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A clear liquid diet is a diet consisting of foods and beverages made from liquids that you can see through. This type of diet is easily digested and leaves no residue in the gastrointestinal tract.

In the past, a clear liquid diet was routinely prescribed for hospitalized patients, often for several days. These days, though, it is generally avoided, unless absolutely necessary. A clear liquid diet may be necessary when the gastrointestinal tract needs to be free of food or needs to rest, for instance:

  • Before undergoing a test or procedure that involves the stomach or intestines
  • After surgery, to start the transition back to regular food
  • During flare-ups of certain digestive problems, such as diverticulitis

Although this diet allows for adequate hydration, it does not provide enough calories and nutrients. Therefore, be sure your doctor is following you closely while you are on this diet. Also, do not stay on this diet for more than a few days.

Foods Allowed
  • Water
  • Tea or coffee (without cream)
  • Juices without pulp such as apple, grape, cranberry, prune, lemonade
  • Clear liquid supplements such as Boost Fruit Flavored Beverage or Enlive
  • Soda
  • Clear broth or bouillon
  • Gelatin, without bits of fruit
  • Popsicles, without fruit or cream
  • Italian ice

Sugar, salt, and pepper are also allowed.

Foods to Avoid

Any foods not on the above list, including:

  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Smoothies
  • Milk shakes
  • Soup
  • Oatmeal
  • Cream of Wheat

RESOURCES:

American Gastroenterological Association
http://www.gastro.org

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/chn-rcs/index-eng.php

References:

Clear liquid diet. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Available at: http://nutritioncaremanual.org/vault/editor/Docs/Clear%20Liquid%20Diet.pdf . Accessed February 13, 2013.

Colonoscopy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what . Updated January 15, 2013. Accessed February 13, 2013.

Jackson F. Clear liquid diet. Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology website. Available at: https://gicare.com/diets/clear-liquid-diet/ . Accessed February 13, 2013.



Last reviewed September 2013 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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