What You Can Eat on a Clear Liquid Diet

A hot bowl of broth with a glass of lemonade never sounded so good

Clear broth is good for a clear liquid diet.
Clear broth is good for a clear liquid diet. Barbara Bonisolli/Getty Images

There may be times when you need to follow a diet that's been altered for texture and consistency like a clear liquid diet. This type of diet may be recommended for a number of reasons—most notably in preparation for surgery or a procedure like a colonoscopy or due to a health concern like a bowel obstruction.

What is a Clear Liquid Diet?

A clear liquid diet is a type of mechanically altered diet that includes only liquids without any pulp, bits of food, or other residue.

They may have a tint (like orange juice or cranberry juice), and they may be sweetened or a little salty, but you shouldn't see anything floating around in the liquid.

The premise behind a clear liquid diet is that these liquids are easy to digest and don't put much stress on your digestive system but still prevent your body from becoming dehydrated.

Acceptable Clear Liquids

These fluids are usually allowed on a clear liquid diet, but you should check with your doctor to see if there are any additional restrictions.

  • Water
  • Strained fruit juice without pulp (for example, apple juice, white grape juice)
  • Lemonade (no pulp)
  • Fat-free, low sodium chicken/vegetable/beef broth
  • Bouillon dissolved in water
  • Flavored gelatin without any fruit or solids added to it
  • Coffee (no cream, but sugar may be OK)
  • Tea (no cream, but sugar may be OK)
  • Soft drinks (for example, ginger ale, 7 UP, and cola may be OK)
  • Popsicles that don't contain any fruits, ice cream, or sherbet
  • Sports drinks (for example, Gatorade)
  • Hard candies

You must avoid liquids that aren't clear, such as milk, cream, whipped cream, almond milk, soups (other than plain broth), and fruit juice or lemonade that has pulp. Avoid alcoholic beverages, as well.

Sample Menu of a Clear Liquid Diet

While a clear liquid diet is a rather boring diet, it's only temporary.

Here's a sample menu idea of what you can have.

Breakfast

  • One cup apple juice
  • One cup coffee
  • One dish flavored gelatin

Morning Snack

  • One cup apple juice
  • One popsicle
  • One glass water

Lunch

  • One cup tea 
  • One cup beef broth
  • One glass water
  • One dish of flavored gelatin

Afternoon Snack

  • One popsicle
  • One piece of hard candy
  • One glass water

Dinner

  • One cup chicken broth
  • One glass water
  • One cup tea
  • One dish of flavored gelatin

Nighttime Snack

  • One cup grape juice
  • One piece of hard candy

This is only an example menu. You can probably have more or less food, depending on your appetite, and your doctor's instructions.

A Word From Verywell

It's important to note that a clear liquid diet is not meant to be followed for more than a few days and is only advised under the guidance of your health care provider. Hopefully, you'll soon be able to switch to a full liquid diet, which contains a few more foods like creamed soups and ice cream. 

That being said, if you need to follow it for a longer period of time, your doctor may recommend adding low residue supplements or high-protein gelatin because a diet like this doesn't provide enough calories or nutrients.

One other thing to remember is that red-colored foods can make it look like you have bloody stools, and grape juice may turn stools green.

If you are undergoing a procedure like a colonoscopy, your doctor may not want you to consume certain colored popsicles or gelatin, as it can temporarily stain the colon, making the test less accurate.

With that, it's a good idea to keep track of the clear liquids you're eating in case your doctor needs to know.

Sources:

Maher AK. Simplified Diet Menu. Eleventh Edition, Hoboken NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, October 2011. 

Stanford Medicine Cancer Institute. Clear Liquid Guidelines.

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