What is Clear Liquid Diet ?

Clear liquid diet can be defined as a diet that is mainly made up of clear liquids and foods that are liquid based such as juices, broth, water and tea. The diet is generally supposed to be easy to digest and at the same time leave no residue on the intestinal track, hence the reason why it is prescribed for patients that need to go through screening or a procedure touching on the tract or digestive system. The foods or liquids that are colored, but you can easily see through them still fall under the clear liquid diet. All you need to know is that no solids are allowed under the diet.

This diet apart from being easy for your body to digest also provides you with the nutrients and minerals that you require. The liquids offer water, electrolytes and calories, thus they still manage to keep the body nourished so you are not dehydrated. They are usually recommended on a short term basis but the recommendations can vary from one doctor to another or the purpose for going on the diet.

The purpose of Clear Liquid Diet ?

This diet is in most cases recommended before surgeries, procedures that require the intestines and stomach to be clean. It may also be recommended for patients with digestive issues like diarrhea, vomiting and nausea among others. Let us look at the three most common situations where you may be asked to go on a clear liquid diet.

1-Medical procedure preparation

liquid diet for surgery preparation

If you have been scheduled for a surgery, you may be put on this diet to ensure that nothing is left in your intestines before the procedure it performed. This way, it becomes very easy for the doctor to diagnose underlying medical conditions. In most cases, patients about to go through a colonoscopy will be put on this diet. The procedure examines bowel insides, but the same may be done for intestinal based surgeries. You may also need to continue with the diet a few days after the surgery.

2-Medical procedure recovery

There are procedures that in the end affect the normal functioning of the body when it comes to digesting and absorbing food. In such a situation the diet comes in handy in allowing the body to recover. The slow recovery reduces chances of becoming nauseous, so the nutrients are absorbed easily. Bariatric surgery is one good example of procedures that may have diet recommended. Under the guidance of your doctor you can add other foods as you continue to recover.

3- Gastrointestinal distress prevention

Considering that the clear liquids are very easy for the body to digest and absorb, the diet is also used for the purposes of dealing with issues like vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Patients suffering from such can reduce severity of viruses responsible for the distresses and at the same time also prevent dehydration. Chemotherapy and other medical conditions can also leave you feeling nauseous and the benefits of this diet can be used for relief.

Clear liquid diet Foods allowed

Fruit juices

The diet may be generally all about liquids and foods that are liquid at room temperature, but then again not all liquids pass for the diet. The foods that are allowed in this diet include:

  • Clear broths, gelatin products
  • Clear juices that have no pulp
  • Electrolyte drinks
  • Plain popsicles without pureed fruits and chunks
  • Tea without cream or milk
  • Flavored, plain or carbonated water
  • Fruit juices without pulp
  • Strained tomato and vegetable juices
  • Hard candy like lemon drops
  • Sports drinks
  • Ice pops without nuts, seeds and fruit bits

From the list it is obvious that the options are numerous for individuals put on the clear liquids. However, there are some liquids that should be avoided during the recommended period and they include:

  • Dairy products
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Cola and soda
  • Unstrained vegetable and tomato juices

Liquids that are purple or red colored could also be avoided considering they have the possibility of leaving the color on the intestinal track that could be confused for blood. When this happens then it becomes difficult for doctors to get the accurate results they need with the screening tests. It is always best that you follow the diet instructions given by your doctor to increase the accuracy levels of any tests run.

Pros of clear liquid diet

  • This diet is very effective in preparing patients for medical tests, surgeries and other procedures necessary
  • It is very easy to follow
  • The diet is inexpensive compared to other diets for different medical conditions
  • It still offers the body the nourishment that it requires to function as necessary
  • It is usually on a short term basis
  • Easily digested preventing vomiting and nausea

Cons of clear liquid diet

  • The clear liquid diet can unfortunately become boring, especially when it runs a little longer than expected
  • It can leave you feeling hungry and tired because it does not have lots of calories and nutrients

How a typical day diet plan looks like

If you have been put on a clear liquid diet and you are wondering how to go about, the precise menu plan can help you get an idea of how to go about it. Of course you can always ask your doctor for guidelines with the diet if you are not very confident doing it on yourself and wish to avoid mistakes.

1BreakfastFor your breakfast, you can take a bowl of gelatin, glass of fruit juice, a cup of broth and a cup of tea or coffee of course without milk or cream
2SnackThe snack between your breakfast and lunch should not be any different. You can have a bowl of gelatin and a glass of fruit juice to keep you going.
3LunchYour lunch can be exactly the same as breakfast, but you can throw in a glass of water as well flavored just like you love
4SnackAgain the snack between lunch and dinner can be a cup of tea or coffee without dairy, soft drink and an ice pop without the fruit pulp.
5DinnerDinner is not any different from your lunch or breakfast for this diet. A cup of juice, broth, tea and a bowl of gelatin should suffice.

It may not seem as much, but considering that you are under the diet for a very important purpose should keep the hunger pangs down till you can eat soft foods and graduate slowly to your favorites in the right time. You can of course also alter the menu offered above as long as you keep within the liquids considered suitable for the diet. Playing around with all the options can help you get over the boredom that might come with the diet.

Helpful tips to keep the diet interesting

The hunger pangs are what most people deal with when on this diet. It is not completely balanced and for this reason you are likely to have cravings. But the purpose behind the diet should be enough a drive for you to keep up with it. Whereas it may not be possible to change the diet, there are a few things you can do to make it a little more bearable. The few tips below can come in handy.

  1. Choose nutritional supplements that your doctor approves to cater to the deficiencies and deal with any cravings your body could be experiencing during the dieting period
  2. Try out different flavors to keep the cravings minimal. You can go for salty electrolyte drinks or sweet gelatin for instance. The options are numerous so keep making variations to deal better with the changes.
  3. Drink as much water as you possibly can. It is a simple way of keeping yourself well-hydrated and to reduce the hunger pangs as well.
  4. Take the clear liquids as often as you need to. Scheduling them like you do with your regular meals may not work as effectively. Simply consume more frequently during your day to enjoy manageable satiety.
  5. Drink electrolyte drinks to keep your body supplied with necessary minerals.

Risks coming with a clear liquid diet

As important and helpful as the clear liquid diet could be in given situations, it does come with a number of risks, especially for people with nutritional deficiencies and those who are underweight. The risks come in largely because the diet lacks proper nutrients compared to a diet that is rich in proteins, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. If done for a long period of time it could easily lead to malnourishment hence the reason why it is recommended for short term use. Some of the symptoms you could experience when under this diet include:

  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pains
  • Heart problems
  • Infertility
  • Weakness
  • Bone damage

The symptoms will usually show in extended periods under the diet or going into the diet for no medical reason. People with eating disorders, endocrine disorders, nutritional imbalances and those who are underweight should approach the diet with care. It is important that your doctor knows everything about your medical history before anything else.

For people with diabetes, the diet could lead to blood sugar swings that can be dangerous. It is important they remain under doctor guidance and monitoring during the dieting period. For diabetics, the clear liquid diet should offer 200g or carbohydrates throughout the day to keep blood sugar in check. Transition back to solids should be as fast as possible, making it even more important for them to be monitored by a doctor closely.

When used as a weight loss strategy, the diet will yield results, but they may not be long term. Once individuals go back on solids the weight is regained fast. It is advisable that the diet is used only when recommended by a doctor for specific medical purposes. When you fail to follow instructions given by the doctor then you risk being misdiagnosed. You could also end up plunging your body into more problems.

Before starting with the diet

  • Understand why it is important that you keep up with the instruction given by your doctor
  • Let the doctor know everything about your health status past and present
  • Ask about what clear liquids are suitable and which ones you should avoid
  • Request that the doctor helps you draw a day meal plan for the few days you will be on a diet
  • Remain in close monitoring if you are diabetic
  • Follow the diet instructions to the letter no matter how strong the cravings are
  • Only go into the diet for the right medical purpose; choose a different weight loss approach

The conclusion

The clear liquid diet is definitely very important for different tests, procedures and surgeries. For the best results you of course must make a point of following the guidelines given by your doctor. It is the only way you will help them get the right diagnosis and choose the proper treatment for the health issue at hand. Considering that the diet lacks in being balanced, you should find out what supplements are so as to to find your balance for the few days you will be under the diet. Ask as many questions as possible so you can keep up with the diet without stressing your body too much.

The changes that come with the diet are likely to lead to a few effects. It is important that you report such effects to your doctor so you can be advised otherwise. Diabetic people especially need to be on the lookout when going into this diet. Considering, however that it is a diet recommended for short term use, it should not be too long before you are able to go back to your favorite foods.

This article goes to answer most commonly asked questions about the diet. You can however always get more clarifications from your doctor about the clear liquid diet so you go into it with an open mind and the right attitude for the sake of bouncing back into a healthier you.

I have been a Registered Dietitian for over 11 years, working in many different capacities. The majority of my experience has been working as an outpatient dietitian. I have had a lot of experience in the areas of research, general wellness, weight loss, oncology, CKD/renal failure, celiac disease, diabetes (I and II) and gastrointestinal concerns.


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