Girl Scout Cookie Season Survival Tips

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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

5. Peanut Butter Sandwich (3 cookies, 35 grams)

  • Fat grams: 6
  • Saturated fat grams: 2.5
  • Calories: 160
  • Sugar grams: 8
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 26
  • Fiber grams: less than 1
  • First 4 ingredients: sugar, enriched flour, oats, vegetable shortening

6. Thanks-A-Lot (2 cookies, 31 grams)

  • Fat grams: 6
  • Saturated fat grams: 3.5
  • Calories:150
  • Sugar grams: 9
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 22
  • Fiber grams: less than 1
  • First 3 ingredients: enriched flour, sugar, vegetable shortening; contains less than 2% of the remaining ingredients

7. Trefoils (5 cookies, 33 grams)

  • Fat grams = 7
  • Saturated fat grams = 2
  • Calories = 150
  • Sugar grams = 6
  • Total carbohydrate grams = 20
  • Fiber grams = less than 1
  • First 4 ingredients: enriched flour, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, sugar; contains less than 2% of the remaining ingredients

8. All Abouts (3 cookies, 30 grams)

  • Fat grams: 7
  • Saturated fat grams: 4
  • Calories: 150
  • Sugar grams: 9
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 21
  • Fiber grams: less than 1
  • First 4 ingredients: enriched flour, sugar, vegetable oil (palm, partially hydrogenated palm kernel, soybean and/or cottonseed oil) cocoa

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9. Thin Mints from Little Brownie Bakers (4 cookies, 32 grams)

  • Fat grams: 7
  • Saturated fat grams: 4.5
  • Calories: 150
  • Sugar grams: 10
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 20
  • Fiber grams: 1
  • First 4 ingredients: enriched flour, sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean, cottonseed, palm and/or palm kernel oils), cocoa

10. Lemonades (2 cookies, 31 grams)

  • Fat grams: 7
  • Saturated fat grams: 4
  • Calories: 150
  • Sugar grams: 9
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 22
  • Fiber grams: 0
  • First 4 ingredients: enriched flour, sugar, vegetable shortening, cornstarch

11. *Caramel deLites (2 cookies, 28 grams)
*Highest in sugar; Tied with Thin Mints by ABC for the highest in saturated fat

  • Fat grams: 7
  • Saturated fat grams: 6
  • Calories: 140
  • Sugar grams: 13
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 19
  • Fiber grams: 1
  • First 4 ingredients: sugar, enriched flour, corn syrup, vegetable shortening

12. Peanut Butter Patties (2 cookies, 28 grams)

  • Fat grams = 8
  • Saturated fat grams = 5
  • Calories = 150
  • Sugar grams = 10
  • Total carbohydrate grams = 17
  • Fiber grams = less than 1
  • First 4 ingredients: sugar, enriched flour, vegetable shortening, peanuts

13. Samoas from Little Brownie Bakers (2 cookies, 31 grams)

  • Fat grams: 8
  • Saturated fat grams: 5
  • Calories: 150
  • Sugar grams: 11
  • Total carbohydrate grams: 19
  • Fiber grams: less than 1
  • First 4 ingredients: sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean, cottonseed, coconut, palm and/or palm kernel oils), enriched flour, corn syrup

14. *Thin Mints from ABC Bakers (4 cookies, 33 grams)
*Tied with Caramel deLites for the highest in saturated fat

  • Fat grams = 8
  • Saturated fat grams = 6
  • Calories = 160
  • Sugar grams = 11
  • Total carbohydrate grams = 22
  • Fiber grams = less than 1
  • First 4 ingredients: enriched flour, sugar, vegetable shortening, cocoa

15. Sugar Free Chocolate Chips (3 cookies, 34 grams)
*Highest in fiber; Lowest in sugar

  • Fat grams = 9
  • Saturated fat grams = 3
  • Calories = 160
  • Sugar grams = 0 (sugar alcohol = 7 grams)
  • Total carbohydrate grams = 22
  • Fiber grams = 2
  • First 4 ingredients: enriched flour, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, palm oil and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil) sugar free chocolate chips (maltitol, chocolate processed with alkali, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural flavor), maltitol]

16. *Tagalongs from Little Brownie Bakers (2 cookies, 27 grams)
*Highest in fat]

  • Fat grams = 10
  • Saturated fat grams = 4
  • Calories = 150
  • Sugar grams = 8
  • Total carbohydrate grams = 14
  • Fiber grams = 1
  • First 4 ingredients: roasted peanuts, sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (soybean, cottonseed, palm and/or palm kernel oils), enriched flour

What About Trans Fats in Girl Scout Cookies?

As of 2007, all varieties of Girl Scout cookies contain "zero trans fat per serving," notes Thompkins. But you might notice in the list of ingredients that some of the cookies contain partially hydrogenated oils, which are how trans fats are made.

So how can they claim to have zero trans fats? These cookies meet or exceed the FDA guidelines for the "zero trans fat" designation because they contain less than 0.5 grams trans fat per serving.

So if you eat two servings of cookies (or more), particularly those that list partially hydrogenated oils among their first four ingredients, you might get close to taking in a gram of trans fat. This is less likely to happen if you stick to the cookies that don't have "partially hydrogenated oil" listed among the ingredients.

How Not to Eat the Whole Sleeve

It's fine to talk about moderation, but what if you're one of those people for whom the "suggested serving size" is never enough when it comes to Girl Scout cookies?

Believe it or not, two or three cookies will go a long way when you really savor every bite.

Megrette Hammond, RD, CDE, MEd, executive director of The Center for Mindful Eating and co-author of Discover Mindful Eating, says one way to heighten your mindfulness while eating fattening treats is by changing your sensory environment. For example, to "tune in" when eating a serving of cookies, change up their temperature (by eating cookies straight from the refrigerator or freezer) or texture (eat a crisp cookie, and then a soft cookie).

"We often tune out when we eat the same things over and over again," Hammond says.

Another trick is to "reset" your palate in between bites of cookie by sipping a cup of tea or mineral water. This way, your taste buds will really notice each bite of cookie.

And make sure you're not overly hungry when you open that sleeve of those magical mint cookies. You don't want to put yourself in a situation that makes it difficult for you to eat a moderate amount, Hammond says.

Published March 6, 2008


SOURCES: Megrette Hammond, RD, CDE, Med, executive director, The Center for Mindful Eating; co-author, Discover Mindful Eating. Michelle Thompkins, External Communications Consultant, Girl Scouts of the USA. Girl Scout Cookies ABC website. Little Brownie Bakers website.

© 2008 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Reviewed on 3/12/2008

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