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If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You

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"How come everything I don't like is good for me and everything I do isn't?!"

Think back to your childhood. Remember some of the foods and dishes that you really did not wanna eat for dinner, but had to choke down anyway? You obviously wondered why of course you had to eat such things, but it was healthy. If it was healthy, then why on earth did it taste so freaking bad?

Well, if it tastes bad, it must be good for you! There is some Truth in Television here, as many people portray health food as being healthy, but tasting extremely terrible. In fact, there is some health food that is considered tasty,note  but if the production of produced health foods won’t take that into account or whole health foods have not-so-tasteful qualities this makes them taste rather... unpalatable.note  Plain but not so healthy food could be seen as mouthwatering in comparison. There's also the matter of preparation; since some vegetables that are very good for you taste absolutely terrible to some people if you prepare them in a certain way. (Carrots, for example, are known for absorbing flavor when they are cooked with something.)

Sometimes, it may not taste bad, but bland. Truth in Television; as some very healthy foods are quite bland — depending on what you do with them, anyway; investing in a good spice rack and cookbook can work miracles. Bland food designed to be healthy might be Nondescript, Nasty, Nutritious.

In fiction, this trope is played with because the characters will retch when eating health food or react with disgust when they try it. Or the health food will wind up not being as good as they are told.

Kids often react badly to health food because many kids are picky eaters naturally. (Having so many taste buds doesn't help either, so that vegetable you eat only because it's healthy will taste even worse to them.) Not only is it new and unfamiliar, but the smell also won't help.

A further irony of health food is that you can actually get sick from some kinds if you eat too much. Yes, it is possible. It's called an overdose. Some overdoses are more fatal than others, thankfully. (You won't die from overdosing on a Vitamin C superdrink, but if you take too much Vitamin A, then you CAN die of poisoning.)

But, of course, the trope plays out making fun of how unhealthy foods seem to taste much better than most healthy foods, and some people may be addicted to other unhealthy foods.

The trope's name comes from a line by Brainy Smurf, said in the episode "Jokey's Funny Bone" while he was trying to shovel health food down an unwilling Smurf's throat.

This goes hand in hand with A Weighty Aesop, formerly named "If It Tastes Good, It Must Be Bad For You". See also Misery Builds Character, Foul Medicine, and Disgusting Vegetarian Food.


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  • Buckley's Cough Syrup uses this trope as a marketing campaign. "It tastes awful, but it works"
  • A commercial for Chef Boyardee products from the early 90's featured a young Boyardee being served slop in a primitive cafeteria, then being kicked out when he asked the cafeteria lady why everything that was good for him had to taste so bad.
  • Invoked in a series of Scope commercials from the 1970's. They would open with Flashback scenes of a child complaining that his/her mouthwash tasted bad, and the mother answering, "If it tasted good, it wouldn't work." Cut to present day and that child as an adult, still using the same bad-tasting mouthwash, when friends clue them in that Scope tastes good but works.
    • Also invoked by Listerine, which doesn't necessarily taste bad so much as mouth-burningly alcoholic, but uses that to convince people it's strong and encourage them to use it because "You can handle it. Germs can't."
    • An early 1970s campaign used the tag line “The taste you hate, twice a day.”
  • A toothpaste commercial on Halloween features kids trying nutritious alternatives to the usual candy received during the holiday, and are encouraged to be honest about what they think. To say they didn't like them would be a gross understatement. One girl even threw up on camera.
  • Invoked in an early 1980s commercial for Carefree Gum. An off-screen voice tells the various men and women chewing Carefree chewing gum or bubble gum that it's sugarless with them reacting in surprise. One of these people was a Housewife standing in a door blowing a bubble; on learning Carefree Bubble Gum tastes great AND is sugarless, her bubble bursts and she slams the door in the viewer's face, skeptically remarking that it tastes too good to be sugarless.

  • Inverted in Toriko. If it's nutritious there's a good chance that it'll taste so amazing that you'll want to try even more weird things.
    • Chimera tear-cola anyone? Or cloud veggies?
  • In Ojamajo Doremi, Hana hates vegetables but has to eat them to restore and maintain her magical strength. The Big Bad herself had a similar problem in her past.
  • Quack doctor Dr. Hiruluk lampshades this trope about medicine in One Piece. He is served a soup made of a supposedly healing mushroom by his student Chopper, and then Chopper asks him how it tastes. Hiruluk replies that it tastes terribly, and Chopper gets appalled, but then he points out that medicine only works if it tastes bad. Chopper's self-confidence as an aspiring doctor is restored. However, in the end, it's horribly subverted as the mushroom actually was an extremely poisonous one, which was probably the real reason it tasted bad, but that's a whole other story.
  • In the Studio Ghibli film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the title character shares a bushel of nuts with her newfound friend Asbel. Asbel, who is not a native to Nausicaa's country and thus is unused to the nuts, immediately finds that they taste terrible. Lampshaded in the dub, as Asbel shoves a whole handful into his mouth and then laments jokingly, "Why is it that everything that's good for you tastes so bad?"
  • Overlapped with Lethal Chef by Sakura Haruno from Naruto. When making food pills for Naruto, she obsessed over making them healthy, to the point where they were completely inedible. She makes the same mistake in an Omake, ruining the chocolate Hinata was making for Naruto and forcing her to give it to her teammates.
  • An episode of Crayon Shin-chan, Shin tries to win a contest run by his favorite cartoon. In an apparent attempt to sell them, the game pieces come not in sugary cereals, but in packs of sausages with green pepper. Shin responds to these saying green pepper, "Tastes like feet". Arguable how healthy the sausage itself is.
  • In Three Leaves, Three Colors, Kou seems to believe in that, and tends to put allegedly healthy, but unappetizing foods such as natto into anything she makes. This is why her food is incredibly bad.
  • In Episode 2 of The Rising of the Shield Hero, Naofumi gives Raphtalia medicine to cure her illness, and she hates the taste. This makes Naofumi cite this trope.

  • Abbott and Costello's Who's on First? has Abbott try to convince Costello to go on a diet:
    Abbott: You should really go on a diet. You know what a diet is, don't you?
    Costello: Sure, that's where you can eat all you want of everything you don't like.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a Dork Tower strip in Dragon magazine, Carson prepares healthy snacks for the gaming group, in place of the usual pizza and potato chips. They take one taste and immediately declare their intent to kill Carson's character.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Averted in the Harry Potter/YuYu Hakusho fanfic The Best Defense. Harry is rushed to the hospital wing after swallowing a mouthful of foul-tasting, poisonous moss that had been used to gag him. Shortly afterward, Hiei gives him a "quick lesson in survival [...] If it doesn't taste edible, it probably isn't."
  • Referenced in The Loud House fanfiction A Load of Bulk when Lana drinks a strength potion that tastes bad and then she notes that medicine often tastes bad.

    Films — Animated 
  • Kronk's New Groove: One of the elders wouldn't drink his prune juice until he was told that Kronk says it was good for him, after which he drinks it happily.

    Films — Live Action 
  • "Crocodile" Dundee:
    Mick Dundee: [a goanna is sizzling over a fire. Sue looks ill] How do you like your goanna? Medium? Well done?
    Sue Charlton: You don't really expect me to eat that?!
    Mick: Yeah, it's great. Yeah, try some of these yams, try the grubs and the sugar ants. Just bite the end off, they're really sweet. Black fellas love 'em.
    Sue: [tentatively tries a large beetle] What about you, aren't you having any?
    Mick: Me? [Mick starts working on a tin with his knife] Well, you can live on it, but it tastes like shit.
  • Played with in the Woody Allen film Sleeper:
    Dr. Melik: listing items Miles [Allen] had requested for breakfast ... wheat germ, organic honey, and... Tiger's Milk.
    Dr. Aragon: Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
    Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
    Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
    Dr. Melik: Incredible!
    • Allen plays an owner of a health food store - he claims the awful food served in 2173 would've sold well there.
  • The Buddhist abbot in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider uses this logic when Lara is recovering from her latest scuffle with the bad guys.
    Abbot: Now, finish your tea. It tastes quite bad—
    Lara: (laughs)
    Abbot: —but it is good for you.
  • In Mabul, Yoni grimaces as he drinks his bodybuilding shake.

  • Discworld:
    • Referenced in The Last Continent, when Rincewind accidentally invents Vegemite: "Probably full of nourishing vitamins and minerals. Most things you couldn't believe the taste of generally were."
    • The Discworld Almanack, in its article listing two dozen different varieties of cabbage, says the Autumn Reliant "tastes foul, because it is stuffed full of vitamins".
  • The novel Liver Cookies has the two protagonists decide, if everything that's unhealthy is tasty, and everything healthy is disgusting, why not put the two together and make food that tastes like junk food but has the nutritional value of healthy food? Their first invention is, of course, liver cookies. They call it Healthy Junk (HJ for short, figuring that everyone will think it's the founders initials).
  • Cram, first mentioned in The Hobbit, was a nutritious biscuit-like iron ration that never went bad, invented by the Lakemen. Unfortunately, it wasn't interesting to eat, "except as a chewing exercise". (Lembas bread was an elven version that tasted better, but even Sam and Frodo got tired of it after a while.)
  • In H.H. Munro (AKA Saki)'s "Filboid Studge" the eponymous food is foul-tasting; a clever advertisement campaign uses exactly that fact to induce people to eat it, as a kind of moral duty.
  • Zenna Henderson's "The Taste of Aunt Sophronia" is about this. One of the Explorer probes returned to earth bearing a mysterious disease which killed men and children. Women lived, but spent the rest of their lives in horrific pain. They were put into stasis, to be awakened to test possible cures. Thiela reminisces about her aunt, the "Weed Woman", who made horrible herbal brews. Once the subject of a thesis by a medical student, Aunt Sophronia's recipes and explanations were microfilmed, and Thiela kept a copy. A general recipe for a potion that is "good for what ails you" and tastes like shit turns out to be the answer... at least for some.
    At the last accounting, there were a total of 187 diseases or malfunctions for which Sophronium is the specific. These conditions vary widely and seem to have no relation to each other except in that they can all be cured by Sophronium. Perhaps Aunt Sophronia is pleased to know that the taste is still there. How can you tell it's medicine unless it tastes bad?
  • In The House at Pooh Corner, Roo hates his "strengthening medicine" (malt extract). Subverted when it turns out to be the only thing Tiggers like to eat. Double subverted at the end, when we're told that Kanga regularly feeds Tigger some of Roo's breakfast as medicine when the only thing we know about Tigger and Roo's breakfast is that he doesn't like the taste.
  • One of Dave Barry's articles postulates that health foods cause you to lose weight by being so disgusting that your body refuses to believe that what you're eating is actually food and goes off looking for fat to burn instead.
  • Inverted in The Girl from the Miracles District as "If it's good for you, it must taste bad". The witch Nikita buys Healing Potions from deliberately makes them disgusting to discourage Nikita from throwing herself in situations that may require using them.
  • The Belgariad:
    • Polgara the Sorceress swears by this trope. She argues that if medicine tasted good, people might feel compelled to get sick more often just to get more of it.
    • Sadi complains that the downside of maintaining his Acquired Poison Immunity is a daily regimen of disgusting antidotes... whereas the poisons themselves can be quite tasty.
  • Medicines in the Heralds of Valdemar novels bounce back and forth between averting this trope and playing it straight. The normal remedy for overstraining one's psychic abilities tastes absolutely horrible. Most Healers will provide a "chaser" with no medical properties but which will clear the taste out of a patient's mouth; one character who needs the potion because he was idiotic gets the potion but not the palate-cleanser. On the other hand, when Karal is flattened by overstrain he's assured that potions for stomach ulcers are deliberately made to be tasty (it's the only way to get people who need them to take them).
  • Consciously done in John Ringo's "The Last Centurion", where there is wide-spread famine, and the main character assists in creating Kula Bars: highly nutritious (one bar will feed an adult human for a full day), and tastes stomach-wrenchingly vile. As the main character puts it, "The Kula Bar in all four revolting flavors: Piss yellow, leprous green, horrible horrible blue and that truly stomach-turning red". This was done deliberately because they wanted these bars to be food of last resort, to get people to go out and actually find/grow/whatever real food, and not depend on being given these bars as their only form of subsistence.
  • The Warrior Cats series plays this straight: all healing herbs taste disgusting, whether it's to cure a sickness or to stave off hunger for the start of a long journey.
  • Slapshots: Coach Boltisky and his wife own the health food store which sponsors the Stars hockey team, so the players feel obligated to eat (or in some cases, pretend to eat) their food. Only Trent really develops a taste for the health food, while the other characters ocassionally find something apetizing but change their mind after learning its ingredients (e.g. a milkshake without any dairy products in it).
  • Temeraire: The cure for the Dragon Plague is a mushroom so foul that it turns the stomach just to be in the same room as it. Sick dragons have the small mercy of losing their sense of taste, but the mushroom is first discovered when some locals sell it to the visiting characters as an undiscovered delicacy.

    Live Action TV 
  • One episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete throws this one completely out the window. Little Pete overdoses on creamed corn (apparently based on the notion that it's weapons-grade nasty, so logically it must be tremendously bad for him) to get out of going to a school dance his parents are pressuring him to participate in. He has to have his stomach pumped to prevent a fatal case of creamed corn poisoning ("Creamed corn isn't the answer, son!" declares the doctor). He ends up going to the dance anyway, as the resulting "gut-kludge" emits a radioactive green glow, and he sets up a table near the restrooms charging dancegoers a fee to see it.
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy: Bill explains medicinal properties of various plants, takes a bite of lemon, scrunches up his face, and says, "It's got to be good for you..."
  • The Cosby Show:
    • One moment where Clair gets Cliff to try rice cakes:
    Clair: Zero salt, zero sugar, zero cholesterol.
    Cliff: Zero taste.
    • Denise prepares vegetarian natural-foods dishes for her stepdaughter's birthday party while Cliff stands there making snarky remarks.
  • Earth: Final Conflict: Street often offers her friends some strange sounding foods, which she claims are healthy.
  • A skit on the kids' show The Electric Company (1971) had two kids singing a song about how they thought broccoli was gross.
  • Only Fools and Horses had a moment in "Mother Natures Son" where Del-Boy (Who lives almost exclusively on fried food, takeaways and alcohol) reacts to his brother Rodney's revelation that he and his wife Cassandra like the health food from the organic store with "Oh, well that must be very appetizing then. Knowing that everything on your plate was once underneath a big pile of horse shit!".
  • Bill cooks a healthy dinner for the others in The Goodies episode "Farm Fresh Food". You could tell it was all natural because "it's all brown", namely brown wholemeal bread, brown rice, brown milk, and brown lettuce. Other dishes are a single roasted raisin for all three to share and seaweed salad. The recipes come from the Natural Health Cookbook printed on brown wholemeal paper with brown wholemeal ink (with Bill takes a bite out of) and the final special treat is simply pots of soil with a watercress garnish and plankton to drink. "It's very nourishing, this." When the Graeme and Tim leave in disgust to eat out, Bill realizes everything is terrible and follows.
    Bill: Health foods are alright when you're not hungry but I'm famished!
  • Played for laughs in the background of The X-Files; Scully is portrayed as being a health nut, and will eat things that completely baffle and disgust her partner, Mulder. Including stirring bee pollen into her yogurt, even though Mulder tells her she's a scientist and should know better.
  • On an episode of That '70s Show, Red must go on a diet after having a heart attack, and when Kitty serves the usual meat-and-potatoes fare to the rest of the family, she gives Red a plate of what looks like overcooked green vegetables. Red looks at it with disgust and says, "this isn't food, this is what food eats!"
  • In the season 3 premiere of The Newsroom, Will is upset when he finds out that Mac has had his breakfast order of French toast, scrambled eggs and bacon with a side of bacon and Dr. Pepper, replaced with Greek yoghurt, a gluten-free muffin, hardboiled eggs, one third of a banana and green tea.
  • Generally when a contestant on a cooking game show specializes in healthy food (or if there's a challenge to make healthy food), they'll acknowledge this trope exists, then proceed to demonstrate that healthy food doesn't have to taste bad. Top Chef had a memorable example with Andrea, who even though she did get eliminated about halfway through had successful dishes and was liked by most of the other people there because of her passion for making healthy food.
  • On I Didn't Do It, the characters invent a spray that makes healthy food taste good. They succeed too, and take their invention to a Shark Tank style TV show. Unfortunately they decided they needed to do one more thing to guarantee their success: make the spray blue, because kids love colourful things. Whatever they added to turn it blue causes a Vomit Indiscretion Shot.
  • On Corner Gas, Brent is unsure whether or not he likes chicken Kiev after trying it for the first time, until he's told that it's unhealthy. He immediately decides he loves it.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. Neelix introduces the Voyager crew to the foul-tasting but nutritious leola root, leading to a Running Gag of him serving it up as a supplement to the crew's diet. In "Thirty Days", Tom Paris is demoted and confined to the brig for thirty days as punishment, including having a diet restricted to leola root stew.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • A comic strip of The Born Loser has a kid say, "Is this food good for you?" and when his parents say, "Yes, why?" the kid responds, "Because this tastes very, very awful."
  • Calvin and Hobbes plays with this trope a lot. Calvin's mom prepares what looks to be a large mush of unidentifiable food that Calvin refuses to eat, but his mom insists is healthy. One strip even has Calvin refuse to eat a vegetarian meal because he's not a vegetarian. (He's a dessertarian.)
    • Then, of course, there's the one with the green glop that starts reciting Hamlet...
    • Calvin's parents sometimes trick him into eating by telling him that it's actually monkey brains, toxic waste or spider pie.
    • On the other hand, even as wild as Calvin's imagination runs, his mom very well could be a Lethal Chef. Most of the dinners she serves in the strip look like unidentifiable amorphous blobs, and even his dad comments on how terrible the food is on occasion. Given that Calvin has gotten genuinely ill from her food, her bad-tasting food might not be that good for him either.
  • Foxtrot
    • The strip is another candidate for Trope Namer, as this trope was played with all the time during the comic strip's run. One strip shows Peter Fox gagging and retching before passing out at the dinner table, while Andrea Fox declares it "The Irony of Health Food". Other comic strips show the family complaining about her cooking, sabotaging the cooking so they wouldn't have to eat it, or Andrea cooking up such delicacies like beet and cheese subs, curry loaf, and tofu turkey in ginger sauce. The cooking tastes so bad that one strip even shows Roger accidentally tasting a sealant for the driveway and saying it was much better than her cooking.
    • In point of actual fact, Andy can cook quite well, and could probably produce tasty and highly nutritious meals if she stuck to actual, edible food. The point where she decided that the family needed to eat all healthy, all the time and started experimenting with tofu, beets, and lima beans is where she gained her reputation of a poor chef (at least among her family).
    • This mentality reached ridiculous points later on in the comic's years. Andy would use horrible recipes such as mayonnaise in ravioli, lima beans in pizza, and pumpkins, tomato, and peas in fruit salad. How Andy decided to apply this to that one, we'll never know.
    • Andy has been known to give out Almond Soys and veggie bars for Halloween too. In one such strip, after the kids found them scarier than any costume Roger thought up, she grumbled, "I don't know why I want everyone to live longer, they'd just keep mocking me."
  • Garfield
    • One strip had Jon lamenting that there's no unit of measurement for how good food tastes. Garfield replied that there is: the calorie.
    • Another Sunday strip had this as the banner gag:
      Jon: Garfield, these rice cakes are nutritious and low in calories.
      Garfield (in thought bubble, while spitting out some of a rice cake): Bingo! The two magic words that make me retch!
  • A Beetle Bailey strip showed Sgt. Snorkel being advised by his doctor not to eat anything that tastes good. In the final panel he eats a pizza while insincerely mouthing things like "ouch" and "yuck."
  • Piranha Club: The second half of the "Cheese Of the Month Club" storyline ends up being a Diet Episode as the predictable result of Ernie trying to use up the three tons of cheese clogging up his apartment. Trying to be supportive, Doris gets a diet book to help Ernie lose weight, listing several nutritious vegetables that are also low in calories that he can eat. Ernie ends up devouring the table cloth as well. Turns out table cloth is one of the items listed in the book. And it somehow has slightly more calories than the vegetables.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Murlynd's Spoon in Dungeons & Dragons is a magic item that can create gruel, which is filling and enriched with vitamins and other nutrients, and can save a lot of gold on rations, but has a taste that the rulebook compares to warm, wet cardboard.

    Video Games 
  • Averted in the Borderlands 2 DLC "Assault on Dragon Keep", where the Vault Hunters from the first game discover that Tiny Tina has eaten nothing but crumpets for years, so they hold her down and force feed her a salad. She is horrified by the mere sight of it ("Why is it green? That's not natural!"), but when they finally get it into her, she admits she actually liked it. This causes her to become disgusted with herself instead, since only adults like salad.
  • In Control, a series of sidequests requires Jesse to expunge a supernatural mold that's festering parts of The Oldest House as well as some of its human agents, and at one point, Jesse is given a pill designed to make her immune to it. Its most immediate effect is causing her to smell an awful stench coming from the mold, which is entirely the point; said mold naturally smells and tastes delicious in order to tempt people into eating it and becoming infested, so making it smell terrible to Jesse makes her not want to eat it (in practical gameplay terms, this allows Jesse to explore areas where the mold is so potent that she would previously take damage just by being near it).
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, Galveroche and the other senior members of Sharlayan's Faculty of Medicine espouse the policy that taste is utterly irrelevant when it comes to food, instead making experimental food that's as nutritious, compact, and convenient to eat as possible. His panaloaf, a successor to his already horrible-tasting archon loaf, is designed to be the pinnacle of this philosophy: a compact and easily kept emergency ration that contains all the nutrients required to sustain the body. The problem is that it's so awful-tasting that it induces nausea and retching in anyone who eats it. Rather than say anything is wrong with the taste, Galveroche instead tasks Debroye with improving the "digestibility" of it. This is then deconstructed when Flagustert's argument in favor of Debroye's Mervynloaf makes the Forum panel realize that eating nothing but panaloaf would induce panic and misery, emotions not conducive to rational thinking during a crisis.
  • Persona 5 has a stall which sells aojiru, drinks that are extremely bitter (and overpriced), but healthy. Joker has to chug it down to avoid tasting it too much, and seems to be gagging afterwards, but it's a great way to boost your social stats, since unlike most other stat-boosting activities, it doesn't cause time to pass so you can do something else that day.
  • In Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, when concocting a type of tea that's good for colds, Luke complains that it's a little too bitter for him. Layton explains to him that that that's how you know it works, quoting a Japanese proverb about how good medicine is bitter to the taste.
  • Pokémon:
    • In the Pokémon games, you can buy herbal medicines that are cheaper than the more widely-available standard healing items and incredibly effective, but are so bitter that that they make your Pokémon hate younote .
    • In Detective Pikachu, a brand of health foods has the slogan "So smelly, you know it's good for you!"
  • In the Super Robot Wars series, Original Generation character Kusuha Mizuha is known to concoct health drinks that can even bring the manliest of men to their knees. However, once they recover from their near-death experience, they seem to be much more energetic and ready than they were beforehand.
  • Tales of Berseria: While the party is travelling with a group of pirates, all the humans on board are infected with "corsair's scourge", which can only be cured with the nectar of a flower called sale'toma. Aifread (as relayed by Eizen) and Eleanor describe the taste as being a combination of intense mint and rich beef tongue, and attempting to mitigate the flavour, i.e. by mixing the nectar with honey, only makes it worse. When Eleanor takes the nectar, she forces it into her mouth and immediately collapses while gagging.

    Web Media 
  • ShadowMercury complains in the first episode of Super Playify that his mother likes to make things "health food style", which sucks all the taste out of them.
  • When Edith of Alice and the Nightmare tries Alice's medicine, she promptly throws up. Alice, however, is adamant that she must take it daily.
  • Subverted in The Class Menagerie, an early strip has health nut Mikey complain about how the dorm cafeteria food both tastes bad AND is unhealthy, with tons of salt, wilted and unnutritious vegetables and high fat content. However, when he rallies the other students to seek out proper sustenance, they end up at a fast food restaurant.
  • How To Cook That's video Is Gluten-Free making you fat? (an analysis of gluten-free food) has her concluding that it has only become popular due to this trope. This also has the consequence of making people treat gluten-free requests less seriously, which is a problem for those with a serious allergy.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: In one strip, a nutrionist introduces a revolutinary new diet; you're allowed to eat as much as you want, but the only thing you're allowed to eat is other people on the same diet!
    Fat Bastard: There can be only one...

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of As Told by Ginger has the creepy brother Carl playing as a feral wolf-boy. A bystander throws a veggie burger into his enclosure for him to eat and then Carl goes crazy after eating it. Despite the fact that he was told "you can't tell the difference", he still did. Ironically, Carl would go full vegetarian by the end of the series.
  • Zig-zagged in an episode of Goof Troop. Peg puts Pete on a diet medication that comes in the form of a granola bar. Pete, understandably, fears that they'll taste bad; however, they taste so good he eats a week's supply in one sitting. Peg informs him they're supposed to be taken with three square meals a day (not exceeding three), and unless they`re taken properly they might as well be the candy it tastes like.
  • Parodied in an episode of Johnny Bravo, where, having come to the incorrect conclusion that the secret ingredient of his favorite brand of beef jerky was people, Pops corrects him in front of a press conference, revealing that it was actually vitamin-enriched soy cake. The realization that this technically made his favorite jerky health food drives Johnny mad.
  • King of the Hill:
    • "Hank's Unmentionable Problem" has Hank develop severe constipation from his meat-heavy diet. In order to help cure him, Peggy takes him to a health food store. There, she notices some "Not Dogs", fake hot dogs made from tofu. Hank exclaims "Tofu? I can't eat that crap!", and in response he is offered "Faux Fu", a "tofu substitute for the tofu intolerant". Hank asks the store owner straight-out if he has anything that tastes good. He thinks about it for a moment and then simply says no.
    • Zig-zagged in "Dia-Bill-Ic Shock": After Bill is diagnosed with diabetes, Peggy puts Bobby on a healthy diet in hopes of ensuring that he will not meet the same fate. At the school cafeteria, Bobby attempts to trade a packet of toasted seaweed for something closer to what he is used to eating, but Joseph refuses. Bobby tells Joseph "But you generally like eating gross things!", to which Joseph replies "I know. This surprises me too!". Later, Bobby and Joseph observe Peggy through the kitchen window as she makes wheatgrass juice. She tastes the juice, makes a disgusted face, wipes the juice off of her tongue with a towel, then calls Bobby to serve it to him. Taking pity on Bobby's situation, Joseph gives him a candy bar. He takes a bite, only to find it too sweet for him to handle; going without sugar for several days had made his mouth more sensitive to it.note  This trope is then subverted when Bobby drinks the wheatgrass juice and finds that it tastes better than he assumed it would.
    • Subverted later on when Hank was forced to buy food from the local co-op after his favorite grocery store was bought out by Mega-lo-Mart. After buying free-range, grass-fed steak he's also given complimentary organic tomatoes and other vegetables, which has Bobby and Peggy mouthgasming. Cue Hank saying "Tomatoes don't have a taste" before trying it himself.

  • "Beat Your Greens" from The Powerpuff Girls (1998), where not eating vegetables turns out to be a good thing, as they've been contaminated by mind-control spores as a front to an alien invasion of sentient broccoli. In the end, the children of Townsville fend them off by eating the broccoli soldiers, and after the aliens retreat, wind up craving more.
    • Not so much craving as "distrusting every vegetable on sight and deciding to not allow even one to continue existing". Which raises a bit of Fridge Logic: what if another crop got contaminated and now the kids (including the superpowered heroines) become brainwashed? Also, they made eating the broccoli soldiers easier by drowning them in cheese sauce, which can legitimately mask some bitter flavors (and add a fair number of calories and fat in the process, reducing the health benefits of the veggie underneath and enforcing this trope).
  • In an episode of The Raccoons, Cyril drinks Bert's peanut butter soda, believing it to be a youth-restoring drink. He remarks, "This stuff tastes terrible. It must be good for me!"
  • In a The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode, broccoli killed Homer when he ate it.
    Dr. Hibbert: examining Homer's body Hmm. Another broccoli-related death.
    Marge: But I thought broccoli was...
    Dr. Hibbert: Oh yes. One of the deadliest plants on Earth! Why, it tries to warn you itself with its terrible taste.
    • Homer actually dies TWICE from the same piece of broccoli. He's returned to Earth to perform a good deed to make up for a lifetime of selfishness and immediately tries eating the broccoli again, killing his ghost form and sending him back to heaven.
      Homer: Uh, I tried the broccoli again.
      St. Peter: *sighs* You have 12 hours to complete your task.
    • In "Pranks and Greens", Marge puts the family on a healthy diet after the other mothers chide her for serving unhealthy food. When her attempts to improve only make them more critical, Marge ends up gorging out on junk. Homer discovers this and they gorge together, deciding to only make the kids eat healthy.
    • There's also "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?", where Homer becomes a food critic and antagonizes all the chefs in Springfield. They plot to kill him using an extremely fat-loaded pastry... and poison, of course. Lisa finds out about this, but notices her father about to eat the pastry. She tries to warn him that it's poison, only for him to either assume she's speaking figuratively or figure the taste was more important. She then tries a different approach and tells him it's low-fat. Homer acts like it's poison to him (which the pastry actually is) and throws it away, causing the pastry to explode.
  • An entire Muppet Babies (1984) episode centers on Nanny's mysterious stinky mixture in the kitchen. Early on, they suspect it's good for them and imagine it turning them into Conan the Barbarian knockoffs. (This is not enough to get them to try it, and just as well, since it's actually glue).
  • Inverted in Codename: Kids Next Door: Due to the exaggerated Kids Versus Adults theme, children's opposition to broccoli, asparagus, spinach, brussels sprouts and the like gets escalated into a Kryptonite Factor to them. Hell, not only do they hate it, everyone does, and according to Father the only reason adults make kids eat it is so they won't have to. However, Numbuh 2 and the Toiletnator manage to like veggies.
    • One particular episode is a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot where Sector V has to travel inside Numbuh 4's body and retrieve a piece of brussels sprout he absentmindedly ate while listening to his father drone on about some meaningless work story, which ended up making him violently ill. At the end of the episode, he does the same with a piece of liver.
    • "Operation I.T." revolves around Father planning to infest the KND's treehouses with fast-growing broccoli, which instantly disables any child near it like kryptonite. Numbuh 362 barely survives eating through a mass of broccoli to reach Father, then threatens him with a broccoli stalk to give up. After 362 collapses, Father curls up into a fetal position and apparently has flashbacks to his own father (Grandfather, the villain from Operation ZERO) forcing him to eat broccoli as a kid.
  • Averted in Popeye: Spinach is not only healthy to the point of Super-Strength, but is also Popeye's Trademark Favorite Food. When he gets his four nephews to try it, they end up feeling the same way. Played Straight, however, in the obscure Popeye and Son show, in which his son hates spinach and has to choke it down when necessary.
  • An episode of Chowder has Truffles put everyone on a diet (having gained weight and deciding to put everyone on it) and the most effective weight-loss food is the utterly disgusting Flibber-Flabber, a green gelatinous goo from a flytrap-like plant. (Like Numbah 2 before him, Chowder actually enjoys eating it.) Mung Daal exploits this by using Truffles' competitive streak and stubbornness to force herself to eat it to the point of sickness, but she fights back by challenging Mung Daal's Supreme Chef reputation: If he is such a good chef, he can make it taste better. Despite trying lots of things, it can't be made to taste better so Mung decides to just make everything bigger in order to make Truffles feel thinner.
  • Thumper from Bambi.
    Eating greens is a special treat. It makes long ears and great big feet. But it sure is awful stuff to eat. (I made that last part up myself).
  • Moville Mysteries: All the kids are addicted to the new mystery meat in the cafeteria, finding it delicious. Mo teams up with the local Conspiracy Theorist who thinks that it is alien in origin, and part of some nefarious invasion plot. They eventually discover that it's made from tofu. When this news reaches the kids, they immediately become repulsed by it, horrified that they have been eating something healthy. Oh, and it actually was made by aliens, but the characters never find out.
  • Family Guy
    • One gags involved Peter Griffin trying out Kix (a brand of cereal that's marketed as both tasty and nutritious). He likes it at first, but when Lois mentions that "it's also good for him", it immediately ruins it for him and he pushes it off the table like a Manchild.
    • Another episode had Peter go on a diet to lose enough weight to meet the weight limit for a rollercoaster he wanted to ride. Part of the diet had him eating rice cakes, remarking that he had never tried one before. However, he only manages to eat a single bite before he starts screaming in pain and clutching his throat like the rice cake is shredding him from the inside, and has to punch himself in the stomach to vomit it back up. When he lies gasping on the floor, he wonders who could make such a horrible thing. Cut to a Yellow Peril villain sitting on a throne.
      Villain: Haha, we know you not like rice cake!
    • In "Saturated Fat Guy", Lois watches a PBS documentary about America's awful food habits and forces the family to start eating healthy, with predictable reactions from Peter, who ends up starting his own food truck that only sells ludicrously unhealthy food. After Lois throws him out of the house, Peter starts living in the truck and only eats the food he sells, which, of course, makes him morbidly obese and he eventually has to be cut out of the truck and hoisted out in a horse harness. The ending narration reveals that Peter learned his lesson and had a healthy dinner that night... then went right back to eating like crap for the rest of his life.
  • A slight variation occurs in an early episode of Voltron: Legendary Defender when Coran tries to get the paladins to try some traditional Alien food.
    Hunk: Ugh, it smells disgusting!
    Coran: I know! That's how you know it's healthy!
  • An episode of Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers has Montery Jack realize that his weight is becoming a problem when it keeps him from being effective during a mission, and decides to go on a diet, with the other Rangers joining him out of support. As part of the diet, Jack cooks a kind of seaweed stew he learned from a strongman he once knew. Turns out it has less to do with nutrition (though it's good in that department too), and more that the stew tastes so bad that you won't eat much of it.
  • In The Crumpets episode "Octosquito", Pa admits that his beer yeast syrup tastes like rotting rubber, but praises it for being natural, containing no undesirable side effects and not produced by a big-name pharmaceutical company. After giving it to his children to fix their huge tongues, he's Instantly Proven Wrong on its side effects once his kids' heads turn into literal crumpets.
  • Kaeloo: In "Let's Play Ecologists", Kaeloo buys Quack Quack organic yogurt to replace his regular yogurt because it is supposedly very healthy. Quack Quack vomits as soon as he eats it. Stumpy tries it and has the same reaction, and even Mr. Cat, who has eaten very questionable food before, says it's "revolting". Kaeloo winds up having to force feed the organic yogurt to Quack Quack.
  • In the Rocket Power episode "Typhoid Sam", the kids come down with a case of the "Fiji Flu". In hopes of helping the kids get better, Otto's and Regina's father Ray prepares some pineapple soup, much to the disgust of them, as well as some hot fruit punch.
  • The Tick: In "The Tick Vs Arthur", Arthur is on a "food foam" diet, which consists of drinking a synthetic meal replacement that has absolutely no nutritional value, forcing the body to consume it's fat storages for sustenance. It predictably doesn't taste very good, and Arthur basically has to force it down.
  • In Bluey, Bandit gives the girls Tomato sauce (distinct from Ketchup, but similar) that is healthy. Sure enough, when the girls persuade Bandit to let them taste the "Adult" Tomato sauce, they scream in delight at how good it is and comment that their Tomato sauce (the healthy one) is "disgusting".

    Real Life 
  • Too many things to name portray very healthy foods such as broccoli as being scorned by children, even some adults severely dislike broccoli. Brussels sprouts, asparagus, liver and spinach are other common targets.
    • George H. W. Bush actually forbade broccoli from the White House, and an episode of Histeria!! had some fun with this.
    • It is also mostly the vegetables that have this treatment. Fruits meanwhile (culinary fruits, at least) never get the Irony of Health Food treatment. You almost never hear of someone whose parents can never get them to eat bananas, apples, or grapes. Probably because parents don't force fruits on their kids the way they do vegetables. It also helps that fruits are naturally sweet, too. Or sour like citrus fruits.
    • A certain birthday card shows an adult woman scraping her broccoli into the trashcan with a caption that goes something like, "One of the perks of getting old is that no one can make you eat your vegetables!"
    • To be fair here, the taste of broccoli is bad enough, but what makes it truly nasty is actually its texture. And even the things with the most delicious of taste can still be nauseatingly unpalatable if the texture is wrong.
    • Some of this trope comes more from many people just not knowing a good way to prepare things better than the food itself being bad. For example, coating vegetables with generous coatings of olive oil, salt, pepper, whole garlic or garlic powder, optionally a little lemon juice or lemon pepper seasoning (skip regular pepper if adding lemon pepper), and roasting in the oven (time and heat depending on the vegetable(s)) is a very simple, quick to prepare, fairly healthy note  and common way to make many vegetables (even common stock yucks like raw/or frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus) much more palatable, especially to picky eaters like children. Raw spinach can be sautéed in olive oil, with butter, garlic/or garlic powder, optionally lemon or lemon pepper, and most prefer this to canned spinach. It also can be masked by other ingredients in a smoothie. Depending on what exactly you put in there, you can squeeze in raw spinach without being able to taste it. There are other easy things a person can do with vegetables if they are willing to look into it.
  • Legend has is that in the 1800s a man found a stream with water that tasted so horrible that he decided that it had to be medically beneficial - so he started bottling and marketing it as a health elixir. Sometime later it was discovered that his stream of miracle water was runoff from a nearby tannery...
  • In Real Life safety conscious doctors and pharmacists sometimes design medicine to taste bad so that children won't take too much of it. Those of you who remember your mothers trying to get you to take that cherry “flavored” cough syrup may remember the awful smell that came with it, never mind the taste was nothing like cherry once you did take that swig.
    • This actually happened after a generation where they tried to design medicine to taste good specifically so kids would eat it. Unfortunately, this resulted in kids taking too much because they liked it as it tasted like candy. (Discussed in Tales of Vesperia, where it's shown that the Gel healing items were designed to taste good so kids would eat them, and Rita apparently has a taste for them.)
    • That said, most drugs are naturally bitter because many of them were originally derived from vegetable alkaloids (examples include caffeine, digoxin, nicotine, morphine, etc), a groups of bitter-tasting and poisonous chemicals produced by plants to discourage animals and insects from eating them. Unfortunately for the plants, it just happens that these compounds can cure diseases or get people high in lower doses.
  • Averted in a Cracked article which explained that lots of "healthy" granola bars are about as good for you as a candy bar. Also on how Bran Muffins are not nutritional, muffins being mostly cake, and cake being mostly fat and sugar.
    • That possibly comes from the way popular understanding has muddied the understanding of what constitutes 'nutrition'- bran is 'non-nutritious' in that it's indigestible, but a certain amount of harmless, indigestible matter is an important part of a human's diet- that's what 'fiber' is. And those sugary granola bars are 'nutritious' in that they give us lots of short-chain carbohydrates that we need for energy. This is why humans tend to like very sweet foods - as far as our ancient instincts are concerned, taking on as many calories at once is a good thing, because tomorrow, who knows? The problem isn't that sugary foods are not nutritious, rather that it's very easy to eat too much.
      • Heck, there's a reason people on Survivor go apeshit when they win sugary foods in a gives them energy.
  • Fitness guru Jack LaLanne has two rules of thumb for nutrition: "If it's man-made, don't eat it" and "If it tastes good, spit it out."
  • Chinese medicine embodies this trope when it comes to herbal medicine you have to boil at home (or boiled and sealed into packets if you can't brew it at home). While the dried plant material that makes up the bulk of it can drive those with allergies insane, the resulting mixture will have your nose and tongue wishing to commit suicide (especially the tongue). There's a reason why a lot of Chinese pharmacies — or stores hosting a Traditional Chinese Medicine area — will drop in a few sweets in the bag at the register. Although it is less effective than other medicine, some have fewer side effects than other medicine.
    • Even worse, certain plants create toxic chemicals if improperly consumed or prepared. For example, eating the stems and leaves together, or improperly-processed tapioca.
  • This is inverted with a great many poisons which are both very bitter and very deadly; this is part of why we're hardwired to despise bitter-tasting things.
    • Cyanide, for instance. Smells like bitter almonds. Almonds? Pretty good for ya, lots of non-saturated fat, Vitamin E (carbohydrates) and is gluten-free. Most cyanides will pretty much kill you dead, though. Not to be confused with arsenic.
      • Bitter almonds do not contain cyanides per se, they, just like almost all kernels of prune family fruits, contain compounds called glycosides, which are metabolized to release cyanide. And defining feature of most glycosides is their overwhelmingly bitter taste. What's interesting, however, is that these glycosides, especially the most widespread of them, amygdalinnote , are (in minute amounts) essential parts of almond aroma and taste.
      • Interestingly enough, the only cells able to metabolize the cyanide out of the apricot seeds are carcenomas — cancer cells.
    • Also inverted with antifreeze, which tastes sweet, works quickly, and is extremely deadly, which is why people are advised to keep it locked away from children and pets.
      • Of course, if the persistent little creatures do get their hands on the stuff, the cure is booze. No, seriously. The dangerous ingredient in anti-freeze is ethylene glycol, which crystallizes in the bloodstream and shreds your kidneys to pieces. Ethanol, the alcohol in booze, is digested preferentially, which means that having it in your system prevents the ethylene glycol from crystallizing, and it's harmlessly passed through the system (one man in Australia who had drunk antifreeze was given an I.V. drip of pure vodka.) Large amounts of very potent booze isn't the most appealing thing in the world to most people, but in this very specific circumstance, it can save your life.
      • Ethylene glycol, being a two-base cousin of the common ethanol, is one of those numerous toxic alcohols (including methanol) whose antidote ethanol is. It works by having a better affinity to human cells, and thus is preferentially absorbed by the human body, protecting it. Still, this treatment is not always applicable, and to reduce the number of poisonings now there is the move to replace ethylene glycol by the similarly sweet and syrupy, but non-toxic propylene glycol, a two-base glycerol (and propanol) relative. It is somewhat more expensive, though, which holds adoption in some parts.
      • Anti-freeze's sweet taste has actually resulted in it being the weapon of choice in more than one murder case, and quite frequently in animal cruelty cases, since the victim will consume food or drink laced with the stuff without noticing anything amiss. Most if not all antifreeze manufacturers now include a bittering agent to prevent this.
  • Graham Kerr developed the "MiniMax" method to counteract this: After his wife had a heart attack from the type of food he cooked on The Galloping Gourmet, he turned to writing diet books for people with diabetes and heart problems. He realized pretty quickly that the food tasted like garbage, and switched to adapting his old recipes to healthier cooking techniques, adding spices and low-calorie ingredients to replace fat and sugar instead of simply cutting them out. While common today, that was a completely novel idea in the late 80s.
  • James Herriot remarks in one of his books that the popularity of Asafoetida in folk remedies is probably because such a stinking substance must have magical properties.
  • In a variation of this trope, many energy drinks have an intentionally sour or bitter flavor to make them seem like they have more energy. This works because the two most popular active ingredients in energy drinks, caffeine and taurine, are bitter and sour respectively, so ramping up the taste instead of their actual content, makes the people think they have more of them, at the same time escaping the overdose.
  • One of the causes is an amusing logic loop. Certain food with certain nutrients tastes bad -> People don't eat it and lack said nutrient -> This food is healthy for them because they need said nutrient.
  • First Lady Michelle Obama's attempt at getting schools to give kids healthy meals has backfired this way; the food may be good for the kids, but not only does it not take allergies or other problems into account, it tastes awful and kids aren't allowed to bring any alternatives. On the upside the kids do lose weight...since they don't eat lunch and are hungry the rest of the day.
    • For a lot of schools, this was a result of having restrictions imposed on them... but not being able to get the funding to be able to buy decent-tasting nutritious food. For example, if the school can't serve canned soup because it has too much sodium, they'll instead opt to, say, mix tomato puree with water to make tomato "soup" (creating a flavorless mess) than to go with a more expensive option.
  • While not exactly the same, antiseptics have been subject to the same problem. Companies have known formulas to provide the same effectiveness without any sting at all on injuries, but people don't buy those formulas as much. They felt that an antiseptic that didn't sting must not have been working properly, and kept buying the kind that caused minor physical pain instead.
  • A variation is the old belief that sleeping on the floor, or some other hard surface, is good for your back. Because if you have back pain, it must be because your bed is too comfortable. This surely exacerbated many people's chronic back problems, but in recent years this has gone in the complete opposite direction, with many companies promoting high-tech foam or air mattresses that supposedly support your spine better than a normal one. There isn't much evidence that this tactic works, either (after all, spine issues and injuries are more likely to come from something you do when you're awake).
  • Kala Namak, or Himalayan Black Salt has been claimed to have numerous health benefits as listed in Spice Rack Panacea, and next to no evidence to back up any of it. It also contains sodium sulphide, which reacts with water vapour in air to produce hydrogen sulphide, which tastes and smells like rotten eggs
    • In an interesting case of Accidentally-Correct Writing, hydrogen sulphide actually plays an essential role as a gasotransmitter and is involved in myriad different biological processes. Research shows that it has the potential to treat many things, including Alzheimer's, heart attacks, cancer, and erectile dysfunction, making it a straight example, although its benefits are completely different to those claimed of kala namak. However, H2S-based treatment would likely involve the use of a donor molecule rather than requiring patients to breathe in the gas itself, partially due to this trope. At higher concentrations the trope becomes inverted, H2S is highly toxic, with a lethal dose which is comparable to that of hydrogen cyanide.
  • The Listerine brand of mouthwash made its harsh taste a selling point in its advertising, as this meant that it was killing germs that caused bad breath and gum disease.
  • Whole wheat bread is healthier than white bread because it contains the bran, but most people will prefer the latter if they have a choice. Whole wheat bread has a slightly bitter taste to it.
  • This trope is the reason for why a lot of Snake Oil Salesman cures can be actively dangerous: while some fake cures are mere placebos, it's common for the seller to, intentionally or otherwise, make their "cure" something that actually makes the user sick. Quite a few such cures are essentially bleach. The mere fact that the cure makes the person sicker convinces them that the medicine is working, possibly even purging the body, and when they recover from feeling incredibly sick, they credit it with the miracle cure.
  • A lot of online recipes have complaints in the comments sections where people make "healthy" substitutions, such as skim/non-dairy milk, whole wheat flour or sugar substitutes, without understanding how the ingredients combine and the recipe doesn't turn out. Reddit has an entire subreddit just for those: r/ididnthaveeggs.
  • When the Hydro Majestic Hotel in opened in 1904, it imported mineral water from Germany in large steel containers. By the time the containers arrived in Australia, the water tasted awful. The people at the time assumed that the awful-tasting water must be good for their health, so hotel guests were encouraged to drink this water.
  • Many a man has said some variety of this line to a woman to talk her into accepting oral sex and its—erhm—sticky aftermath. To be fair, said "sticky aftermath" is filled with protein, vitamins, and sugars, but tastes awful to discourage it from being eaten.


Video Example(s):


Organic Yogurt

Kaeloo makes Quack-Quack eat organic yogurt, which is supposedly healthier than the kind he usually eats.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / IfItTastesBadItMustBeGoodForYou

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