What You Can Eat and Drink While On a Clear Liquid Diet

What to Eat and Avoid on a Clear Liquid Diet

woman drinking ice water
woman drinking ice water. Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

A clear liquid diet consists of clear foods and beverages -- such as gelatin, water and broth -- that contain no solids. It's intended to be easy-to-digest and to leave no residue in your gastrointestinal system.

There are a few reasons you may be asked to go on a clear liquid diet. It's most common if you're preparing for or recovering from surgery, or preparing for some blood tests. Find out what the liquid diet consists of and what you can (and can't) eat and drink when following a clear liquid diet.

What is a Clear Liquid Diet?

A clear liquid diet is a diet that consists of food and drinks that are clear, meaning you can see through them. In this type of diet, you aren't limited to colorless food and drink; the food or drink just can't have any solids in it. For example, milk is not a clear liquid; filtered coffee is (as long as you don't add milk or cream to it).

Also, although it's called a clear liquid diet, some solid-seeming foods are allowed. Gelatin and flavored ice (made from clear liquids) are allowed on this diet. They provide some contrast in texture, during an otherwise repetitive diet.

Why would a doctor recommend this diet?

The clear liquid diet is not intended for long term use. It is used to prepare for certain medical tests, more commonly blood work. It can very helpful if you are experiencing nausea and have trouble keeping things down. It lets you stay hydrated and get some calories without taxing your digestive tract.

It's also frequently called for before and after surgery.

Read More: 6 Tips to Prepare for a Blood Draw

What food is allowed on the clear liquid diet?

The following foods and drinks are allowed on the clear liquid diet:

  • Water
  • Clear juices (apple, cranberry, grape without pulp)
  • Clear, fat-free broth or bouillon
  • Sports drinks
  • Hard candy
  • Ice pops without any flecks of fruit or other texture
  • Tea or coffee without milk or cream (sugar or honey are okay)
  • Soda (any kind)
  • Strained tomato or vegetable juice
  • Strained lemonaid
  • Flavored gelatin dessert (without fruit or cream added)
  • Jelly (without seeds)

What food is not allowed on the clear liquid diet?

Everything not listed above should be avoided. You may get additional instruction from your doctor, too, depending on the reason for the clear liquid diet. Some colon tests require you to avoid red dye, which can color your intestine and make it hard to get a clear picture. For other conditions you may need to avoid caffeine.

What can you eat after a clear liquid diet?

Again, depending on the reasons you were on the clear liquid diet, your next foods might differ. If you still need a liquid diet, but can progress to solids, then you might be put on a full liquid diet. Or, if you were experiencing nausea, but are ready to try solids, then you might be able to eat some plain foods, such as crackers or rice.

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