What Is A Clear Liquid Diet?
A clear liquid diet is a nutrition plan that consists of clear liquids such as water, apple juice, tea, certain sports drinks and broths (1). This eating pattern is designed to keep the stomach and intestines clear prior to medical tests, procedure or surgery. Clear liquids are typically easy to digest and do not leave much-undigested material in your intestines (6). Dietitians may prescribe a full liquid diet for similar reasons, but it is less restrictive than a clear liquid diet. They allow most beverages, as well as foods that become liquid at room temperatures, such as popsicles, Jell-O, pudding, syrups and some shakes (4). Note, however, that such diets should only be followed if prescribed by a doctor!
How Long Can You Be On A Clear Liquid Diet?
This diet is extremely low in calories and nutrients that’s why it should not be followed for more than 3-5 days. Following a liquid diet for an extended period of time could increase your risk of nutrient deficiencies, particularly if you are only consuming juices or other beverages that do not contain all essential nutrients (2). Meanwhile, medically prescribed liquid diets are considered safe for short-term use, but they are typically ordered by a physician (1, 4).
Why You May Need To Follow This Diet?
Usually, doctors prescribe this diet before certain medical tests or procedures (colonoscopies, sigmoidoscopy, x-rays). Besides, they may be prescribed after such surgeries as gallbladder removal and bariatric surgery (9). It’s important to follow this diet precisely when it’s prescribed to get accurate test results and avoid any problems with an upcoming surgery or procedure. Also, doctors may advise sticking to this diet to relieve digestive problems such as abdominal distention, diarrhea, nausea, etc. This diet can help not only clean out the intestinal tract but can keep you hydrated and provide you with sufficient vitamins and minerals.
Pros And Cons Of The Diet
- This is an effective way to prepare your bowel for a medical test or surgery
- This eating pattern helps recover after a surgery or medical procedures faster
- It’s a rather cost-effective way to shed weight short-term
- It improves digestion and prevents nausea and vomiting
- It keeps you properly hydrated and nourished
- This diet is extremely low in calories and nutrients, so you may feel fatigued and hungry
- It’s quite difficult to follow it as it excludes all solid foods
- You may experience side effects
Clear Liquid Diet Ideas For Colonoscopy
It’s extremely important to prepare for the colonoscopy the right way for a successful procedure. If you don’t prepare the bowel properly, it may lead to an increased risk of complications after the procedure or the whole process might need to be rescheduled. One of the main strategies to prepare the bowel for a colonoscopy is a clear liquid diet:
- Make sure to stick to a low-fiber diet for a few days before the procedure which means excluding grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, raw fruits and vegetables from your diet;
- Switch to a clear liquid diet the day before the procedure (no solid foods allowed);
- Keep following a clear liquid diet the day of the colonoscopy and don’t eat or drink anything 2 hours before the procedure;
Clear Liquid Diet For Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis is a digestive tract disorder that causes inflamed pouches (also called diverticula) in the lining of your intestine. More than 75 percent of diverticulitis cases are uncomplicated, leaving about 25 percent to develop complications (3). This may include nausea, fever, severe abdominal pain, bloody bowel movements, abscess, etc. The right diet can ease the symptoms of the disease. Usually, a nutrition plan for diverticulitis consists of low fiber foods. A physician may even recommend a no-fiber, clear liquid diet to give the gut a rest while it heals. However, this should be discussed with your doctor.
Clear Liquid Diet Options
Typically all liquids that you can see through are considered to be clear liquids which means that you can consume them on this diet. For example, clear juices, broths, hard candy, ice, and gelatin. However, the complete list of foods to eat and to avoid should be provided by your physician or nutritionist as it depends on your medical condition and may vary from person to person. Here is the list of clear liquid diet foods that the diet usually includes:
- Water (plain, carbonated or flavored)
- Fruit juices without pulp (apple, cranberry, white grape juice)
- Fruit-flavored beverages (fruit punch, lemonade)
- Carbonated drinks (root beer)
- Tea or coffee without milk or cream (you can add sugar or lemon juice)
- Strained tomato or vegetable juice
- Sports drinks
- Clear, fat-free broth (bouillon or consomme)
- Honey or sugar
- Hard candy (lemon drops or peppermint rounds)
- Ice pops without milk, bits of fruit, seeds, or nuts
- Clear nutritional drinks (Enlive, Ensure Clear)
Note, any solid foods should be excluded from the diet as it may lead to rescheduling an upcoming medical procedure.
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Can I drink Coke on a clear liquid diet?
Yes, you can drink soft drinks like Sprite, Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, without red or purple dyes.
What Kinds Of Gelatin Are Okay For A Clear Liquid Diet?
As you see you from the list above, your diet can include gelatin, however, make sure it doesn’t contain any fruits, vegetables or pulp. Here are a few options to choose from:
- Ginger gelatin
- Chicken gelatin
- White grape juice
- Cranberry gelatin.
What Foods And Beverages To Avoid On A Clear Liquid Diet?
Here is the list of foods and beverages that are not acceptable for people following this diet:
- Milk and yogurt
- Tomato and vegetable juices (unstrained)
- Fruit juice with pulp
- Fruit nectars
- Alcoholic drinks
Besides, doctors may recommend avoiding clear liquids with red or purple coloring before some tests like colonoscopy to get the accurate results of the test. The thing is that these can interfere with test imaging as the red color, for example, can persist in the colon and potentially look like blood.
Clear Liquid Diet Sample Menu
- 1 glass pulp-free apple juice
- one cup gelatin
- 1 cup of coffee or tea with lemon (no pulp, with sugar or honey, if desired)
- 1 glass pulp-free grape juice
- 1 bowl gelatin
- 1 glass pulp-free cranberry juice
- 1 glass pure water
- one cup fat-free broth (not chicken)
- 1 bowl gelatin
- 1 cup pulp-free fruit ice
- 1 cup coffee or tea with lemon (no pulp, with sugar or honey, if desired)
- 1 cup pulp-free juice (apple, cranberry or grape) or pure water
- 1 cup fat-free broth
- one bowl gelatin
- 1 cup coffee or tea with lemon (no pulp, with sugar or honey, if desired)
This diet cannot provide your body with all essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Following this diet for a long time may lead to malnourishment, that’s why dietitians do not recommended to follow it for more than 3-5 days. This nutrition plan is especially risky for people with:
- nutritional or electrolyte imbalances
- eating disorders
- endocrine disorders
Clear Liquid Diet And Weight Loss
This nutrition plan is not a safe and effective option for weight loss and it should only be followed if prescribed by a doctor. Since clear liquid diets don’t involve any solid foods it won’t provide all the beneficial nutrients found in whole foods like fruits and vegetables (5). Like any crash diet, it doesn’t give long-term results and once you get back to a regular diet it leads to weight regain as your carbohydrate and water stores are replenished (7). Short-term crash diets don’t typically lead to lasting weight loss because they don’t do anything to change your permanent eating habits (8).
Moreover, people who stick to this eating pattern for a long time without medical reason can suffer from a range of symptoms like:
- mood swings
- muscle pain
- bone damage
- heart problems
- severe hunger pains
A more appropriate goal is to incorporate simple strategies that you can use every day for a long period of time, rather than short-term quick fixes that fall short on their promises (8).
How To Survive A Clear Liquid Diet?
One of the biggest challenges people face being on a clear liquid diet is a constant feeling of hunger. This nutrition plan doesn’t provide all essential nutrients to our body that’s why it’s common to experience food cravings. Here are some ideas on how to feel full on a clear liquid diet:
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during the day and suppress hunger pangs
- Eat a variety of flavors like sweet gelatin and salty electrolyte drinks
- Drink electrolyte drinks
- Eat and drink the allowed foods on a clear liquid diet more frequently than your regular meals
- Drink a nutritional supplement if allowed by your doctor
Clear Liquid Diet And Diabetes
This diet is considered to be safe for people with diabetes for a short time under a doctor’s care. People with diabetes are usually allowed to eat about 200 grams of carbs to control their blood sugar. If you have diabetes, always monitor your blood sugar levels and get back to your usual diet as quickly as possible. Patients who follow a clear liquid diet can experience dangerous blood sugar swings, if a doctor does not monitor them. According to the University of Gastroenterology, people with diabetes should adjust the dose of their diabetic medication and insulin to prevent blood sugar levels from dropping below normal. Discuss it with your primary care doctor or endocrinologist. Note, in case of any abdominal cramps or discomfort while following this eating plan, notify a doctor right away. Your physician will adjust the diet to reduce hunger pangs, cravings and prevent side effects.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Clear liquid diet (2018, medlineplus.gov)
- Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Diverticular disease: Epidemiology and management (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Full liquid diet (2018, medlineplus.gov)
- Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Low-Residue and Low-Fiber Diets in Gastrointestinal Disease Management (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Manipulation of Muscle Creatine and Glycogen Changes Dual X-ray Absorptiometry Estimates of Body Composition. (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Weight-loss maintenance for 10 years in the National Weight Control Registry (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Your diet after gastric bypass surgery (2018, medlineplus.gov)