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How to Do a Clear Liquid Diet

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Has your doctor recently instructed you to go on a clear liquid diet? After the initial frustration wears off at the simple eating plan that awaits you, you may find yourself wondering what you can even eat on this liquid diet.

Contrary to how it might sound, a clear liquid diet allows you more than water or juice. However, it is fairly restrictive and is only recommended for short periods of time in very specific situations. If you have just discovered that you will need to go on a clear liquid diet, but do not understand where to start or what you can eat, you have come to the right place.

What Is a Clear Liquid Diet?

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A clear liquid diet is a temporary diet comprising clear liquid food sources. Liquids like water, juices free from pulp, gelatin, and broth are staples of the diet. The term clear liquid diet is slightly prone to individual interpretation as food is considered acceptable as long as you can see through it.

This means you can incorporate liquid foods with coloring into the diet and foods that maintain a partial or fully liquid state at room temperature. The most important component of the clear liquid diet is that you are barred from eating any solid foods.

Key Considerations

It cannot be stressed enough that the clear liquid diet must never be undertaken without the careful supervision and guidance of a physician. Do not follow this way of eating without prior instruction from a doctor and do not maintain the clear liquid diet for over 3 or 4 days at the most.

If you are diabetic or have issues with your blood sugar and insulin levels, you will want to use special care before embarking on this diet. The diet itself does not contain much by way of protein and could be hard on your blood sugar levels if done in excess. Be sure to speak with your family doctor before making this drastic change and do not consume a fully liquid diet for more than a few days.

When Should You Go on a Clear Liquid Diet?


Preparing for a Surgery or Other Procedure

Doctors typically order you to go on a clear liquid diet if you are preparing for an upcoming surgery or procedure. For example, tests like a colonoscopy, that require your gut to be fully cleaned out before undertaking, might require a liquid diet. Since you are not eating solid foods, your digestion need not do much work to process the clear liquids, which will soothe and cleanse your digestive tract.

Surgeries on your stomach or a nearby organ could also necessitate your going on this diet for a few days. When performing highly sensitive surgeries, it is often important to have your system cleared out and not digesting any solid foods. A clear liquid diet accomplishes this effectively, but must only be followed for a short time before or after the procedure as instructed by your physician.

Digestive Problems

If you have digestive difficulties like Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis, your doctor may advise you to go on a clear liquid diet. These kinds of digestive problems are caused by acute inflammation and infection, with your body finding it difficult to break down, absorb, and eliminate solid foods properly. The longer this process continues, the more inflamed your gut will become.

Going on a diet of clear liquids for a few days gives your digestion system a rest from its intensive labors, allowing it to recalibrate before you try to reintroduce solid food again. If you start a special diet to manage an intestinal condition like diverticulitis, a diet of only clear liquids can be an effective precursor to clear out your system, allow it to heal, and prepare it for a new, healthier way of eating.

Acute Illness

Sometimes your doctor may recommend a clear liquid diet if you are dealing with an acute illness or a stomach virus where solid food poses a threat. If you have continuous diarrhea and are throwing up, it is unlikely you will process or keep solid food down.

Excessive diarrhea and vomiting can leave you dehydrated and malnourished and imbalance your electrolytes. A diet composed solely of clear liquids gives your body a chance to rest and provides you nutrients that your body can absorb much more easily while keeping you hydrated and nourished with some essential vitamins and minerals.

How Do You Do a Clear Liquid Diet?

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What to Eat

You are likely wondering what exactly it is you can eat on a clear liquid diet, and if it will bore your taste buds to death. There is more variety on this diet than you might imagine, but it is lacking in many key food groups and nutrient compounds. This the main reason why a diet comprising only clear liquids should not be followed for longer than a short time.

For certain types of tests or surgical procedures, your doctor may advise you to stay away from any types of liquids using purple or red coloring. Speak with your doctor regarding any special instructions that could be relevant in your particular situation. Clear nutritional beverages such as Enlive or Ensure Clear, clear sodas, juices free from pulp, lemonade free from pulp, and sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and Vitamin water are all allowed on this diet.

You may also enjoy clear soups and clear broth that do not contain any fat. You can still drink your favorite tea or coffee, but they will need to be consumed without cream or milk. Honey and plain gelatin are also allowed. For some variety, you might enjoy clear, hard candies such as lemon drops or peppermint rounds, clear popsicles, and strained vegetable or tomato juice. Of course, water is allowed on the clear liquid diet.

Stay away from any light or liquid foods like milk, yogurt, or juice with pulp. It may seem that they would be easily digestible, but they are not good choices to give your digestive tract a rest and are strictly and forbidden on this type of diet.

Typical Daily Menu

The limited nature of the clear liquid diet is one of the primary reasons it is not sustainable for more than a few days. You may find your taste buds crying out for variety after the initial period has passed. However, you can still make the most of your time on this diet by changing things up, using variety, and pairing different liquid types on different days.

There are many ways you could format your typical daily menu when on this diet, so remember that the following is just an example for easy reference. For breakfast, you might have a bowl of Jell-O, paired with a glass of juice without pulp. Enjoy your coffee or tea on the side without cream or milk, but add in some honey or sugar if so desired.

Since you are not consuming many calories on the clear liquid diet, it is important to eat frequently throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and prevent your blood sugar from dropping. Mid-morning, you might wish to have a snack of Jell-O and more juice without pulp.

For lunch, have pulp-free juice and a glass of water as your beverages. Try to incorporate hearty broth into your meal, paired with another bowl of Jell-O or some other type of gelatin.

Mid-afternoon, grab another snack to keep you going. Try a clear popsicle this time for some tasty variety and flavor, to enjoy with your favorite coffee or tea. You could also drink a clear soda if you wish. Just be sure to keep your coffee or tea plain with no milk or cream, but add in sugar or honey if you need some extra sweetness.

For your final meal of the day, you will want to incorporate most of the key elements of your liquid intake that day to pack a punch before allowing your system to rest overnight. Drink another glass of juice free from pulp, a glass of water, and your coffee or tea. Have another bowl of Jell-O and a cup of broth to finish your liquid diet regimen for the day.


The clear liquid diet is simple because it is easy to adhere to and does not cost much money to follow. However, it may leave you with low energy levels and excessive hunger before long due to its lack of solid food components.

If you are about to have a surgery or invasive medical test performed, a clear liquid diet might be your only option to prepare for the event. Alternatively, if you have an ongoing illness or digestive difficulties, a clear liquid diet might be the best way to recalibrate your system for a few days to let things settle down. Be sure to speak with your doctor regarding any associated risks for your personal health situation and any recommendations for you to adhere to when following the clear liquid diet.

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