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"The thing I always liked about food pills in The Jetsons is that they always seemed to enjoy them so much. An apple pie food pill seemed to bring them as much contentment and happiness as an actual apple pie. You can get much the same effect with Jelly Bellys, true, but they really haven't moved past the dessert genre."

Food is different in the future and on alien planets. It might be more exotic, but for some reason, it's mostly just more convenient. Whether it's the tastiest, most satisfying meal that you've ever had, or just the futuristic equivalent of combat rations, it will come in the form of pills, and not just any pills — Food Pills!

Food Pills typically come in your choice of several perfectly convincing flavors, have no sell-by date, and provide all the nutrition you need.

While once de rigueur for the Kitchen Of The Future during the first few decades of science fiction, they're a Forgotten Trope today—though a character ranting about how the future has not delivered the wonders we expected from it will probably mention the lack of these as an example.

The change is no doubt due to the growth of the health-and-exercise industry and the subsequent general awareness that the human body needs considerably more than just a few milligrams of vitamins per day. Protein, fat, sugars, and carbohydrates require mass and can't be compressed into a tiny capsule. Today's science fiction food tends to have more body. If it's concentrated—such as the "protein pastes" that may be Food Pills' more realistic spiritual descendants — it tends to not taste very good, ranging from bland at best to terrible at worst.

What a lot of writers don't realize though is that human beings simply enjoy real food way too much to ever replace it with a synthetic alternative, no matter how economical it might be. For as long as humans have existed, we have gained pleasure from cultivating, preparing, and consuming food, and one of the key aspects of a culture is what they eat and how. Even if food pills could replace the need to get nourishment the old-fashioned way, they can't replace a romantic dinner for two or a holiday feast for the extended family. Even if synthetic food could taste exactly like the real thing, there's still texture to consider. "Fried chicken paste" just doesn't sound very appetizing. There's also the physical consequences of not eating actual food. Replacing solid food entirely with liquids (consumed or intravenous) can result in hair loss and sudden shift in body weight, as well as not properly absorbing many types of nutrients. And literal pills have the problem of not being very filling, leading to constant hunger which causes hormonal imbalance and can be psychologically torturous.

Contrast Instant Mass: Just Add Water!, where pills or powders have water added to them to make glorious feasts. Compare Future Food Is Artificial and Plain Palate.


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  • An early advert for Smash instant mashed potato has a spaceman getting his lamb chops and peas in the form of food pills, but of course "there'll never be a substitute for Cadbury's Smash". Which is basically a substitute mashed potato anyway...

    Anime & Manga 
  • The food pellets from Tarraku in Vandread. These apparently suck so bad, the men on the Nirvana find out that even the women's bad cooking is better.
    • When we see workers eating them in the first episode, they eat entire platefuls, so the 1 pill = 1 meal element of the trope is averted, making it more plausible.
  • In DT Eightron, in the first episode we see Shu eat in the cafeteria a hard ration, made of squares of undetermined kind of food. Needless to say, he does not like the ration a bit, as he confessed to a colleague.
  • In Naruto, Ninja carry Food Pills, referred to by those exact words in the dub, as field survival rations. As with the Truth in Television examples, real food is preferred whenever possible.
    • There are also Soldier Pills, used to make the consumer stronger by providing a burst of Chakra, and Blood Pills that can replenish lost blood.
    • Several characters also use them to fuel particularly high-energy consumption attacks that would otherwise leave the ninja dead from rapid malnutrition. For example, Chouji has a three-pill provision that he's only supposed to use in dire situations. After chomping on all three (including the last, red pill, whose side effects include death) Chouji goes from his usually obese side to as skinny as Naruto.
    • Another filler episode features Ryōri-nin, Cooking Ninjas, who were a type of ninja created to cook filling meals on missions for the very reason that food pills weren't nearly as satisfying as a proper meal. The problem with this came when the cooking ninjas became too good at their job and subsequently caused entire ninja teams to become obese and unfit, putting their ability to do their missions in jeopardy.
  • In Dragon Ball, the Senzu ("Sage Bean") not only heals any and all physical injuries (not counting diseases or viruses), but it keeps you full for 10 days. It even works for Goku.
  • May in Pokémon: The Series creates a special Pokeblock that can satisfy her always-hungry Munchlax.
  • Junko Mizuno's manga, Pure Trance, is about Food Pills humans rely on for food After the End. Unfortunately, they tend to become addicted to Pure Trance and all sorts of medical problems come up.
  • In Toriko, following the Time Skip after Midora ruined the Human World's fertile lands with his Meteor Spice, humanity's diet now consists of synthetic capsules, which provide only the nutritional value, but none of the taste. And people have to eat large amounts of the things for a meal. There's a shot of one man having a nervous breakdown because he wants some real food, dammit!


    Comic Books 
  • Parodied in the Spanish comic Zipi y Zape. In one story where the twins travel to the future, they're given pills that make them instantly learn their school lesson.
  • At least one Silver Age comic has Superman end up in the far future where the sun had turned red, the oceans had baked away, and very little life was left on Earth. While travelling to find the Fortress of Solitude in order to work out a way back to the present era, he stops in a conveniently close abandoned city where he stocks the pouches of his cape with Food Pills and Water Pills.
  • In Spirou & Fantasio, Zorgmen feed only through pills that replace all their dietary needs. Being brainwashed, they have no idea that food can come in any other form than pills, which causes the downfall of a starved Zorgman when he stumbles upon a box of sleep pills.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dan Dare: Although people were eating "vitamin blocks" in the first story, they were mostly a subversion of the trope as it was made clear that they were a barely-adequate way of averting famine. A straighter version of the trope appeared in Rogue Planet, where the alien Crypts and Phants lived entirely on food pills by choice. Unfortunately, these had the side-effect of turning the Crypts into a race of trembling cowards and the Phants into a race of raging psychopaths, until Dan tricked the Phants into making their pills with the Crypt formula. What would happen after this if anybody attacked them both was not commented on.
  • A storyline in Mandrake the Magician involves a man from the future who has broken the laws of his era to travel back to the 21st century. His reason finally turns out to be that he's a gourmet, and there's no real food in his future, just bland concentrated stuff.
  • A Garfield story book, possibly inspiring or inspired by the Western Animation example below, had Garfield take a Rip Van Winkle style nap to 40 years in the future. He discovers while he's there that all food is now served in pill form. The now elderly Jon says the pills provide all the nutrients of real food without the feeling of being full. Garfield bemoans that this removes the entire point of eating.

    Fan Works 

  • Fledglings has Gummis, which can give a Pokémon the amount of essential nutrients they need to survive without the use of meat in the case of more predatory species, and make the society of "civilized" Pokémon in the Cradle possible.
  • In Olive's Last Partner, Oscar has food pills that he created out of inspiration from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When eaten, they taste like anything the consumer wants.
  • In Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space, modern science has reduced food to a simple pill containing all the essentials of life with no waste products (* see 20,000 Leagues Without a Pee). Captain Proton makes the mistake of eating two pills at once and gets the unique taste of jelly donuts mixed with steak & kidney pie. Then Buster Kincaid accidentally eats a red pill and sees how deep the rabbit hole goes.
  • Lampshaded and averted in Rocketship Voyager when Tom Paris notes that the vitamin and mineral supplements he gets with his Soylent Soy are the closest a spacer gets to the fictional food pill.
  • In Vow of the King, Mayuri Kurotsuchi developed a food bar that contains all the nutrients and energy a shinigami needs for a whole day. Unfortunately, it also tastes like "a size ten boot with depression".

    Films — Animation 
  • Wall E has the food juice. "Cupcake-In-A-Cup, available now!"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The ice cream pills in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, though "Dippin' Dots" actually comes close.
  • The processed colored slabs of "food" from the film Silent Running.
  • There are several references throughout the The Chronicles of Riddick series in regards to stuff like "protein waffles" being served at various slams throughout the galaxy, among other things. While not strictly pills, in this sense, it implies that raw nutrients have been converted into something more digestable, which is effectively the same thing. BRB, putting some vitamin C pills into my waffle iron.
  • The characters in the movie Just Imagine (1930) not only consume food pills, but get intoxicated on booze pills.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey features a zero-gee "meal" sucked up through straws, and later a tray of what can only be called Astronaut Chow.
  • Back to the Future Part II had a similar gag to the one above, where the old Lorraine puts a teeny tiny pizza about the size of an Oreo into a device that looks like a cross between a microwave and an EZ-Bake Oven, requests a hydrate level, and has a perfectly normal Pizza Hut pizza come out of the device a few seconds later.
  • Another similar thing is seen in the first Spy Kids movie, where Carmen discovers a bunch of what look like vacuum-sealed wrappers; she puts one in a round, microwave-ish device called the "rehydrator"; she hits a button, and a few seconds later, an entire McDonald's meal is inside.
  • In Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., the Robomen eat colored pills dispensed by an automatic kitchen.
  • Those pen cap like things the Jedi wear on their belts in the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy are stated by Word of God to be packages of food pills.
  • Cube Zero. The two technicians operating the Cube are sent down a silver service tray in the elevator. When they take off the lid, there's only their written orders and a couple of pills. Before they eat, one of them insists on saying Grace first (though that's also because they're in a theocratic dictatorship).
    Dodd: Ah, good. They didn't forget lunch this time. (picks up green pill and reads writing on in) Goat-cheese salad with ginseng, liver fricassee and mango sorbet. Ew, must be you. (hands it to colleague; picks up red pill) Steak frites. That's me.
  • Made fun of in the Czech film Ikarie XB 1 (1963), set on a lengthy mission to Alpha Centauri. While everyone else is eating what looks like high-class ready meals, one man gets a large pill.
    First woman: This is how our ancestors imagined food in space.
    Second woman: Romantics.
    (the man swallows the pill)
    Man: Well, my lunch is over.
  • A very dark example is the eponymous Soylent Green, green wafer-like protein crackers that are the sole source of food for nearly all of humanity. They're supposedly made from sea plankton. Presumably their less nutrition-dense predecessors Soylent Yellow and Soylent Red were, but as the oceans are actually dead, the true source of Soylent Green is a hell of a Franchilot less savory.
  • In Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N., Robin takes four at once of these while in a life raft in the ocean. He gets the hiccups.
  • Conquest of Space (1955). The candidates for the Mars mission are pissed because they have to eat these in the same mess hall that everyone else is tucking into roast beef and fresh vegetables. In a further irony, the sections of the pill dispenser are labelled Roast Beef, etc. One crewman asks for a cup of coffee and is given a pill. "And sugar!" Two more pills. In a Kick the Dog moment, a crewman is informed that he's washed out of the program when a steak dinner is served to him. Everyone watches in envy as he takes a bite...then he rushes from the room to be sick.
  • In The Big Noise, Laurel and Hardy are offered a turkey dinner consisting of pills: "Will you have white meat or dark?"
  • In the sci-fi comedy Galaxina (1980), the crew are served chicken-flavoured food pills. The Captain is sick of eating them however, so he eats an alien egg instead, leading to a spoof of a certain sci-fi movie scene...
  • In the short film Tomorrow Calling (an adaptation of The Gernsback Continuum by William Gibson), after eating a 'crumbling diet pill', the protagonist has a hallucination of a Zeerust future couple in togas.
    Woman: John, we forgot to take our food pills.


  • One of the later Oz books features Food Pills invented by Professor Wogglebug. Characters who take them are still hungry, even though he insists they have all the nutrients they need. Plus, there is the fact that people want to have the fun of regular meals—when the Professor tried to force his students to eat the pills all the time, they threw him into a lake.
  • Thief of Time: the Auditors of Reality in Discworld. The Auditors who construct human bodies as disguises initially try to keep the bodies going by exchanging all necessary materials directly with the environment rather than messing around with inefficient biological systems. Unfortunately, using actual human bodies (even ones created from scratch) means that they come with all manner of inconvenient instincts and drives, and sort of expect to be relying on those inefficient biological systems; so a group of disguised Auditors trying to "breathe" by giving oxygen directly to the cells collapse on the ground, suffocating, as their bodies demand that they start literally breathing.
    • Lembas and Cram (see below) are both parodied with Dwarf Bread; a single loaf can keep you alive for weeks...but that's mostly because it's so hard to ingest that you will find yourself willing to eat literally anything else if it means no Dwarf Bread tonight. Actual dwarfs tend to prize it highly, but more as a weapon than a food.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's short novel Methuselah's Children involves, at one point, trees that produce food flavored like "mushrooms and charcoal-broiled steak", "mashed potatoes and brown gravy", or "fresh brown bread and sweet butter". Heinlein, writing in the early days of artificial flavorings, seems not to have realized that there's more to your sense of taste than just flavor: the above-described flavors applied to fruitlike "growths the size of a man's hand", "creamy yellow, spongy but crisp", and the temperature of just-picked fruit (about room temperature), sounds less than appetizing.
  • One of the wonders in Tom's shop in Deltora Quest is what are tiny wafers that expand into fully baked loaves of bread when adding water.
  • In Suzanne Martel's French children's novel Surréal 3000, everyone is bald, lives under Mont Royal and eats food pills.
  • Various mentions of combat rations and food pastes in Star Wars Expanded Universe novels tend to involve jokes on them being nearly as deadly as actual weapons.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory introduces Willy Wonka's Three-Course-Dinner Chewing Gum...if you don't mind inflating into a huge juicy blueberry. This does manage to avoid the conventional problems with food in pill form—it's clear Wonka thought both of the psychological need to do something resembling eating over a period of time and of the physical need for stomach fullness. He's just not through with the new set of problems created by the solution.
  • Though not literally pills, the Elven "waybread" lembas from The Lord of the Rings serves the same function, in that it doesn't go bad and a single bite can fill you up.
  • Human-made cram from Lake-Town in The Hobbit; it never goes bad either but according to Bilbo is not only completely tasteless but requires almost infinite chewing to ingest. It may be based on real-life hardtack, which answers to the same description.
  • At least one culture of shrews in Redwall has a bread that is so filling that a small amount will even sate the hares, an entire species of Big Eaters. There is one character that can take a whole loaf at a go — an owl who suggests he may have information regarding a captured platoon of hares, but will only give the information in trade for some of the waybread.
  • Andre Norton's science fiction stories often mentioned "E-rations", which had all the nutrition required for human beings but very little taste.
  • E.C. Tubb's "Dumarest of Terra" stories had a liquid high-energy food called "Basic," typically described as sickly sweet because of a large amount of glucose. It was often used when reviving a Human Popsicle, to aid quicker recovery. Nobody drank Basic if they had the time and money for real food.
  • Stephen Leacock's short story "The New Food": An entire Christmas dinner for 13 people, concentrated down into one small pill... that then gets eaten by the baby. Instant Mass: Just Add Water! is a plot point. A messy one.
  • Isaac Asimov's short story "C-Chute", At one point two characters eat space rations: "thoroughly synthetic, concentrated, nourishing and, somehow, unsatisfying."
  • Ray Bradbury's short story "R is for Rocket". Food-capsules (AKA concen-tabs) are provided to teenagers, and are easier to eat when your stomach is twisted up with excitement. They're specifically referred to as "pills" in the story.
  • Inverted in Uglies. Food is plentiful in the future, so there are calorie-binging pills that you take so you can eat even more.
  • In "The Running Man" by Stephen King, Richards wonders what his wife and child are eating. Some options include fake milk, fake coffee, and kelp pills.
  • King uses a variant in The Long Walk, with paste concentrates issued to the Walkers. Apparently, in this reality, they're given to astronauts as well.
  • William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land is one of the earliest examples of this, with food tablets as well as "dehydrated water" (!) in the far future. John C. Wright's Awake in the Night Land, which is set in the same universe, also has them.
  • Tomorrow Town, a short story by Kim Newman about a "community of the future" built in 1970's Britain that doesn't live up to its own hype. Like everything else about Tomorrow Town, the food pills don't work as well as they're supposed to, given that they taste like chalk and are hardly filling. By the end of the story, everyone in town is eagerly awaiting the arrival of an old-fashioned fish-and-chip van so they can have some proper food for once.
  • Robert Bloch's story "The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton" features food pills. However, they are only used as rations in situations where space is at a premium (such as space travel) rather than as a general food source for the population. Also, the monotony of eating them is one thing that makes the protagonist Go Mad from the Isolation.
  • Larry Niven's Ringworld features something like food pills. The hoverbikes provided to the protagonists, when loaded up with raw organic matter, provide bars of delicious nutrients that are tailored to the tastes of various species using them.
  • All the human space navies in The Lost Fleet use nutritional bars of various alleged flavors when they're away from base. The Alliance forces trapped far behind Syndicate lines end up raiding rear-echelon bases for supplies and quickly discover that as bad as their rations are, Syndic ration bars manage to be worse. The Danaka Yoruk-bar is considered particularly inedible.
  • Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! describes Imperial ration bars as "tasting reassuringly of nothing in particular."
  • In the days of Gaunt's Ghosts, the Imperial Guard had to make do with tins of a grey, flavorless, mucousy substance known as "Slab". It apparently could be molded into something resembling plastic explosives, which one of Gaunt's schola friends utilized in a prank that the faculty did not find funny.
  • In a variant that actually works well, James P. Blaylock's heroic scientist Langdon St. Ives invents coffee pills decades before (and much, much better than) instant coffee was developed in Real Life. On several occasions in Lord Kelvin's Machine, he uses them to bribe coffee-loving Obstructive Bureaucrat or Mook characters for favors.
  • This machine is spoofed in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The Nutrimatic Drinks Despenser analyzes the user to decide what drink would be perfectly suited to his or her tastes and nutritional needs. However, no-one knows why it does this, since it invariably (and much to the tea-loving Arthur's irritation) produces a liquid which is "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea". In the movie Trillian more diplomatically says it "resembles tea".
  • The Master Key: has food tablets:
    Within each tablet are stored certain elements of electricity which are capable of nourishing a human body for a full day. All you need do is to toss one into your mouth each day and swallow it. It will nourish you, satisfy your hunger and build up your health and strength.
  • Revealing Eden, the first book in the Save the Pearls duology, plays this concept entirely straight with government-issued fat pills, protein pills, and carbohydrate pills. No mention whatsoever of vitamin pills, so one has to wonder how the entire population isn't dead of scurvy or rickets yet...
  • H. P. Lovecraft's short story "In the Walls of Eryx". An explorer on Venus must wear an oxygen mask to breathe. While traveling, he must eat by slipping food tablets into his mask.
  • Fairly plausible version in The Martian, Mark Watney survives on Mars for two years on vitamin pills and potatoes (for the calories) grown using his own feces as fertilizer.
  • In the Duchy of Terra series, the standard meal served in space is Universal Protein, which is normal food processed down to a nutritional least common denominator that can be safely eaten by any known lifeform in the galaxy, seasoned with nutrients that the eater's specific species requires that get processed out of UP. While it's healthy, keeps well, and makes feeding a multi-species crew simpler, a UP meal is described as looking and tasting like a bowl of porridge with crushed vitamins stirred into it, which explains why most people prefer real food when they can get it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Almost Human: In "Straw Man", the homeless shelter is serving supplement pills that are tailored for the need of each person. It is suggested that it equates a meal when the villain baits his victims by saying that they could have a "real" meal in another shelter.
  • Meal bars in Babylon 5 are nutritious enough, but very much inferior in taste to "insta-heats" (which are like microwave meals that heat themselves when opened).
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century not only has food pills, there's an episode called "Planet of the Slave Girls" where Buck, Wilma, and Major Duke Denton are investigating a case of poisoned food pills that are making the people on Earth sick.
  • In the '70s sitcom Come Back Mrs. Noah, the title character refuses to have one of those "lozenges", but is assured that the Auto-Kitchen can produce fresh eggs. Instead it produces a robot "space hen" into which a "nutrition pellet" is inserted, which after much clucking produces a string of eggs.
  • Referenced in the light-hearted documentary Crystal Balls, presented by Griff Rhys-Jones. In one of the programme's many criticisms of futurists failing to see the obvious, Rhys-Jones points out that they have been predicting food pills will replace actual food for decades, without it ever occurring to them that nobody wants this.
    • Then again, no one really wanted synthetic "honey" and "cheese" or "chocolate" made of flavored margarine. They simply turned out cheaper.
  • Parodied on The Joey Bishop Show, where Joey and Ellie try to get rid Larry, Joey's manager and The Thing That Would Not Leave, by presenting a meal that consists of a single NASA-developed food pill for each of them. Larry seemingly leaves but then comes back with pizza and Joey and Ellie try their best to ignore it but start gobbling up the pizza, since the pills were hardly filling.
  • The nutrition bars in Dark Matter (2015) fit this trope; they come in several varieties in differently-colored packages, some of which apparently taste absolutely horrible. Six says the green ones are the most palatable, and is eventually discovered to be hoarding them, much to the chagrin of Three. They appear to be futuristic emergency rations rather than a primary food source, as the crew doesn't eat them when supplies aren't tight.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In an early episode of the show, "The Edge of Destruction," the TARDIS features a vending machine device which produces food in a candy-bar form that mimics the flavor and texture of real meals when eaten. It's never seen again.
      • An early companion book to the series by Terry Nation, published in the 1960s, elaborates on this. Apparently the hungry TARDIS-dweller types in details of the meal they want (anticipating computer keyboards by at least a decade) and the machine produces what looks like a bar of chocolate. If the requested meal was bacon and eggs, by some Applied Phlebotinum, alternate bites of the bar will provide the taste of grilled bacon, then fried egg. The bar has all the calories, protein and vitamins necessary to sustain life. (But nobody ever thinks about dietary fibre?)
    • In "The Tomb of the Cybermen," Victoria is offered chicken in pill-form by an archaeologist in the distant future. She is rather more reluctant to try it.
    • In "The Wheel in Space", the Doctor and Jamie, exploring a deserted spaceship, discovers a machine that dispenses cube-shaped food pills. The novelization adds the details that the flavour isn't up to much, and the lack of visual difference between the different courses means the first cube Jamie tries turns out to be dessert. Once on the eponymous space station, the Doctor is unimpressed when he's offered a "coffee pellet", calling it "better than nothing".
    • In "Day of the Daleks," the 22nd Century's Earth Controller claims that food in his time is almost invariably in pill form.
    • In "Smile," the Doctor and Bill arrive at an empty human colony, where they are served cubes of blue gelatin by the robots that populate the place.
  • There is a variant in Firefly. Rather than being in pill form, they are about the shape and size of bricksnote  and can feed a large family for a month (Mal: "Longer, if they don't like their kids very much") while simultaneously providing basic vaccinations against disease.
  • Fringe: Etta gives a green pill to a hungry Peter in "The Recordist." She clarifies that it was an "apple".
  • In the Good Eats episode "The Once and Future Fish", Alton (portraying an old man going grocery shopping with his granddaughter (played by his real-life daughter)) observes these at the store and turns his nose up at them.
  • Referenced in Joey:
    Michael: Eh. I just don’t get that excited about food, you know? If I could just take a pill once a day instead of eating, I’d be happy.
    Joey: Yeah, if they do that then I get your food.
    Michael: All right, then I get your pill.
    Joey: Yeah, you just try to take it!
  • In Kamen Rider Gaim, it's revealed that people wearing Sengoku Drivers can absorb nutrients from Lockseed-ified Helheim fruit. This is necessary because the Helheim Forest is taking over Earth and the survivors will have to find food where they can, plus eating the fruits raw will turn you into a monster. However, as Kouta finds out, absorbing Lockseed energy does the same thing, just much more slowly.
  • The Lost in Space episodes "The Hungry Sea" and "The Space Trader" have "protein pills", a complete nutritional emergency substitute for whole foods.
  • In the episode of Modern Life Is Goodish titled "Spray Gravy", Dave Gorman examines the idea of food pills, and how the notion has been embodied in the convenience foods and meal replacements available today. He starts with an aerosol spray can of tea, then goes on to the meal replacement product "Huel" (which he suggests is a portmanteau of "Hipster Gruel"). He then breaks down the lunacy of removing all the enjoyable parts about eating by inventing a form of music that compresses all the notes in a song into a short burst of sound. He feigns enthusiasm about this invention, then tries to perform one of his found poems compressed into a single syllable, which just comes out as a Big "NO!", where he finally drops the facade and goes on a rant about how the complicated, messy, time-consuming parts of things we love are really what make life worth living, so food pills (or their modern analogues) are really a terrible idea.
  • Parodied in a skit in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Terror from the Year 5000" when the Observers send Mike their super-advanced Food Pills. Mike assumes that they're the traditional version — one pill gives you all the essentials for a whole day. The Observers say that no, to get a full day's nutrients, you must consume three or four bowlfuls, with milk and juice and other stuff. When Mike puts on a pseudo-Cooking Show routine with the pills, the Observers go from smugly boasting about their superiority to openly drooling.
  • Odd Squad:
    • The now-defunct Wall of Agents page reveals that Oscar has created a pill that tastes like any flavor the consumer wants, and that it's his favorite food.
    • In the Time Skip ending of "Total Zeroes", Olympia, Otis and Oprah are shown eating food via a flavored orb that projects beams to their heads, in contrast to eating it orally.
  • The Outer Limits (1963): In the episode "Counterweight", the participants in a simulated space voyage are fed nothing but unpalatable meat and vegetable concentrate, designed to save weight and storage space. The stewardess sprays the scent of real food from aerosol cans to try to compensate for the lack of flavor and texture.
  • The spray can foods in Phil of the Future where you just spray out a little bit and watch the glob transform into a full serving. One can eat straight from the nozzle but be careful, the top can be accidentally popped off and cause a giant sized portion materializing.
  • Planet of the Apes: In "The Trap", Burke shows Urko an advertisement for food pills in a long abandoned and forgotten BART subway station in the ruins of San Francisco. They were seemingly commonplace in his and Virdon's native time of 1980. If a person took three per day, they would not need to eat anything.
  • In Power Rangers in Space, the Astro Megaship has the Synthetron, a machine that apparently creates any food or drink the user is thinking about. The Deltabase in Power Rangers S.P.D. has the same type of machine.
  • Quark had a scene or two where the crew would eat a meal ... by putting a hose to each person's mouth, through which a "pill" about the size of a fist was pneumatically rammed down their throats.
  • Referenced in one episode of Stargate SG-1. Carter is working with Thor, an alien, on a new weapon. It's taking a while, so Thor offers her some food in the form of multicolored, bite-sized pieces. Carter tries one, and practically spits it right back out. Word of God is that the prop "yellow one" was every bit as disgusting as Carter's reaction suggests it is.
    Thor: I like the yellow ones.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series has the automated variant of instant food. Crew members are issued cards that summon a given pre-programmed meal from the automated kitchen, which quickly composes the dishes from stocked foodstuffs and delivers them via a dumbwaiter system that runs parallel to the turbolifts. Star Trek: The Next Generation and onwards use replicators that convert raw matter (i.e., biological waste) into organic matrices via transporter technology.
      • Except in the TOS episode "The Trouble with Tribbles", when the Tribbles infest this system, and arrive piled on Captain Kirk's tray; one of them has even jammed itself into his drinking glass.
      • In "By Any Other Name", enemy aliens who are new to human bodies ask why the crew don't just use food pills like they do. The crew then go out of their way to subvert this by showing them the pleasures of eating, drinking, and other things. As to what they're eating and drinking? "It's... It's green!" (among other bright colors).
        Spock: [T]hey have taken human form and are therefore having human reaction.
        McCoy: If he keeps reacting like that, he's going to need a diet.
    • Starfleet has combat rations, seen in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Siege", which, while slightly larger than actual pills, have a comparable nutritional density. According to Chief O'Brien, they are time-released to keep a person fed for a full three days. He's the only one who appears to enjoy eating them however.
  • Used in the Whodunnit? (UK) episode "Future Imperfect", which was set in the year 2076. The options included duck l'organge and haddock Monte Carlo, although one of the characters passed on the new potato pills because they were slimming.

  • In his song "Space Oddity", David Bowie gives us the immortal line "Take your protein pills and put your helmet on."

    Puppet Shows 
  • Fraggle Rock: The Doozers live on a diet of assorted food pellets.
    Doozer #1: Do you have any of those jelly-filled food pellets this morning?
    Doozer #2: Uh-uh. Just custard.
    Doozer #1: Again? Yuck!

    Tabletop Games 
  • Space 1889 has food pills as a possible invention; together with a pint of water it replaces a meal.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Early players of the game often joked about the Create Food & Water spell making a cardboard-tasting, nutritious slop, although this wasn't specified in the spell's description. Though these jokes may explain the "Murlynd's Spoon" (Spoon of Substance in the SRD) magic item from later editions, which did create a cardboard-tasting, nutritious slop. Fortunately, the popular, common, low level, long lasting spell prestidigitation which explicitly covers "altering taste" as one of its (many) functions exists alongside it, though is typically inaccessible to most casters of Create Food & Water (though items of it are inexpensive).
    • The Goodberry spell creates a handful of magic berries, each of which will give someone enough nourishment to sustain them for a day. They go bad the day after the spell is cast so you can't hoard them, but by that point you'll have got your spell slots back and can cast the spell again. Depending on the edition you're playing, eating them can also restore a small amount of health, so it's not infrequent to see characters guzzling several days' worth of goodberries in order to top their hp off.
    • Adventure S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks has a crashed spaceship with concentrated rations such as protein stews, cero-porridges, nutrient drinks, surrogate steaks, vegetable substitutes and vita-bars.
    • The shadow elves of the Mystara setting have their own variant of this trope: edible balls of compressed fungus that are lightweight, don't spoil easily, and can sustain life if just one is eaten per day. More realistic than pills, as they're large enough to contain a day's worth of calories.
    • Edition 3.5 Complete Scoundrel has a similar alchemical item, the trail bars — 4-inch bar of vegetable matter provides the equivalent of one day's worth of food. They don't taste great, however, and eating more than one in 24 hours will make you sick.
    • Adventure Masters of Eternal Night. Illithids normally eat the brains of humanoid beings (such as humans). In this module they have pills which contain the condensed food value of a human brain, which will fulfill an illithid's brain-eating requirement for a month.
    • The Fifth Edition sourcebook Xanathar's Guide to Everything adds a literal example with the 'Bead of Nourishment', which is a spongy little pellet that dissolves on the tongue and counts as a day's worth of rations. There's also the 'Bead of Refreshment', which will turn a pint of any mundane liquid into clean drinking water.
  • Deadlands had a spell called "Vittles", that expressly created nutritious cardboard-flavoured slop. This could however be augmented with another spell that made anything that was even remotely edible taste like a three-star eleven course meal.
  • Food Tablets in GURPS: Ultra-Tech don't taste very good and stretch their longevity by suppressing the appetite rather than being especially filling.
  • Traveller has various forms of this. However when not pressed for space real food is naturally preferred. P.69 of the volume Far Trader deals with this.
  • Hollow Earth Expedition. The Secrets of the Surface World supplement mentions Nutrient Pills as a possible Artifact Resource. Swallowing one replaces eating a normal meal.
  • Mutant Future. Goo Tubes are filled with a nutrient-rich mush which comes in four flavors: green, red, yellow and white. No one in the post-apocalyptic world knows what the flavors were meant to duplicate. A Goo Tube is the size of a roll of quarters but can feed a man for an entire day.
  • Mongoose Publishing's Starship Troopers The Roleplaying Game had MI Field Rations. They had all the calories, nutrients and minerals needed to sustain an athletic man or woman for a single day. However, they were almost flavorless, white, chalky bars and were usually a trooper’s last choice for food.
  • Paranoia XP supplement Criminal Histories. The Vita-Yum Meal Substitute Bar Substitute Pill.
  • Fantasy Games Unlimited's Aftermath!. Super-K Rations were the ultimate in preserved nutrition. They were pastes stored in a squeeze tube that provided a full day's nutrition. However, they weren't very appetizing.
  • You might think that a far future science-fiction game like BattleTech and more specifically its RPG counterpart MechWarrior would have these in some fashion...and you'd be right, but only so far as noting that battlefield rations exist and, apparently, another thousand years of practice haven't made them anymore palatable. The most recognizable forms resemble the Russian rations below—a canned meat stew thick with congealed fat. The somewhat less recognizable form is a hard, dry nutrient bar that is compared to a pressed sawdust brick in consistency and described not so much as food as just 'something to chew on.' The least recognizable form of 'food' is a plastic tube full of nutrient paste that is universally exactly the same way by everyone who has to eat it. Every single time it appears, it is described in both texture and taste as 'soggy newspaper,' or 'damp cardboard,' or some synonym of wet wood product.
  • Sorcery & Super Science! Post Apocalyptic Role-Playing! has several versions of this. All are items from before the collapse of civilization.
    • Hunger Busters. Three of these little square pills provided the daily requirements of calories and vitamins.
    • Canned food. One can contains food that will keep a human being going for an entire day. It will remain edible for ten years or more in the can.
    • A Famine Tube is a plastic tube containing a disgusting nutrient-rich goop that provides one day of sustenance.
    • A Feast Tube contains a delicious nutrient-rich goop that provides food for a day.
  • The Technology Guide for Pathfinder also includes Goo Tubes, which are available in a wide variety of flavors and sufficient for a full day's worth of nourishment. The ones found in the millennia-old wreckage of a spaceship have only a partial chance of being spoiled.
  • Battlelords of the 23rd Century supplement Lock-N-Load: The Battlelord's War Manual. Protein tablets provide 2 units of nourishment to anyone who eats them.

  • In "Make a Miracle" from Where's Charley?, one of Charley's future predictions is that "someday, just a small white pill will feed a family."

    Video Games 
  • The healing items in Beyond Good & Evil are all "synthetic foodstuffs," from the slab-like Starkos to the more traditionally pill-shaped K-Bups (manufactured by the aptly-named Nutripills company). However, unlike most examples of Food Pills, real food definitely exists — we just never see the characters eating it. For example, a Parody Commercial for Starkos shows them being served with guacamole, and Pey'j at one point comments that an animal reminds him of his aunt's "Chocolate-covered squid tentacles with kiwi sauce."
    • The K-Bups appear to be marketed as some variety of candy-style snack food, while Chip Cheezum and General Ironicus jokingly refer to the Starkos as wedges of pure cheese in their Let's Play.
  • Ranch Rush 2 has the antagonist trying to sell his "Wonder Food Pills". The protagonist, Sara, along with all of her non-Victor customers, insist that fresh food is best. Eventually, they team up to create jellybeans.
  • Chrono Trigger's "enertron" devices in 2300 AD. "HP and MP restored! ...but you're still hungry."
  • Red Alert 3: Paradox's Allies issue these to special forces and paratroopers as part of their retro-future theme... along with appetite suppressors. Eating only these for a while notably has psychological side-effects such as depression.
  • Given its post-apocalyptic setting it is no surprise that these appear in Fallout. The most overt examples are in Fallout: New Vegas, where food in the various DLC levels includes traditional MRE packs as well as "Salient Green," a bizarre plant-based goop that could be heated to recreate any of the 11 plants that had donated DNA to the mixture originally (best to not ask how that works). The idea is that players can cook the stuff and get some pinto beans or an ear of maize to make into other foods, but the Courier can also just as easily stockpile several jars of Salient Green and chug the stuff straight, which provides more hit points and is more in keeping with the spirit of this trope.
  • In the Xtended Game Mod for X3: Terran Conflict, food pills appear in a GalNet news article. The pills are designed for Space Trucker and Space Fighter pilots to get a meal down quick when a Space Pirate attack can come at any minute. The end of the article then states that the food company's next goal is to make a non-suppository pill.
  • Referenced in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: Snake loves the instant noodles and calorie mates that he's able to find, but he simply can't stomach the Russian rations that restore most of his stamina bar (in a game where the amount of stamina restored is related to both the taste and the calorie content of the meal). Mainly because he missed on a crucial detail: traditional Russian canned meat is supposed to be eaten hot, with the crushed biscuits or cereals added to the pot, creating a kind of a porridge/gravy. Eating it cold out of a can like luncheon meat is an acquired taste indeed.
    • Also note that in The '60s when the game is set instant noodles were a relatively new invention, unavailable out of Japan, and actually an upscale meal, costing up to three times more than the real thing. It's a kind of an in-joke that Kojima loves.
  • Max Blaster and Doris de Lightning Against the Parrot Creatures of Venus: In Doris's path, you come across a box of food rations for Xavians. It contains a multitude of small, green pills that apparently contain an entire meal. You can eat one, but not any more, because then you're already full.
  • In the Commodore 64's Loadstar #2, Planet of the Robots, food pills are simply an item to remove the hunger message, which doesn't have an effect even if run for a long time. In game, it's a decoy, because the player is supposed to enter a restaurant, and do food theft as part of a Get into Jail Free puzzle.
  • Justified in Robot City, where the robotic inhabitants of the titular city have a very crude knowledge of humans. The only kind of food source you can get there is a pair of nutrient-rich pills meant to keep you fed for a whole day.
  • Starfield: There is "Chunks", a supposedly luxury resteraunt at a resort which serves gourmet... food cubes.
  • In Subnautica, searching the storage compartment in one's own escape pod, as well as the wrecks of other escape pods and the wreck of the ship the player escaped from can yield Nutrient Blocks, a dense processed food and complete source of nutrition and calories that happens to refill the player's hunger bar the most compared to literally any other consumable in the game. Nutrient Blocks plus water make up the standard ration for space explorers in the game's setting, although food resembling "normal" food exists as well and was offered aboard the aforementioned ship before it went down. Nothing is said in-game about how the blocks taste, but their in-game appearance does resemble compressed shredded wheat, or perhaps the kind of food fed to captive rodents and monkeys.

  • F-Rations in Weapon Brown. Due to the comics post-apocalyptic setting, the majority of humanity's survivors, especially those living under the yoke of the Syndicate, survive off F-Rations, calorie-dense emergency rations left over from the pre-war military. The Syndicate uses their control of the Caloric Reserve to consolidate their power, even if the rations tastes horrible.
  • A special type of instant noodles from the webcomic "The Junk Hyenas Diner" by the same lady who made Slightly Damned come in pill form. Subverted in that not only are food pills extremely rare, the instant noodles were banned because peoples' stomachs violently exploded when they accidentally ingested the pill, which is shown later when Guff kills the Dinoboar by throwing an unopened noodle packet in its mouth.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • Subverted in the cold opening of "Love Labors Lost In Space". Leela and a date go to a restaurant, and seem to have nothing but small tablets on their plates. Leela compliments the place for its "generous portions". Her date responds "If you liked the meal, just wait 'til you try these after dinner mints."
    • Conversed in "Proposition Infinity". After Bender is bailed out of jail, he asks how things have changed on the outside (after being there for an hour or so). "Is food finally in pill form? How about pills? Are they in food form?"
    • In "Roswell That Ends Well", Prof. Farnsworth's diner order includes a mention of "two mutton pills".
  • The Simpsons parodied this in just the opposite way; after discovering PowerSauce (an apple-based energy snack loosely based on Clif Bars), Homer decides to eat all his food in bar form. He presses 15 pounds of cooked spaghetti into a candy bar sized rectangle, takes a bite out of it... then promptly picks up the phone and calls the hospital.
    • The future episode "Holidays of Future Passed" parodies this, where Future Marge adds water to a pill... which turns into a recipe card for a cake. She then takes the ingredients out of the cupboard.
  • In Rick and Morty, pills are both the only legally allowed form of compensation and food available on Galactic Federation-controlled earth. It's heavily implied that not all of them are food pills and many of the government mandated pill rations are actually drugs that keep people passive.
  • The Jetsons:
    • In Jetsons: The Movie, George has Rosie cut out part of a breakfast pill he doesn't want, and notes that the toast was burned.
    • In one Tums commercial, George gets heartburn from a chili dog pill with the works.
  • In The Flintstones episode "The Long, Long, Long Weekend," Fred borrows from his boss and puts off paying him back parodies this, when the Flinstones family is taken into the suspiciously Jetsons-like future to show Fred how much interest will accumulate on his debt if he doesn't pay it off. When they're taken to a diner that serves food pills, Fred has two food pills thinking they were puny, then afterwards says he ate too much.
  • In the "Space Madness" episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show, Commander Hoek and Cadet Stimpy eat food paste from a tube. This is what sends Ren over the edge: "I need some real food!"
    • In a camping episode, Stimpy carries several of these. Ren swallows one labeled "Cowboy's Delight Dinner" before Stimpy tells him they're dehydrate, and he needs to add water first, causing the entire meal (inexplicably, a live horse) to suddenly expand up inside of Ren....
    Mr. Horse: No sir, I don't like it.
  • The Fairly OddParents! episode "Future Lost" had food discs (which also included drinks). They appear fo be dehydrated, because when Timmy eats a waffle one, it expands in his mouth before he swallows. Later, Timmy used the juice food discs to give brain freeze to the Big Brain.
  • Pinky and the Brain seem well fed on their food pellets (when they're not nibbling on Chumcicles). Then again, food in pellet form could be satisfying if you were a laboratory mouse.
  • Played with in the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "Nowhere to Hyde," when Dr. Jekyll was working on a vitamin that a person would only take once in their lifetime.
  • In a Garfield and Friends episode, Garfield falls asleep and wakes up in The Future where all food is in pill form, much to his chagrin. When he wakes up and sits down for his lunch, Jon serves him a pill on a plate causing him to run away in a panic.
    Jon: What's wrong with taking a daily vitamin tablet?
  • The Ruff & Reddy Show: Ruff and Reddy are tricked by a professor into being launched into space on a fact finding mission to the moon. Inside the rocket, Reddy asks for a six-course lunch:
    Professor: You'll find everything you need on board. Hamburger pills...
    Reddy: Hamburger pills??!
    Professor: Hot dog pills, lemonade pills, and milkshake capsules.
    Reddy: What if I get a headache?
    Professor: Then you take an aspirin sandwich.
  • The second claymation short shown before the Mr. Bogus episode "Computer Intruder" had Bogus come across a container of dehydrated food tablets, along with a vial of water used for the re-hydration process. After he experiments with one of the tablets, Bogus then eats all of the tablets and drinks the entire vial of water, which causes him to become massively bloated within seconds.
  • In Time Squad, Otto and Tuddrussel's rations consist of microwaveable pellets. Plate one and nuke it for a few seconds, and it pops into a delicious full-sized meal (such as chicken cacciatore).
  • Briefly seen in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Future Schlock" after Rocko and Heffer return to Earth after spending seventeen years in space (and apparently not aging the entire time).
    Heffer: I love the future.
    (adds a drop of water to a pill that instantly turns into a huge hoagie)
    Heffer: I love the future.
  • Exaggerated in The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Safety". Darwin thinks all foods are unsafe (vegetables contain pesticides, meat contains hormones, etc.), so he forces his family to eat base molecules (hydrocarbons and such) of the foods.
  • An episode of Dexter's Laboratory has Dexter accidentally being mixed up with the son of two strict scientists. At first Dexter loves living with them, until their cold, sterile approach to child rearing gets on his nerves. The line comes when they serve him vitamin pills and chewable juice for breakfast.
  • A similar device shows up in Megas XLR, which will create any food requested. Jamie tries to use it to create some women and money, but it doesn't work.

    Real Life 
  • Military rations are designed to be filling, easy to store, and long-lasting (Civil War-era hardtack, MREs, etc.). Their taste, however, is less than palatable, but then again, beggars can't be choosers.
    • This is often debatable with modern rations like MREs; while many have gotten terrible or average reviews at best, other civilian reviewers have enjoyed their meals and found them roughly on par with commercial canned or frozen meals in terms of taste. Presumably, the top problem with modern rations is having to eat the same thing for a month straight. Of course, the Russians still feed their soldiers canned meat with half the can full of fat...
    • The British Army went to quite a bit of trouble to avert this one a few years back when they updated their field rations, and even the previous generation weren't too bad, except for that one dessert you had to break up with a rock. Being far better than American MREs, British Army units have been known to trade boxes of ration packs to US counterparts for some of their better kit.
    • British field rations used as late as the 1990's were designed to minimise the amount of time a soldier might spend out of the line attending to, err, personal maintainance tasks. It was estimated a soldier might need to excrete once every three days, thus minimising the amount of time his mind might be on other things, during which time he could literally be caught with his trousers down. note . The flaw with this system was that all men in a unit are issued field rations at the same time. The black joke circulated that all an enemy needed to do was wait for the third day when everyone would be counted on to go for a shit. And then attack.
    • The relative quality of the MREs received a fair amount of public attention after Hurricane Katrina, when the military supplied many of them to people displaced by the storm and the subsequent flooding. That said, everybody agreed that even the worst MRE beats starving.
    • Australia subverts this due to influences from world war 1 and onwards due to the fact that being British cannon fodder is hungry work (General John Monash even had hot food delivered to the front line in the battle of Hamel). Their ration packs contain Cadbury chocolate and are universally considered awesome.
    • Much as the Russian rations were maligned here, the modern ones, especially in their New Tens form, are basically just an assembly of the commercial canned stuff, with the chief difference being the heavy and bulky tin cans replaced by the lighter and slimmer foil ones, or the even lighter retort pouches. The diversity and taste also much improved compared to the old Soviet rations, with the infamous (in the West, it still an outdoorsmen favorite in Russia itself) canned meat coming down to just a single can for the day.
      However, it still is as far removed from a genuine Food Pill as it gets, due to its quite fussy structure centered around crackers that have to be spread with various addons, entree cans that have to be heated etc., remaining in place. Truth to be told, though, most other rations in the world are still structured exactly the same, and the MRE with its "heat up the pouch and eat straight out of it" concept is still pretty much an outlier.
    • The Hershey company developed a chocolate-based, low-volume, high-calorie ration to include with the survival kit for pilots who eject from their planes. It was intentionally designed to taste bad (the order to the food scientists tasked with designing the chocolate was that it must taste "slightly better than a boiled potato"), so no one would snack on it unless they needed to. Indeed, the food scientists may have done a bit too good of a job on the taste front, as the chocolates turned out to taste so bad that some WWII soldiers would rather risk starvation than eat it— having a texture and firmness somewhere around "brick-like" didn't help, either. A soldier risked breaking his teeth on the stuff unless he shaved off tiny portions with a knife.
    • Certain armed forces personnel, most notably aircrew and certain special forces units, are issued the closest thing to a straight example that contemporary science can provide; high-glucose, caffeinated candy that can be eaten while marching. Long-distance runners and mountaineers sometimes use the same stuff.
    • Meals for pilots flying the U2 spy plane are chosen for their ability to be pureed or turned into paste and then put in a tube. These are sucked through a straw that is inserted into their helmets, as the pilots must remain in fully enclosed space suits to ensure their safety.
      • The idea was pioneered by the Germans in 1930s, when their army encouraged development of Scho-Ka-Kola, a highly-caffeinated chocolate flavored with cola nuts. It was heavily used by the German military during World War II and remains popular today, presumably with the military as well as civilians. And then they went the whole nine yards, spiking their Fliegerschokolade and Panzershokolade with the honest to God metamphetamine, though there is some confusion whether these were the real spiked chocolates, or just the soldiers' nicknames for the pure meth pills. Civilian-grade meth-chocolates did exist for real, though, but since 1941, they were prescription only.
    • In the years preceding the Second Lebanon War, the IDF went to enormous length to avert this, feeding their soldiers what many would agree can be called bona fide delicacies - they may not have been gourmet meals, but they were often quite a fair bit better than what a soldier could get at home. This came back to bite them hard during the war itself, where many of the less experienced soldiers, who were used to eating rich, delicious meals refused to eat their emergency rations or whatever they could find on the battlefield, finding them too icky. Needless to say, this was a cause for massive embarrassment (and led to the creation of the derogatory term "Milky Soldiers" from how supposedly the soldiers were given a cup of Milkynote  with every second dinner), and the IDF has since come back to its senses and started feeding their frontline soldiers sensible, nutritious, filling, and moderately tasty food.
    • Commando units of certain countries are issued up to ten small Royal Jelly pills, to be consumed when behind enemy lines, for their high energy output and small size.
    • Hardtack is likely humanity's earliest attempt to create a Food Pill, dating back at least to the Roman Empire's bucellatum (or even, possibly, the unleavened bread of the Exodus). It consists of thick, dense crackers baked several times to dry them out completely. If kept dry, it's nearly impervious to spoilage - and nearly impervious to consumption; the preferred way to eat it is to soak it in liquid first.
  • During the Cold War, US Civil Defense planners not only were building fallout shelters, but were including packs of All-Purpose Survival Crackers in them. Despite the fancy name, these were plain corn and wheat flour biscuits, sealed in metal tins. Cheap, easy-to-make, long lasting, and apparently all the calories you'd need to survive at least two weeks after The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Cereals, like Corn Flakes, go to this trope as close in Real Life as it gets.
    • As does beef jerky.
  • Canned food originated for military purposes, as feeding an army is rather difficult. As Napoleon himself said, "An army marches on its stomach." During the first years of the Napoleonic Wars, the notable French newspaper Le Monde, prompted by the government, offered a hefty cash award of 12,000 francs to any inventor who could devise a cheap and effective method of preserving large amounts of food. Glass jars and champagne bottles were used at first but they are expensive, heavy, and break rather easily. So metal cans were developed.
    • Unfortunately, early cans were sealed with lead, which probably ended up killing soldiers who had survived actual combat, not to mention that each can had to be hand-soldered, which made them hideously expensive, and the solder often failed in transport of in the field, contaminating the can contents further (often with deadly Botulism). Food poisoning from contaminated cans was a common cause of death for soldiers all the way up to the Spanish-American War. Reliable and clean methods of sealing cans (double pressed joints with rubber-based sealant) didn't arrive until the late 19th century, together with machines for automatic can makers, finally allowing for the safe and economic canning method.
      • Even now, can sealers are tricky, finicky machines requiring constant minute adjustments and the whole set of high-tech gizmos to ensure the consistent quality of the seals, up to computer tomography of the cans (if even one can fails, the whole lot is discarded).
    • Also, the tin opener wasn't invented until some years after the tin, so soldiers resorted to opening cans with their bayonets and the like.
  • The astronauts of the Mercury program did in fact eat their food from squeeze tubes. By the Gemini program, the victuals had been upgraded to freeze-dried food pouches and gelatin-coated bite-sized cubes. Only by Skylab did proper knife-and-fork dining finally arrive in space, aided by the invention of extra-thick, gluelike sauce all over everything (eating plain corn niblets in space remains an impossible proposition).
  • Paul Bocuse, a famous French cook, said that his brother was against Paul's wish to become a gastronomer as he expected people to feed themselves with pills by the year 2000 and thus there wouldn't remain a place for cooking. Of course, this didn't come true, but remember that his and his brother's formative years were in the 1940s and that favoring technophile solutions over subsidizing peasants in order to fundamentally fight hunger would not have been a too uncommon mindset at such a time.
  • Like the quote above stated, Jelly Belly jellybeans come in over fifty flavors, including buttered popcorn, mango, and cotton candy. Several of the special lines of flavors, especially the "Bean-Boozled" and "Bertie Botts" lines, included other flavors from the bizarre to the downright nasty, including Birthday Cake, Dog Food, Vomit, Moldy Cheese, Skunk Spray and Spaghetti. Pretty much all of them are spot-on in taste. More impressively, some of their beans have the flavours of fizzy beverages... and they actually fizz! This is due to inclusion of a fizzy caramel, set under the CO2 high pressure.
  • Some candy bars, like Full Dinner seemed to imply that they had the nutritional content of nutritious food, rather than just empty calories.
  • An article in Wired Magazine points out the flaws of food pills. Since the average human body needs roughly 2000 calories a day to stay alive, one would need to eat at least a half-pound of small pills (or a single giant half-pound pill) every day. This is because the four sources of calories (fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and, yes, alcohol) provide a set number of calories per unit of mass, so it's just not possible to make food that weighs less yet has the same calorie content. That does not factor in the necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber you would also need to stay healthy. Finally, the article's writer asks why would you want a food pill when a hamburger is so much tastier.
    • Moreover, a crucial stimulus for satiation — the cessation of hunger — comes from stretch receptors of the gastric lining and from the hormone ghrelin. Hunger centers in the human hypothalamus have to receive a signal that the stomach is physically distended before the urge to eat can switch off and the human brain has a constant unconscious awareness of the levels of fatty acids in the body. A few pills, even taken with a full glass of water, wouldn't occupy enough space to do that.
  • Food pellets for pets. Especially considering what they naturally eat, it's a wonder they can even stand it.
    • Note that food pellets manufactured for laboratory animals, like rats or rabbits, are often designed to be tasteless, so that alternative foods offered as a reward for completing experimental tasks will be more appealing.
    • Pellets are also offered as an alternative to mixes, as it ensures the animal gets all the nutrition it needs instead of picking out only the bits it likes.
  • Commercial bulk livestock feeds are like Food Pills for cattle, in every respect except compactness.
  • David Zondy's Tales of Future Past has a huge segment on Future Food, and of course Food Pills. The best page is probably the one describing an attempt to put it into practice:
    As part of a space experiment in 1965, twenty four men volunteered to be fed nothing but a food made from pure chemicals for nineteen weeks. I should say that that twenty four men started, but only fifteen finished. No, the other nine didn't starve to death. The experiment proved quite successful from a medical point of view and everyone who finished was perfectly healthy. It had more to do with the fact that the "food" wasn't even as solid a meal as a pill.
    It was syrup. Looked like weak corn syrup. Tasted like weak corn syrup.
    No wonder they had to be locked up for the duration of the experiment. One unguarded window and it was "Hello, cheeseburger!"
    • In other words, the experiment was a bust simply because NASA - being NASA, who invented Not Invented Here and therefore would rather have an experiment fail than use anything invented anywhere else - couldn't be bothered to flavor it.
  • Nutraloaf is a loaf of food (of various sorts) served in solitary confinement in US prisons, as it's filling, meets basic dietary needs, and requires no utensils, meaning no improvised weapons. It's also bad enough that lawsuits have been filed against it being served in some states, on the basis that it violates the law that food cannot be used as a punishment. Though, truth to be told, it's not as bad as it is bland, and it's the blandness that drives its detractors nuts. Turns out that there's little people hate more than their food not tasting of anything in particular.
  • Sea survival food rations for use in lifeboats and liferafts are designed to be eaten once daily while surviving at sea after abandoning ship. They tend to taste very dry (though designed not to increase thirst), but will give you the nutrition you need to get through the day. This also applies to the similar disaster relief rations. There's actually a practical reason why survival rations taste so bland: to ensure that you would only eat if you're actually starving.
  • Polar expeditions, in addition to MREs and other lightweight rations, sometimes pack whole sticks of butter as an easy-to-carry, concentrated source of supplemental calories.
  • A lot of camping and cold-weather rations use freeze-dried meals. For campers, this reduces bulk and weight and for cold weather, a normal ration would freeze. And all that's really needed for these meals is boiling hot water, so there's little concern with food contamination since you've already sterilized the water (hopefully).
  • Behold the Clif Shot Blok, a diminutive "fruit-flavored energy chew" that measures in at just over 6 cubic centimeters per block. A single one is said to be enough to power half an hour demanding physical exercise, and while the chews themselves are said to be tasty, they're also clearly not going to be the least bit filling (proving the trope's limitations quite nicely). They also look like Energon cubes.
  • For an alternate definition of "food", a lot of people take vitamin supplements of some sort. Obviously, it's impossible to subsist on them alone, but it's as close to Truth in Television as we've gotten so far.
  • Survival Tabs can't exactly be called pills, and they're only meant to be used in survival situations, but they are most definitely designed to provide the greatest amount of nutrition possible in a single thumbnail-sized tablet. Take twelve daily.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, we give you an actual, honest-to-god food replacement. Not a pill, but a shake—but one that can be made with no flavor and practically the consistency of water and yet filling. Rob Rhinehart has made this a reality. He even named the drink Soylent. Obviously, it is not people. However, it does have soy in it, which is why Harry Harrison called it that in the first place. No lentils though. Maybe in version 1.6.
    • There are a fair amount of diets nowadays that encourage people to replace specific meals with things like protein shakes, under the idea that they're nutritious or filling enough to actually satisfy your hunger cravings. Whether this works, or is even advisable, remains to be seen.
  • Commercially-prepared orange juice is another product that is as close to this trope as you can get on grocery store shelves. The juice is pasteurized and has the oxygen removed. This also removes the flavor with it. The flavor in commercial orange juice comes from "flavor packs" that are specific to each manufacturer. They're made from orange oils and orange essences, so they're exempt from ingredient labeling laws in the U.S. Most orange juice is concentrated and later reconstituted, either in the factory or in the kitchen. It had its origin as an attempt to create a more palatable source of vitamin C for soldiers in World War II instead of the bitter lemon crystals they were issued as rations in a more literal version of this trope, but it was only perfected after the war. Commercial orange juice is glorified sugar water that just happens to have a high concentration of vitamin C.
  • Portable soup, a precursor to boullion cubes, is meat-based soup (for the collagen as well as the calories) reduced, degreased (fats go rancid) and reduced more times until it's the consistency of jelly, then dehydrated until it resembles a leathery block. Kept well but was very time-consuming to produce (and you needed low humidity weather to air-dry it). But if you want to try making some, watch this video. (The cook does cheat a little by using a crock pot.)
  • Abuelita Hot Chocolate Tablet provides portable hot chocolate in a large tablet form. The idea is to either boil an entire tablet to produce a pitcher of hot chocolate or break off individual sections to boil cups of chocolate, but the truly impatient can just eat the chocolate pieces directly.
  • Fruitcake, before it became a holiday staple and a "joke" food, was originally a sort of proto-Food Pill, combining the nutritional value of breads, fruits, nuts and (in earlier times) meats into a compact, portable, alcohol- and sugar/honey-preserved form.


Video Example(s):


Kaftan drugs Victoria

Kaftan drugs Victoria's coffee to knock her out.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / SlippingAMickey

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