What all can you eat on a clear liquid diet?

A clear liquid diet is a diet that consists of only clear liquids and foods that are liquid at room temperature. This type of diet is usually recommended for a short period of time before or after certain medical procedures. The goal of a clear liquid diet is to give the digestive system a rest while still providing hydration and some nutrients. Some examples of clear liquids that are typically allowed on this diet include:


Water should be your main source of hydration when following a clear liquid diet. You can drink plain water, carbonated water, or flavored water. Some tips for getting enough water in your clear liquid diet:

  • Aim for at least 64 ounces (8 cups) of water per day.
  • Add slices of lemon, lime, cucumber or watermelon to your water for some natural flavor.
  • Drink water consistently throughout the day rather than trying to drink a large volume all at once.
  • Set a reminder to drink a glass of water every 1-2 hours.
  • Use a tracker like a water bottle or app to monitor your water intake.
  • If drinking plain water gets boring, switch it up with sparkling water or add a splash of 100% fruit juice for flavor.

Clear Broths and Bouillon

Broths and bouillon provide sodium and other electrolytes in addition to hydration. Look for low-sodium, fat-free options when possible. Some examples of clear broths and bouillons include:

  • Chicken broth or bouillon
  • Beef broth or bouillon
  • Vegetable broth or bouillon

Focus on broths rather than cream-based soups which are not allowed on a clear liquid diet. Opt for broths without solid pieces of vegetables, meat or grains. Bouillon cubes or powders are a convenient option for making quick broth from home.

Fruit Juices

Fruit juice without pulp provides hydration along with vitamins and minerals. Make sure to choose 100% fruit juice with no added sugar. Some examples of allowed clear fruit juices include:

  • Apple juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Grape juice
  • Lemonade
  • Limeade
  • Strained orange juice
  • Strained grapefruit juice

It’s best to limit fruit juice to no more than 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) per day on a clear liquid diet due to the high sugar content. Dilute juices with water or club soda to cut down on sweetness.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade provide electrolytes lost through vomiting, diarrhea or heavy sweating. Look for low-calorie options in clear colors rather than milky sports drinks. Avoid sports drinks with high sugar content.

Gelatin and Popsicles

Plain gelatin, such as Jello, and ice pops made from clear fruit juices are usually allowed on a clear liquid diet. Gelatin provides protein while remaining a clear liquid when solidified. Check product labels since some gelatins contain forbidden ingredients like fruit chunks or whipped cream. Other gelatin dessert options include:

  • Flavored gelatin cups
  • Gelatin snacks
  • Fruit ice pops
  • Italian ice cups
  • Popsicle brands without fruit chunks, seeds or pulp

Tea and Coffee

Plain tea, iced tea, and black coffee are permitted on a clear liquid diet. Avoid adding milk, cream or non-dairy creamers since these can turn coffee and tea opaque. Sweeten beverages with sugar substitutes if desired. Some examples of allowed teas and coffees include:

  • Regular and herbal tea
  • Chamomile tea
  • Green tea
  • Black coffee
  • Iced tea unsweetened or sweetened with clear sweetener

Caffinated beverages can help provide energy but avoid drinking close to bedtime. Add a splash of lemon, lime or fruit juice to tea or coffee for extra flavor.

Clear Nutritional Beverages

Beverages made for oral nutritional supplements, such as Ensure Clear, can provide needed calories and nutrients. These are especially helpful for those following a clear liquid diet for an extended period of time. Look for clear nutritional drinks without artificial colors or sweeteners. Some examples include:

  • Ensure Clear
  • Boost Breeze
  • Glucerna Clear

Consult your doctor before relying solely on nutritional supplements while following a clear liquid diet.

What Not to Drink on a Clear Liquid Diet

It’s just as important to know what you cannot drink on a clear liquid diet. Avoid any beverages that are opaque, creamy or contain pulp. Here are some examples of liquids to avoid:

  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Smoothies
  • Protein shakes
  • Juice with pulp
  • Nectars
  • Soda
  • Alcohol

Also steer clear of coffee and tea containing milk, cream or creamer. Although tempting, alcoholic beverages are typically not allowed but always check with your physician.

Clear Liquid Diet Sample Menu

Here is a sample menu of what you could drink in one day on a clear liquid diet:

Meal Beverages
Breakfast Black coffee, cranberry juice
Mid-morning Herbal tea
Lunch Chicken broth, flavored gelatin, water
Mid-afternoon Sparkling water with lime, apple juice
Dinner Vegetable broth, Ensure Clear, chamomile tea
Evening Green tea, water

This provides variety throughout the day while sticking to allowed clear liquids. Always drink water in addition to other allowed beverages to maintain hydration.

Tips for Following a Clear Liquid Diet

Here are some additional tips to help you follow a clear liquid diet:

  • Sip slowly. Drinking too quickly can cause nausea. Take small sips and pace yourself when drinking liquids.
  • Set reminders to drink. Space out your beverage intake throughout the day. Reminders can help ensure you drink enough fluids.
  • Reduce caffeine and sugar. Caffeinated and sugary beverages can cause diarrhea or dehydration. Follow any dietary restrictions given by your doctor.
  • Supplement with clear nutrition drinks. If allowed for more than a day or two, supplement with clear nutrition drinks to provide extra calories, protein and nutrients.
  • Avoid straws. Straws can potentially cause swallowing excess air and discomfort. Drink directly from cups instead.
  • Rinse with mouthwash. Use mouthwash to maintain oral hygiene if you are unable to brush your teeth as normal.
  • Stay near a restroom. Be prepared for frequent urination and potential diarrhea while increasing fluid intake.

Always follow your doctor’s specific instructions when following a clear liquid diet. Notify your physician if you experience signs of dehydration including excessive thirst, dark urine or dizziness.

How Long Should You Follow a Clear Liquid Diet?

In most cases, a clear liquid diet is prescribed for a short period of time. Here are some general guidelines on how long it is safe to follow this restrictive diet:

  • 1-2 days – Preparing for a colonoscopy, GI procedure or surgery
  • 3 days – Recovering from a GI illness like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • 1 week – Maximum time recommended. Requires close monitoring and nutrition supplementation under medical supervision.

Your doctor will let you know the recommended length of time to follow a clear liquid diet based on your personal medical needs. It is not safe to follow a clear liquid diet for more than 7 days without medical advice. You may require IV fluids and nutrition if unable to sufficiently hydrate and get calories from clear liquids alone.

Transitioning Off a Clear Liquid Diet

Once your doctor says you are ready to start eating solid foods again, it is important to transition slowly back to your normal diet. Here are some tips for transitioning off a clear liquid diet:

  • Wait until any nausea, vomiting or diarrhea has resolved completely before advancing your diet.
  • Start by introducing easy to digest foods like saltine crackers, white bread, brothy soups, peeled fruits and yogurt.
  • Eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day rather than large volumes at once.
  • Chew foods very thoroughly and eat slowly to improve digestion.
  • Drink liquids between meals rather than with meals to prevent feeling overly full.
  • Avoid spicy, greasy or fried foods initially – stick with bland, low-fiber foods.
  • Stop eating if you feel full or have abdominal pain and progress diet at slower rate.

Notify your doctor if you have persistent nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or severe abdominal pain when transitioning your diet. You may need to reintroduce solid foods at a slower pace.

Does a Clear Liquid Diet Help You Lose Weight?

Following a clear liquid diet for 1-2 days prior to a procedure or surgery will likely not lead to significant weight loss. However, prolonged clear liquid diets of 3 or more days can result in weight loss for the following reasons:

  • Decreased calorie intake – Clear liquids provide minimal calories compared to solid foods. Without supplementation, drastic calorie deficits can lead to weight loss.
  • Loss of fluids – Clear liquid diets can lead to water and electrolyte imbalance. Fluid losses appear as weight lost on the scale.
  • Loss of muscle mass – The body breaks down muscle protein for energy when deprived of adequate calories long-term.

While a clear liquid diet may show a drop on the scale, it is not safe or sustainable for long-term weight loss. Most of the weight loss comes from dehydration and muscle loss rather than fat loss. Severe calorie restriction and low protein intake can cause malnutrition.

Healthier Ways to Lose Weight

Here are healthier and more sustainable ways to lose weight long-term without needing to follow an extremely restrictive diet:

  • Cut back on added sugars, processed foods, and saturated fat – Focus on whole, natural foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats.
  • Reduce portion sizes of calorie-dense foods – Measure portions to prevent overeating. Fill up on low-calorie foods with high volume.
  • Increase water intake – Drink water before meals which can aid weight loss. Replace sugary drinks with water.
  • Exercise regularly – Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week along with strength training.
  • Monitor calorie intake – Track calories consumed to create a moderate daily calorie deficit for slow weight loss without deprivation.
  • Get enough sleep and manage stress – Lack of sleep and high stress can increase cortisol levels, which can drive weight gain.

Consult your doctor or dietitian to develop a healthy, balanced weight loss plan tailored to your individual needs.

Potential Risks and Precautions

While clear liquid diets serve a purpose for short-term use, they come with health risks if followed for too long. Potential risks include:

  • Dehydration – Inadequate hydration leading to electrolyte imbalances.
  • Nutrient deficiencies – Lack of protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
  • Muscle wasting – Breakdown of muscle mass due to inadequate calories and protein.
  • High blood sugar – Spikes from high intake of juices and sports drinks.
  • Fatigue and weakness – From dehydration, hunger and low energy intake.
  • Gallbladder issues – Rapid weight loss increases risk of gallstones.

To reduce risks, closely follow your physician’s guidelines on the duration of your clear liquid diet. Supplement with clear nutrition drinks high in protein if allowed. Seek medical guidance before attempting to use a clear liquid diet for weight loss purposes.

The Bottom Line

A clear liquid diet can be an effective short-term solution to give your digestive system a rest or prepare for a medical procedure. However, it should only be followed for the minimum amount of time under medical supervision due to potential risks of dehydration, malnutrition and electrolyte imbalances. While you may lose weight quickly on this diet, most of it is due to dehydration and muscle loss rather than sustainable fat burning. For long-term weight loss, focus on creating a moderate calorie deficit combined with increased physical activity and consumption of natural, nutrient-dense foods.

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