What can I eat for breakfast the day before a colonoscopy?

When preparing for a colonoscopy, choosing the right foods to eat for breakfast the day before the procedure is very important. The colon needs to be completely clean and empty for the doctor to get a clear view during the colonoscopy. This means following a restricted diet of only clear liquids the entire day before the procedure. While this may seem limiting, there are still nourishing and satisfying breakfast options to enjoy.

Why follow a clear liquid diet before a colonoscopy?

Doctors recommend a clear liquid diet the day before a colonoscopy for a few key reasons:

  • It empties the colon – Liquids “run through” the digestive tract more quickly than solids, allowing the colon to be flushed of all solid matter.
  • It allows for thorough colon cleansing – With only clear liquids being consumed, the colon cleansing prep is able to work more effectively to cleanse the colon of any residual stool.
  • It enables a successful procedure – Any solid food left in the colon can obscure the doctor’s view of the colon lining, preventing an accurate test. The clear liquid diet helps maximize visibility.

Following the liquid diet is admittedly not the most exciting endeavor, but is a very necessary part of the colonoscopy prep process. Committing to only clear liquids from the time you wake up the day before the colonoscopy will set you up for the most effective colon cleaning and successful procedure.

What are clear liquids?

The term “clear liquids” indicates options that are entirely transparent and liquid at room temperature. This includes:

  • Water – plain, carbonated or flavored
  • Fruit juices without pulp – apple, white grape, lemonade
  • Clear broth – chicken, beef or vegetable broth
  • Gelatin – plain or flavored
  • Popsicles – plain or flavored, without pieces of fruit or cream
  • Tea or coffee without milk or creamer
  • Clear, see-through sports drinks like Gatorade
  • Soda
  • Hard candies

Cloudy liquids including orange juice with pulp, milk, cream, nectars, alcohol and nutritional supplement or meal replacement drinks are not considered clear. It is critical to stick to only approved clear liquids when following the colonoscopy prep diet.

Best clear liquid options for breakfast before a colonoscopy

Breakfast is traditionally thought of as the most important meal of the day. While the clear liquid breakfast you’ll be enjoying the morning before your colonoscopy will be lower in protein and fiber than you may be used to, you can still start your day off right and get the replenishment you need with these nourishing morning beverages:

1. Clear fruit juice

Fruit juice without pulp provides hydration first thing in the morning while giving you some fructose for an energy boost. Apple, white grape and lemonade are common go-to clear juice options. However, you can also look for interesting juice flavors like peach-pear or tropical fruit punch for variety.

2. Gelatin

Gelatin comes in a wide range of flavors from strawberry to lemon-lime. It may seem like a kids’ breakfast, but it is an excellent source of protein, which many adults fall short on. Look for sugar-free varieties to avoid an unnecessary sugar spike.

3. Clear broth

Sipping on warm, savory chicken, beef or vegetable broth is comforting first thing in the morning. Opt for low-sodium versions when possible. You can enhance broth with a squirt of lemon juice, a dash of hot sauce or fresh herbs.

4. Tea

Of course no breakfast beverage roundup would be complete without the quintessential morning drink – tea! Black, green and herbal teas are perfect choices the morning before your procedure. Avoid adding milk, cream or sweeteners besides a teaspoon or two of sugar or honey if desired.

5. Coffee

If you can’t face the day without your morning cup of joe, black coffee is fair game. Just be sure to forgo your regular creamer. However, 30 to 50 drops of pure, liquid coffee creamer can get you close to your daily cup.

6. Hot lemon water

For a minimalist, metabolism-boosting beverage, start your day with hot water and fresh lemon juice. The tart citrus flavor and warm temperature are an invigorating kickstart.

7. Flavored water

Jazz up regular water by infusing it with the flavors of mint, cucumber, berries and citrus fruits. Herbal tea bags like hibiscus, rosehip and passionfruit are also options for giving your water an extra splash of flavor.

8. Iced coffee or tea

While hot beverages may sound most appealing on a cool morning, you can absolutely still have iced coffee or tea if you prefer a chilled drink. Just skip the creamer and sweeten minimally with plain sugar.

Tips for clear liquid breakfasts before a colonoscopy

Adjusting to an all-clear liquid diet can definitely take some getting used to. These tips will help you make the most of your clear liquid breakfasts before your colonoscopy procedure:

  • Stay hydrated – Sip liquids continuously throughout the morning to stay hydrated and avoid hunger pangs.
  • Watch your caffeine – Caffeinated beverages can dehydrate you, so limit caffeine intake to 1-2 caffeinated drinks.
  • Keep a variety on hand – Alternate between 3-4 different clear liquids to keep your taste buds interested.
  • Flavor simply – Enhance beverages with lemon, herbs, spices, extracts like vanilla and food-safe essential oils versus creamers and sweeteners.
  • Set a schedule – Drink a set amount on the hour and half hour to keep yourself on track.
  • Drink through a straw – Sipping through a straw encourages continuous drinking.
  • Stay satisfied – Incorporate protein-rich choices like broth and gelatin to increase satiety.
  • Avoid overdoing it on sugar – Limit juice, soda, flavored gelatin and sweetened tea, or dilute with water to reduce sugar content.

Sample clear liquid breakfast schedule before colonoscopy

Planning out when you’ll consume which beverages can make the liquid diet more manageable. Here is a sample schedule:

Time Beverage
7 AM Hot lemon water (8 oz)
8 AM Coffee with 30 drops liquid creamer (6 oz)
9 AM Gelatin (4 oz)
10 AM Clear fruit juice (4 oz) diluted with 4 oz water
11 AM Chicken broth (8 oz)
12 PM Flavored water with lemon (8 oz)

This schedule gives you variety and nutrition from electrolyte-rich lemon water, protein from gelatin and broth, and carbohydrates from the juice and coffee to maintain energy levels in the morning before your prep time.

Foods and drinks to avoid the day before a colonoscopy

While the clear liquid diet for colonoscopy prep may seem restrictive enough, there are some candidates that may seem like they are okay but should also be avoided. These include:

  • Orange, grapefruit, tomato and V8 juices – These contain pulp that could clog up the colon.
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Cream Soups
  • Alcohol
  • Red and purple colored liquids – The dyes can discolor the lining of the GI tract.
  • Any liquid you cannot see through
  • Solid foods of any kind

Beverages that are not see-through, like orange juice with pulp and milk, are prohibited. Opaque substances can conceal sections of the colon and interfere with the visualization needed for an effective colonoscopy.

Should you eat a small breakfast meal if your colonoscopy is later in the day?

Patients scheduled for a colonoscopy later in the afternoon sometimes wonder if they can eat a small breakfast meal of eggs, plain oatmeal or yogurt early in the morning before starting their clear liquid diet. However, medical experts strongly advise against this.

Any solid foods consumed the day before the procedure can remain in the digestive tract and negatively impact the prep. Consuming a solid breakfast starts the digestive process and may make the subsequent clear liquids less effective at flushing everything out. Play it safe by strictly sticking to the liquids-only plan for the full day leading up to your colonoscopy.

Best and worst breakfast options before a colonoscopy

To recap, here are some of the best and worst breakfast choices the day before your colonoscopy:

Best Options

  • Water
  • Clear fruit juices without pulp
  • Plain gelatin
  • Broth
  • Tea
  • Black coffee
  • Flavored waters

Worst Options

  • Orange, grapefruit juice with pulp
  • Milk
  • Smoothies
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Creamy soups
  • Alcohol

Avoid anything that is not fully transparent and liquid. Steer clear of all solid foods, as well as opaque, cloudy or creamy beverages.

Frequently asked questions

Can I have lemon in my tea the morning before my colonoscopy?

Yes, you may have lemon wedges or a squirt of lemon juice added to hot or iced tea or water on the clear liquid diet as long as there are no seeds or pulp. Lemons provide flavor and valuable vitamin C.

Can I drink Ensure or Boost for breakfast protein?

Unfortunately nutrition shakes like Ensure and Boost are too opaque and milk-based to be allowed on the clear liquid diet. Your best bet for an AM protein boost is a cup of warm broth or plain gelatin.

What about a small bite of banana or toast to avoid hunger before starting the liquid diet?

While it’s tempting to have a small “last bite” of solid food, any amount of solid food consumed the day before your procedure can sabotage the prep process and negatively impact the visibility needed to perform the colonoscopy. Resist the urge to eat solids and stick to the liquid game plan.

Is herbal tea okay to drink the morning before my colonoscopy prep?

Yes, any kind of hot or iced herbal tea is certainly allowed without milk, creamer or sweetener that will make the tea opaque. Herbal teas can help provide comfort and fullness.

Can I have a little honey in my tea before my colonoscopy prep?

A small amount of pure liquid honey, up to 1-2 teaspoons, to sweeten tea or other clear liquids is generally considered okay. Honey will not affect the transparency or cleansing action like cream would.

The takeaway

While the clear liquid diet the day before a colonoscopy is limited, you still have options to stay nourished and satisfied. Stick to approved see-through beverages like fruit juices without pulp, broth, gelatin, tea, water and black coffee. Avoid cloudy liquids like milk, alcohol and orange juice with pulp. With some prep, you can still enjoy a comforting and hydrating breakfast the morning of your procedure.

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