Every year I’ve been an editor at Blisstree, I’ve seen a new spin on the Girl Scout cookies nutrition debate: Health bloggers like me engage in an emotional debate between our knee-jerk rage over childhood obesity and our nostalgic love of cookies (and buying things off the street from little kids). Last year, the Girl Scouts of America ignored criticisms of their contribution to childhood obesity and released a new cookie in honor of their founder’s home state (which also happens to be the one with the highest rates of childhood obesity), as well as a collaboration with Nestle to create a Girl Scouts candy bar. This year, they’re facing the issue head-on…by making “healthy” Mango Crème cookies pumped full of a synthetic vitamin formula.
Per the website, Mango Crème Girl Scout cookies are “vanilla and coconut cookies filled with a tangy mango-flavored crème enhanced with nutrients derived from fruits.” The fruit-derived nutrients come in the form of NutriFusion, a ”whole food concentrate” made of cranberry, pomegranate, orange, grape, strawberry, shitake mushrooms that replaces high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, and supposedly endows each serving Mango Crèmes with 15% RDI of Vitamin B1 and 5% RDI of Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B6.
There are a lot of problems with the idea that anyone should be eating cookies instead of cranberries, pomegranates, oranges, grapes, strawberries, and mushrooms (this is fruit, not dark, leafy greens, people). And there are also a lot of problems with the idea that putting a vitamin syrup into cookies makes them “healthy.” But I’m not even sure that this is what the Girl Scouts is trying to do.
Their web page emphasizes that the point of shilling cookies is to teach young girls business skills:
When a Girl Scout sells you cookies, she’s building a lifetime of skills and confidence. She learns goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—aspects essential to leadership, to success, and to life.
By putting her mind and energies to something, a Girl Scout can overcome any challenge. There are no limits. She can be anything. She can do anything.
All good stuff. The only catch is that you can’t be anything or do anything when you’re suffering major health complications.
As childhood obesity–and related health problems–grow into a national health epidemic, what could be worse than teaching kids to sell (and eat) high-fructose corn syrup-filled nuggets of empty calories? Teaching them to think eating cookies can be as healthy as eating fruit, that’s what.
We’re not necessarily opposed to eating cookies (in fact, some of us quite enjoy an annual thin mind binge). But putting yet more processed ingredients into them and touting their health benefits isn’t empowering the young girls of America. Making the cookies out of less-processed ingredients and teaching kids about portion control would be the obvious, smart way to go…but then, that would require teaching kids to prioritize national health over business profits, and what kind of lesson is that for little girls?
Photo: flickr user Family O’Abé