Foods Allowed on a Clear Liquid Diet

What Is and Is Not Allowed on a Clear Liquid Diet

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A clear liquid diet can be a little confusing to people, because while most of the foods allowed are considered "clear" and "liquid," some allowed items are neither of those things. Once you know that, though, dealing with a clear liquid diet can be easier to handle if you must be on it before a procedure or surgery. Nobody should be on a clear liquid diet long-term, though, because it won't contain enough nutrients to support health.

It's only used for certain circumstances, and then only under the care of a physician. Besides that, it's very difficult to follow a liquid diet for more than a few days; most people get headaches, feel weak, and can't concentrate.

Why Would You Need a Clear Liquid Diet?

There are several reasons why a doctor might recommend that a patient be on a clear liquid diet for a time. This could include before or after abdominal surgery, when preparing for a test (like a colonoscopy), or during a serious flare-up of an intestinal condition such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Other reasons could be in the case of a bowel blockage (an obstruction) or if a person is having trouble chewing or swallowing more solid foods. The diet is only followed for as long as necessary, and a doctor will want a patient to get back to a more healthful diet as soon as possible.

Usually, when a patient is ready to move up from the liquid diet, the next step is a full liquid diet.

The full liquid diet is also pretty restrictive, but it contains a few more foods, most notably milk products like creamed soups and ice cream.

But Coffee Is Not Clear? Gelatin and Popsicles Are Not Liquid?

As the name suggests, this diet consists of only liquids that are considered to be "clear." This does not mean just water, but includes other liquids that don't contain ingredients such as milk or any kind of solid food.

Items on this diet consist mostly of water and sugar or salt.

While decaffeinated coffee isn't considered "clear" and decaffeinated tea is probably only loosely defined as clear, these are both allowed on the clear liquid diet. However, adding anything to them, like sugar, honey, milk, or coffee creamer, would not be allowed on this diet.

Gelatin and popsicles aren't quite what most people would consider liquids, but they are allowed on a clear liquid diet. The only caveat is that the popsicles can't contain anything like fruit pulp or seeds, or have a milk base. Gelatin must also be free of any fruit or other toppings. In some cases, as before a colonoscopy, certain colors of popsicles or gelatin might not be allowed. The red or orange colors are sometimes strong enough that they could transfer that color to the inside of the colon. Because a physician needs to see the tissue inside the colon free of any colors or obstructions, this would naturally impair the test.

Recommended Foods on a Clear Liquid Diet

Following a clear liquid diet is difficult, even for a short amount of time.

It helps to be creative and to look for liquids that can offer some taste and variety. Gelatin, clear fruit juice (think apple or white grape), and popsicles can make it easier. A hot bowl of broth or bouillon is also an option. Remember that this diet is only to be followed under the supervision of a physician.

  • Clear beverages without caffeine
  • Clear broth (bouillon)
  • Clear fruit juice (excluding cranberry and citrus options)
  • Decaffeinated coffee
  • Decaffeinated tea
  • Gelatin
  • Popsicles

Foods Omitted from a Clear Liquid Diet

Not all juices are allowed on this diet, and not all liquids are, either. If it has a milk base, or pulp, it's not allowed. If you have questions about foods that are/are not allowed, call your doctor or nurse for clarification.

  • Citrus juices
  • Milk products
  • Solids of any kind

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