How to Follow a Clear Liquid Diet

A clear liquid diet includes liquids such as water, clear soup, and apple juice. These liquids are considered “clear” because they do not contain any pulp, food or cream.

A liquid diet is often prescribed before certain medical tests or procedures. It can also be used before or after gastrointestinal surgery.

A clear liquid diet should only be done for a short period of time. They are not recommended for prolonged use. A clear liquid diet is not meant to be used for weight loss.

This article explains why you may need to follow a clear liquid diet. You will also learn which liquids are considered “clear” and which are not.

What is a clear liquid?

Clear liquids are transparent. They don’t have any solids or pulp in them. Foods that melt into clear liquids at room temperature, such as popsicles and gelatin, can also be used on clear liquid diets.

The clear liquid diet does not allow the use of opaque (opaque) liquids. These fluids require more work to digest. They also leave some solid food parts, such as fiber, in your large intestine. This is called residue. If there is residue in your gut, it can affect the results of the test or procedure.

allowable liquids

  • water

  • Black coffee or tea (with sugar, honey or lemon only)

  • Juice, Lemonade

  • Clear soda (e.g. lime soda, ginger ale, soda water)

  • energy drink

  • Gelatin (plain – no fruit or whipped cream)

  • Popsicles or fruit ice (no solid fruit)

  • Clear nutritional supplements (e.g. Boost Breeze, Pedialyte, Ensure Clear)

  • clear broth or broth

  • Transparent candies (e.g. lollipops, gummies)

liquid not allowed

  • Fruit juices with pulp (such as orange juice, grapefruit juice)

  • nectar

  • tomato or vegetable juice

  • milk or plant milk

  • ice cream or sorbet

  • Creamy Soup, Vegetable Soup, Noodles or Rice

  • Ambiguous nutritional supplements (eg, Ensure, Carnation Quick Breakfast)

  • Unclear chocolate, candy

  • alcoholic beverages

If you have specific health needs, certain types of clear liquids may be better options for you. You may need to avoid some clear liquids. Here are a few examples:

  • Sugar-free liquids: Unless your diet restricts sugar, you should choose mostly sugary liquids. Added sugar will give you calories. You need calories to maintain energy and blood sugar levels. However, if you have diabetes, ask your provider if you should choose the low-sugar clear liquid option.
  • Low-salt (sodium) broth or broth: Salt is an important nutrient for your body. However, if you are on a low-salt diet, ask your provider if you should choose a low-sodium or no-salt broth or broth when you are on a clear liquid diet.

avoid certain colors

If you have bowel prep before a colonoscopy, you may be asked to avoid any red, purple, or blue fluids. The dyes or natural pigments in these fluids can make it look like you have blood in your gut during the test.

Case in point: If you’re preparing for a colonoscopy, you might decide to use juice as a liquid. Be prepared for instructions that say you can’t drink any blue, red, or purple liquids.

That means you can choose from white cranberry or white grape juice. You can’t drink red cranberry or purple grape juice.

Some flavored gelatins, popsicles, and nutritional supplements also contain red, purple, or blue dyes. Make sure to check the labels carefully.

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Clear liquids are “clear” and do not contain any solids. Water and black coffee are two examples of clear liquids. Solids like gelatin or popsicles that are clear when melted can also be used on clear liquid diets. However, you may be told to avoid certain colors as they can affect test results.

typical diet day

While following a clear liquid diet, try to eat or drink regularly. This will keep you hydrated and not too hungry. Your body digests clear fluids quickly, which means they won’t be as satisfying as a full meal.

Remember that caffeine can make you jittery or interfere with sleep. If you drink a cup of black coffee in the morning, you can still drink it through a clear liquid diet. However, you may want to stick to decaffeinated beverages later in the day.

Sample menu

Here is a sample clear liquid diet menu created by the Mayo Clinic:

breakfast

  • 1 cup pulpless juice
  • 1 bowl gelatin
  • 1 cup coffee or tea (dairy free)
  • sugar or honey (if desired)

snack

  • 1 cup fruit juice (no pulp)
  • 1 bowl gelatin

Lunch

  • 1 cup fruit juice (no pulp)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup broth
  • 1 bowl gelatin

snack

  • 1 serving of pulpless popsicles
  • 1 cup coffee or tea (dairy free) or soft drink
  • sugar or honey (if desired)

dinner

  • 1 cup juice (no pulp) or water
  • 1 cup broth
  • 1 bowl gelatin
  • 1 cup coffee or tea (dairy free)
  • sugar or honey (if desired)

Purpose of a clear liquid diet

A bland, liquid diet helps clear your digestive system. Cleaning up prevents undigested food from affecting the results of certain medical tests.

A clear liquid diet can also be used to “rest” the digestive system after surgery or during an episode of gastrointestinal disease.

Before or after your surgery, you may be advised to follow a clear liquid diet, such as:

  • colonoscopy
  • endoscopy
  • Bariatric (weight loss) surgery

Sometimes a clear liquid diet is recommended after surgery that does not involve the digestive system.

For example, if you have your tonsils removed (tonsillectomy), swallowing or chewing food can cause harm. As you begin recovery, your provider may recommend a clear liquid diet for a day or two.

You may sometimes need to use a clear liquid diet if you have certain medical conditions, such as:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Diverticulitis
  • pancreatitis

A bland, liquid diet can also help your gut rest and heal after you have an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea. For example, if you have “stomach flu,” a bland liquid diet can help prevent dehydration.

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Before or after a test or surgery such as a colonoscopy, you may need to follow a clear liquid diet for a short period of time. This diet can also help people recover from flare-ups of conditions like IBD, or give the gastrointestinal tract a chance to rest after an illness.

How long does it last?

A clear liquid diet is very low in calories, protein, fat, and most nutrients. It can only be used for a few days at most. You should not stay on a bland liquid diet for more than 3 or 4 days unless your healthcare provider tells you to.

risk

A clear liquid diet is safe when you are under the care of a provider and you will only be using it for a short period of time.

Following a clear liquid diet may have side effects and risks, including:

  • feeling weak or dizzy
  • not getting enough nutrition
  • If you have diabetes, low blood sugar
  • Inaccurate test results (if you don’t follow your diet)

If swallowing is difficult, a clear liquid diet may cause choking (hard to swallow). People with dysphagia have difficulty swallowing thin liquids.

If you have trouble swallowing, your healthcare provider or dietitian can discuss with you how to safely manage a clear liquid diet.

What causes difficulty swallowing?

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Maintaining a bland liquid diet can be challenging, even if it’s just for a day or two. Here are some ways to make your experience easier:

  • Pick your favorite liquid flavors (unless they’re purple or red and you’ve been told to avoid those colors before testing)
  • pick different types of liquids for certain varieties
  • “eat” your fluids regularly so you don’t get too hungry
  • Distract yourself with non-food-related activities and hobbies
  • If you are tired or weak, do not exercise excessively

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Even if you’re only on a liquid diet for a short period of time, it’s hard to stick to it because it’s not satisfying. You can make it a little easier by drinking water and distracting yourself regularly throughout the day.

Your body won’t get enough nutrients from a bland, liquid diet, so you may be more tired than usual. Don’t push yourself during this time, especially if you feel dizzy and weak.

generalize

You may be asked to follow a bland liquid diet before certain medical tests and procedures. It also gives the digestive system a chance to rest after an illness.

A clear liquid diet includes see-through liquids, such as tea, black coffee, apple juice, and clear soups. Some flavored gelatins and popsicles are also considered clear liquids.

However, if you have a test like a colonoscopy, you may be asked to avoid certain colors. The red drink or gelatin looks like blood in the digestive tract.

If your provider is in contact with you and you are only on this diet for a short period of time, a bland liquid diet is safe. A clear liquid diet does not provide enough calories and nutrients for long-term use. They are also not for weight loss.

VigorTip words

Maintaining a bland, liquid diet can help prepare your body for a medical test or surgery. It also gives your body a break after you’re sick or sick.

If you are asked to follow a clear liquid diet, be sure to follow the instructions. While this diet is safe for short periods of time, it can still cause some side effects. Call your provider if you are having trouble dieting, or if it makes you feel sick.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What soups can I eat on a clear liquid diet?

    Soups you can eat on a clear liquid diet include bouillon or vegetable bouillon and bouillon without any solids, cream, or thickeners.

    understand more:

    What is a clear liquid?

  • Is a liquid diet good for weight loss?

    A bland liquid diet is not safe for weight loss. It can only be used for a few days at most. A clear liquid diet is very low in calories, protein, fat, and most nutrients; it’s not enough to stay healthy.

    understand more:

    What is malnutrition?

  • What is the difference between a liquid diet and a clear liquid diet?

    A bland liquid diet only leaves you with liquids you can see through, like apple juice and broth. On a liquid or all-liquid diet, you can drink thicker liquids, such as shakes and creamy soups.

    understand more:

    What you can eat on a full liquid diet