcile buying cookies to support an organization that's about empowering girls, when the cookies are made with cacoa products that use child labour and slave labour. I feel like I'm hurting more children than I help by purchasing these products.

    I wrote the Guiding office about whether they use Fair Trade products in the cookies, and they wrote me back and said (paraphrasing) that their cookie supplier told them that most cookies are the market are not fair trade because there aren't many fair trade product sources, and that the Guides rely on the cookie sales to fund all the good work they do. I appreciate that they took the time to reply to me, but I wasn't satisfied with the answer, so no more Thin Mints for me 🙁

    • Heather Jones December 16, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

      A few years ago my daughter, age 13, learned about child labour used in chocolate production. She too wrote the Girl Guides of Canada to protest their lack of use of Fair Trade cocoa in their products. Their response was similar to yours. She wrote back and forth numerous times, but in the end there wasn’t even a hint of them looking into the possibility of switching to Fair Trade. First she (and the rest of her Unit) boycotted the sale of cookies. I (a leader) did the same, but of course it was up to the families in my unit as to whether or not they wanted to sell cookies. In the end, my daughter quit the Girl Guide organization, in part because she felt they were not genuine in their girl empowerment message, since they did not take her seriously. If you still have a the letter that you sent and received from Girl Guides, I’d like to have a copy, because I think it is time to put the pressure on again.

  6. Renee January 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    Mmmm . . . bingeing (sp?). Give me a box of good chocolate creams, or Frango mints –I can definitely go through way too many at one sitting! Same is true for chips and dip, though 🙂

    I thought GS cookies tasted good when I was a kid. Now they taste like cardboard. And I don't think it's just that my tastes have changed –my daughter doesn't go back for seconds either, and she has a heck of a sweet tooth!

    Christina's and TLT's posts made me think about why I buy them at all (guilt) and next time I'm just going to donate the same amount I'd spend directly to the troupe.

    Then I'll go buy a nice box of chocolates.
    🙂

  7. Monica January 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    Is there anyone (who's not allergic/intolerant) who CAN'T eat an entire sleeve of Thin Mints in one sitting?

    Girl Scout cookies are definitely a binge food for me – I'm pretty proud of myself when I manage to eat "only" half a sleeve at a time. But it's not like I can get them whenever I want: they only sell them once a year. Different councils sell them at different times, but even if you know girl scouts from different areas it's still only a couple times a year. I hope they don't stop selling them just because they're unhealthy. They're delicious, and unlike most fundraisers, people actually WANT to buy them. I don't have any girl scouts in my family any more, so I find scouts at the store, or buy through friends. Most fundraisers kids are forced to do sell overpriced junk that no one really wants. If they sold them all year round that would be a problem, but as an occasional treat it's fine.

  8. Short 'n' Fiesty January 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Hey Mrs. Q!
    I was a girl scout and a leader (all in my limited 23 years on Earth) and I loved selling the cookies and organizing the sale for my Daisy and Brownie Troops. I agree with many of the posts here but I think most don't answer your specific questions, so I wanted to give it a shot:

    1) Why don't the GS sell popcorn? Have you actually tasted the Boy Scout popcorn?! It tastes like it's been sitting in some warehouse since the mid- 90's. GRODY. There's no way that Girl Scouts would make bank with that sort of product. I went to Savannah, NYC, Disney World, and Lancaster County with my GS troop almost exclusively from cookie sales.

    2) I both buy and consume Girl Scout cookies (using my personal judgement about what's "moderation" for me) and I think it's the perfect product for the organization because IT SELLS. If you're easily guilted by pig tails and dimples, when they ring your doorbell, pretend that you're not home! If they're a relative, buy them and donate them to a homeless shelter or food bank (hungry people aren't at all choosy and deserve dessert just as much as the next person. I should know, as a kid, my family was no stranger to food banks and I would have loved a sweet treat).

    3) What do I binge on? It changes every week. Currently, tortilla chips are my poison of choice. Now I've got some questions for you:

    1)Have you or your son been biologically tested for Celiac disease? One of my dearest friends had been eating GF for a year when she went to her doc and realized that her anxiety levels were causing her digestive issues and NOT her gluten/dairy intake. My anxiety disorder caused MANY MANY digestive issues but thankfully it's now under control.

    2) How much do you exercise? Job and family may restrict exercise time (I'm a nanny so I have the best of both of those worlds) but I've found that my newest venture into running has improved my digestive issues. I'm a reformed running-hater and I love blogging about it.

  9. Jill January 16, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    We buy 10-12 boxes each year. (My daughter is a GS.) We put half of them in the freezer, and just finished the last box while we are selling for this year.

    As for ingredients, not all cookies are baked by the same company, so ingredients vary. Also, not every GS council carries the same cookies or sells at the same time of year. We are in the "Nation's Capital" council, and 5 of the 8 cookies have no hydrogenated oils, and all are 0g trans fat per serving. Does that make them healthy? No, but they aren't going to cause the downfall of society either.

    Our council also sells calendars, nuts, and magazines in separate sales in the fall. Her troop doesn't even bother with those sales any more because they would make less than $10 on them combined. (This is her 7th year in GS.) Like someone above said, the branding isn't there. Everyone knows what GS cookies are and knows that they can get them once a year.

  10. Christina @ Spoonfed January 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    Jill, actually, there are only two bakeries authorized to make GS cookies, and the ingredients aren't all that different. (See my Spoonfed post for links to ingredients on the main GS website and the two bakeries' websites.) And the boxes may say there's no trans fat, but that's only because the serving size is so small (and completely unrealistic). In reality, many of the cookies indeed contain trans fats.

    Short 'n' Fiesty, I'd be careful saying that "hungry people aren't at all choosy." Food bank patrons deserve the same respect and dignity we all enjoy when it comes to food. And that means we should think carefully about the quality of the food we donate. That doesn't mean no sweets. But it does mean better sweets. Blogged about that recently, too: http://spoonfedblog.net/2010/11/24/would-you-feed-your-own-kid-the-same-food-you-donate-to-food-pantries/

    Spoonfed: Raising kids to think about the food they eat

  11. Short 'n' Fiesty January 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    @Spoonfed: I wasn't implying that we feed hungry people our TRASH. And I can tell you from my experience as a patron of a food bank that I was happy that people donated anything. It's like the hot topic of Zambia and Uganda refusing GM foods on principle while letting their poorest people starve.

    My comment was meant to MOCK the fact that so many people perceive foods that aren't organic/gf/whole wheat/super expensive as being unhealthy. I honestly think that "Health Foods" has now become such a subjective topic that your idea of the "wrong food" would probably not coincide with the average dietitian's opinion.

  12. Christina @ Spoonfed January 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    "I honestly think that 'Health Foods' has now become such a subjective topic that your idea of the 'wrong food' would probably not coincide with the average dietitian's opinion."

    Short 'n' Fiesty, not sure whether you meant me or the collective "you" with that comment, but I'm quite certain I'd disagree with most dietitians about what's a healthy food. And that's because most dietitians rely on the lobbyist-influenced USDA food pyramid. Or they're focused on nutrients instead of whole foods. And that's how I define healthy: How close to real or whole food is it?

    But the government food pyramid and nutritionism are topics for another time!

    Spoonfed: Raising kids to think about the food they eat

  13. Jennifer January 17, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    Girl Scout cookies are almost iconic and I think there would be an uproar if they were to stop selling them. The GS do try to keep with the times and have eliminated trans fats and HFCS in the past (the cookies are not manufactured by the same company every year so the exact product may differ) but the sales show that the public likes certain varieties and those will be back year after year regardless. I think it's unfair to single out the GS when thousands of schools around the country also do food based fundraisers. We could say lets eliminate those as well but what it comes down to is making money and organizations are going to sell what people want to buy. Nobody is forcing any of us to eat a whole box of cookies in one night, we make that choice ourselves. If you want to support GS but not eat the cookies, most troops will take monetary donations and use those to purchase cookies for local shelters (everyone deserves a treat after all!).

    I love your blog and support an overhaul of the school lunch system but we also need to remember that GS cookies are only once a year.

  14. Anonymous January 17, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    Girl Scouts have a fall fundraiser. They used to sell magazines but now do nuts and candies since most schools started selling magazines.
    We would not get the prizes for the cookie sales. We got more money and used it to go camping (including a weekend in Cherokee, NC), helping out the community, and pay for items needed/activity fees for the members in the troop that couldn't afford them. We would buy toys during Christmas, food for the food pantries, and assorted items for the animal shelters.
    If you don't want to support the cookie selling, fine, but I urge you to donate to the troops directly.

  15. Melissa January 17, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    I love all the drama queens on here! You know, the ones whining about how they think this blog is turning into a pitchfork effect and how they just won't come back on here anymore if Mrs. Q doesn't change things. For the love of God, get over it! Who really cares if you come back or not? Do you really need to announce your departure? Just stop reading and posting and let the people who truly enjoy this blog enjoy it in peace.

    To answer the original question, no I do not buy GS cookies. First, they are not safe for my food allergic child. Our house is his safe haven so we do not have food that contain his allergens in our home. Second, I think they are expensive. I can bake less processed, cheaper, tastier cookies in my own kitchen. Last, I think they are too full of unhealthy ingredients. As I said before, I can bake my own cookies. I used to be a GS; we used to see calendar in the fall and cookies in the spring. I would much rather have a calendar. If I really want to support an organization I will just donate my money or my time/services.

  16. Anonymous January 17, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Pamela's GF cookies are THE BEST. I'm not even GF, but I could gladly eat entire packs of them. They're often cheap on Amazon, too.

  17. Kate January 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I'm really glad I read through the whole thread…most everyone hit the points I was going to make (profit breakdown, etc.) I am a GS Service Unit Cookie Manager – I handle 38 troops, 350 girls and about 31,000 boxes of cookies in our service unit.

    The simple fact is that cookies keep our camps open. Cookies allow our councils to offer leadership training, and raise scholarship money so that girls who can't pay the $12 national dues every year can still be Scouts.

    There's also another way to support the Scouts: donate your cookies. Buy a few boxes and then have them donated. You can support a troop and a council (and the critical work they do for our girls), and not worry about the myriad of health issues that seem to preoccupy a lot of people.

    Donate your cookies, donate to the troop, eat your cookies, whatever. I strongly urge you to support Girl Scouts in whatever form you choose. No other organization offers as diverse and complete an experience as Scouts.

  18. Mrs. Q January 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    Thank you for all the phenomenal suggestions — I loved being a girl scout and I want to support the organization. I'll send them a donation directly without having to buy cookies. You guys rock! 🙂

  19. Dawn January 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    A neglected mention is there is normally less cookies in a box of Girl Scout cookies than a box of store-bought – about two boxes equals up to one store bought. I can't find Samoas in the stores (did find a recipe for them I haven't tried) so I do tend to buy usually two boxes each year when they are sold and one box for my nephews since my sister-in-law doesn't allow sweets very often. There is always the option of donating directly to the troup just like any other charity and foundation.

  20. Frugal in Florida January 21, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    Ummm, a whole sleeve of thin mints is not really all that bad, is it, like 10 cookies total? 🙂 I don't know as I have NOT bought them in a few years, too expensive, not the same etc. Sort of shocked at some of the comments by the way 🙂 It's girl scout cookies! Come on!

  21. Clay Boggess March 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Though the Girl Scout cookies have a long-standing tradition, due to all of the push and publicity on proper nutrition, they should start selling sugar cookie scented candles instead. Their new sales pitch can be “enjoy the aroma without the side-effects”.

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