Surviving Girl Scout Cookie Season

Can you enjoy Girl Scout cookies without blowing your diet?

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

It comes but once a year, that time when $3.50 will buy you a stroll down memory lane. As we speak, girls dressed in green are knocking on doors across America, carrying boxes filled with everyone's favorite treat -- Girl Scout cookies.

Which ones do you look forward to? It's a very subjective thing. While my husband is a Thin Mint kind of guy, my youngest daughter is a Tagalong. I'm all about the "All Abouts" while my oldest daughter enjoys all of the above.

And yes, this dietitian and her family do enjoy these not-so-healthy treats. I usually buy a box of everyone's favorite cookie, we enjoy them, and after about a week or two, we move on. Girl Scout cookies are one of those unique food traditions that mark a certain time of year. And if you are someone who really looks forward to these cookies and would register it as a loss if you didn't partake, I'd say you should celebrate the cookies -- but with moderation in mind.

What's New in Girl Scout Cookies?

Two different bakers make Girl Scout cookies, and each of them make their particular rendition of the classics (Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Do Si Dos, Samoas, Shortbread). Depending on which baker supplies your particular cookie connection, the names and nutrition information can vary. I might say "Tagalongs" and you say "Peanut Butter Patties;" or you say "Shortbread" and I say "Trefoils." "Thanks-A-Lots" are similar to "All Abouts," and "Peanut Butter Sandwiches" are equivalent to "Do-si-dos."

Each year, the two chosen bakers try out several new cookie options. If they don't sell well, they aren't usually back the next year.

"It's a constant process," explains Michelle Thompkins, External Communications Consultant for Girl Scouts USA. "But there's always a demand for healthier cookies."

While Girl Scout cookies can't exactly be considered health food (they are cookies, after all), this year, there are a couple of new, more healthful options:

  • Cinna-spins come in 100-calorie pouches topping out at only 2 grams of fat, 1 gram saturated fat, and 8 grams of sugar.
  • Sugar-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies have 0 grams sugar (but 7 grams of sugar alcohol that's mostly not digested). But they're relatively high in fat (9 grams per serving) and calories (160 per serving).

Rating the Girl Scout Cookies

So which Girl Scout cookies are the most healthy -- or perhaps I should say the least unhealthy?

The most figure-friendly Girl Scout cookies are those with the fewest fat grams and calories per sensible serving. The most heart-friendly cookies, meanwhile, are those lowest in saturated fat -- which often match up with those lowest in total fat and calories.

Below is my ranking, from most figure-friendly to least, of popular Girl Scout Cookie options. The ones with asterisks beside their names were superlative in some category (like lowest in fat or highest in sugar) among those ranked.

1. *Cinna-Spins (1 pouch = 15 mini cookies; 24 grams weight)
*Lowest in fat; lowest in saturated fat; lowest in calories

  • Fat grams: 2
  • Saturated fat grams: 1
  • Calories:100
  • Sugar grams: 8
  • Total carbohydrate grams:19
  • Fiber grams: less than 1
  • First 4 ingredients: enriched flour, sugar, palm oil, and high fructose corn syrup

2. *Shortbread (4 cookies; 26 grams)
*Lowest in sugar among the regular cookies

  • Fat grams: 4.5
  • Saturated fat grams: 2
  • Calories: 120
  • Sugar grams: 4
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 19
  • Fiber grams: less than 1
  • First 3 ingredients: enriched flour, sugar, and palm oil; cookies contain less that 2% of the remaining ingredients

3. Do-si-dos (2 cookies; 24 grams)

  • Fat grams: 5
  • Saturated fat grams: 1.5
  • Calories: 110
  • Sugar grams: 8
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 15
  • Fiber grams: less than 1
  • First 4 ingredients: enriched flour, sugar, oatmeal, peanut butter

4. Lemon Chalet Cremes (2 cookies; 32 grams)

  • Fat grams: 6
  • Saturated fat grams: 2
  • Calories: 160
  • Sugar grams: 12
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 24
  • Fiber grams: 0
  • First 4 ingredients: enriched flour, sugar vegetable oil (soybean, palm, palm kernel, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil), dextrose

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