Clear Liquid Diet

A clear liquid diet is a special diet that consists of clear fluids such as broth, plant gelatin, and water that are easily absorbed, leaving no undigested residues in the intestine.

Your physician may prescribe you a clear liquid diet before certain medical procedures(1) such as a colonoscopy study, or in certain GI tract diseases such as diverticulitis or esophageal disorders. Clear liquid diets are typically short-term diets and are rarely advised for more than a few days at a time.

Patients are not allowed to eat solid foods while on a clear liquid diet. Foods that melt partly or entirely at room temperature are called liquid foods. The general rule to qualify as a clear liquid food is one in which a newpaper or magazine can still be read when the liquid is held in front of it.

Purpose of clear liquid diet

A clear liquid diet is used before those medical procedures that require an empty stomach and intestines, such as colonoscopy(3).

Providers also prescribe it in certain digestive diseases such as diarrhea, vomiting, or after certain surgeries.

Special consideration

  • Your provider will limit the intake of certain fluids and allow you to take specific fluids. You should strictly follow provider instructions.
  • If you experience abdominal pain or cramping when on a clear liquid diet, contact your physician.
  • If your provider prescribes you a clear liquid diet before a diagnostic test, you should strictly follow the instructions; otherwise, it can interfere with the results.
  • You should avoid colored fluids before diagnostic procedures, such as red or purple-colored juices, as they can interfere with results.
  • If you have diabetes, please make sure to inform your provider, as you will require adjustment of the clear liquid diet in such a manner that your blood sugar level remains stable.
  • A clear liquid diet is deficient in calories and nutrients, so it shouldn't be used for extended periods of time.

Diet details

A clear liquid diet helps you get some calories and maintain electrolyte balance and sufficient hydration when a complete diet isn't allowed.

You are allowed to eat the following foods in a clear liquid diet(4):

  • Water
  • Pedialyte
  • Flavored gelatin/Jell-O (without fruit) and gummy bears
  • Coconut water (no pulp or mixtures)
  • Crystal Light (can also be used to flavor your prep)
  • Clear sports drinks (Gatorade, Propel, Powerade, etc)
  • Tea or coffee without cream
  • Carbonated drinks, such as soda or sparkling water
  • Clear vegetable, chicken or beef broth
  • Hard candies, lollipops, menthol cough drops (Tip: these are helpful to use between glasses of prep!)

Your dietician will advise you on certain foods to eat for a particular time, depending on your condition.

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Food Groups
Food Group Recommend Avoid
Milk & milk products none all
Vegetables none all
Fruits fruit juices without pulp nectars, all fresh, canned, and frozen fruits
Breads & grains none all
Fats & oils none all
Meat or meat substitutes none all
Fats & oils none all
Sweets & desserts* Gelatin (Jell-O), fruit ice, popsicle without pulp, clear hard candy all others
Beverages Coffee, tea, soft drinks, water all others
Soups Bouillon, consommé fat free broth all others
Sample Menu
Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • strained fruit juice 1 cup
  • gelatin 1 cup
  • hot tea with sugar & lemon
  • consommé 3/4 cup
  • strained fruit juice 1 cup
  • fruit ice 1/2 cup
  • gelatin 1/2 cup
  • hot tea with sugar & lemon
  • consommé 3/4 cup
  • strained fruit juice 1 cup
  • fruit ice 1/2 cup
  • gelatin 1/2 cup
  • hot tea with sugar & lemon
This sample diet provides the following:
Calories 600 Fat virtually none
Protein 6 g Sodium 1,500 mg
Carbohydrates 209 g Potassium 1,440 mg

References:

  1. Toledo TK, DiPalma JA. Review article: colon cleansing preparation for gastrointestinal procedures. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2001 May;15(5):605–11.
  2. Pixabay.com. Available from: https://pixabay.com/photos/drink-juice-fresh-refreshment-cold-3534434/
  3. Song G-M, Tian X, Ma L, Yi L-J, Shuai T, Zeng Z, et al. Regime for Bowel Preparation in Patients Scheduled to Colonoscopy: Low-Residue Diet or Clear Liquid Diet? Evidence From Systematic Review With Power Analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Jan;95(1):e2432–e2432.
  4. Oates JR, Sharma S. Clear Liquid Diet. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022.
  5. Pixabay.com. Available from: https://pixabay.com/photos/drink-glass-lime-mint-cold-fresh-1532300/

 

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