Dexter's Mom: Now, now, Dexter. If you don't eat your veggies, you can't have any cake. How can you have any cake if you don't eat your veggies?
A character is told by someone (usually Mommy or Daddy) to eat all their vegetables or the penalty is that they won't get dessert. Despite occasionally overlapping with Denied Food as Punishment, this isn't meant to be a form of discipline, it's actually more of a rewarding system. Peas and broccoli are the most common vegetables assigned for eating. Often times, this trope applies to children (who have a lot of taste buds making them dislike vegetables) but can be Played for Laughs with adults as well. Common reactions include protesting, throwing a tantrum, trying to hide the vegetables, or even, begrudgingly, trying to eat them and giving up in the process.
What can make this ironic is that eating sweets often offset the health benefits of what eating vegetables brings; too many sweets raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, hypertension, heart problems and obesity. But this fact is almost never brought up in the works of fiction that invoke this trope.
- In Holidays With Holmes, Watson warns Holmes about Mrs. Hudson's reaction if she sees that he's eating cherry tart before lunch. Holmes, not seeing the use of that custom, returns to the tart as soon as possible.
- In Pink Floyd - The Wall, during the "Another Brick in the Wall" scene, students are told by their disciplinarian, totalitarian dictator that if they don't eat their meat, they can't have any pudding.
- Lampshaded as a metaphor in The Cheetah Girls when Galleria feels her mother Dorothea is holding the band back from a record deal.
Galleria: I set my mind to something, and I almost get there, and you just stand in my way. What's the good of eating your vegetables if you can't have dessert?Dorothea: Strong bones and teeth.
- Inverted in The Topsy-Turvies; Jinx, the son, is excited by the idea of eating tomatoes for dessert, but his mother tells him that he can't have any tomatoes unless he finishes his cake. Jinx asks his mom if he has to eat it all, and she tells him yes.
- Also inverted in the picture book Little Pea. The characters are anthropomorphic peas, whose health food is candy. Little Pea hates candy, but his parents insist that he eat five pieces before he can have dessert. With much grimacing, he does, and then gets his favorite dessert spinach.
- The Big Bang Theory:
- In the episode "The 21-Second Excitation," Raj defends his ordering dessert at the Cheesecake Factory which caused his friends to be late for the movie showing. Raj, a man in his 30s, asserts to Sheldon that he ate all his broccoli!
- In "The Einstein Approximation," Sheldon, obsessed by a physics problem, steals Raj's lima beans to use as part of an atomic model to study particle physics better. Raj protests, saying that he can't have his cookie if he doesn't eat the beans first.
- In an early episode of CSI: NY, the only witness to a crime is a young boy who refuses to speak for quite a while. Detective Taylor takes him under his wing. The boy keeps pointing to candy bars in the crime lab's vending machine, but Taylor tells him he can't have any junk food until after he gets him "some real stuff." Subsequently, they're shown having a well-balanced meal together and Taylor cuts the boy's meat up for him.
- In The Amanda Show, Amanda and her friend who's invited over for dinner are both told by Amanda's parents to eat all their vegetables or no dessert. Therefore, they buy Sugar Veggies (pure sugar that looks just like broccoli but still tastes like sugar) to replace the real broccoli (which they hid from their parents by distracting them with the lie that there's chipmunks).
- In the The Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode "Health and Fitness," Zack is ordered to go on a diet by his mother. After eating all his vegetables, Zack is allowed by Carey to have sweet foods for dessert and while he was expecting cake or ice cream or pie, Carey instead gives him a fruit salad.
- In one Lamb Chop's Play-Along sketch, Shari tells Baby Lamb Chop that she can't have dessert until her plate of veggies is empty. She then resorts to Feeding By Example, but Lamb Chop keeps saying "Show me more!" until Shari unwittingly eats all the veggies, and then she claims that since the plate is empty, she can have dessert now. Shari tries to turn the tables by saying that since she ate the veggies, she gets the ice cream, but when she lets Lamb Chop have one lick, Lamb Chop uses that one lick to slurp up the whole scoop.
- In "Shrek's Diet!", Shrek suffers a heart attack as a result of eating too much cheesecake, so under the advice of Dr. Brooklyn T. Guy, Mario puts Shrek on a diet and makes him eat salad. Mario tells Shrek that if he eats all of his salad, he will let him have a bite of cheesecake for dessert, but Shrek would much rather eat cheesecake first. Because Shrek really refuses to eat his salad, Mario and Chef Pee Pee have to tie him down and force-feed him.
- "Jeffy Gets Potty Trained!" begins with Rosalina trying to get Jeffy to eat peas. Jeffy tells Rosalina that he doesn't want to eat peas, and that he wants to eat marshmallows instead. Rosalina tells Jeffy that he can't have marshmallows until after he eats his peas.
- "Locked Out!" begins with Mario serving Jeffy peas for dinner. Jeffy tells Mario that he doesn't want to eat peas, and that he wants to eat chocolate cake instead. Mario tells Jeffy that he can't eat chocolate cake unless he eats his peas first. Jeffy tries to fool Mario by hiding his peas in his high chair, but Mario soon finds out. Mario then decides to taunt Jeffy by eating chocolate cake in front of him, but Jeffy retaliates by tricking him into going outside and locking him out of his house.
- In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Hunger Strikes", Dexter refuses to eat his peas and so is refused upside-down pineapple cake as while Dee-Dee and Dad are allowed to have the ridiculously unhealthy and large-portioned desserts that dwarfs the size of the small peas they ate (defeating the purpose of eating those peas). And so Dexter uses his scientific equipment to adjust his taste preferences, but as a consequence, he only wants to eat plants (especially in enormous quantity) and nothing else!
- In The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror XI" , Homer asks Marge what's for dessert. Marge objects Homer will not get dessert if he doesn't eat his broccoli. Homer eats his broccoli, and dies as a result. Dr. Hibbert then tells Marge that broccoli is actually one of the deadliest plants on Earth, trying to warn people with its horrible taste.
- In the The Powerpuff Girls episode "Beat Your Greens", the Girls are ordered by the Professor to eat their broccoli or no dessert, but the Girls still refuse, apparently agreeing to forgo dessert. Townsville winds up being invaded by broccoli aliens that resist all attempts besides eating to get rid of them.
- In the The Fairly OddParents episode "Just Desserts", Timmy destroys all the vegetables his parents gave him while they aren't looking thinking that he'll get dessert next. His parents just give him carrots for dessert, but they try to manipulate him into eating it by telling him that it's carrot cake without the cake.
- In Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Hulk tells his prisoner Leader "Pipe down and eat your peas, or no pudding!"
- "Pickles Vs. Pickles" begins with Drew and Charlotte trying to get Angelica to eat broccoli, but Angelica refuses to eat it. Drew then tells her that if she doesn't eat her broccoli, she won't get seconds on dessert. Angelica finds this unfair and retaliates by throwing her dinner plate against the wall. Drew and Charlotte punish her by sending her to her room without dessert.
- In "Cavebabies", Angelica wants to eat cookies for dinner, but Didi tells Angelica she can't have any cookies until she finishes her spinach. Angelica finds this unfair, and tells Didi that Grandpa Lou always sneaks a few cookies from the cookie jar before dinner. When Didi finds out, she hides the cookie jar, and Angelica makes the babies find said cookie jar for her. The babies do so, and a prehistoric Imagine Spot takes place.
- Inverted for laughs in the beginning of the Teen Titans Go! episode "Titan Saving Time". Beast Boy, Starfire and Raven reluctantly ice cream sundaes, with Cyborg telling them they can't have their vegetables, which they would rather eat, until they finish.