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Clear Liquid Diet


A diet of clear liquids gives some energy and maintains vital body fluids, salts, and minerals when normal food intake is interrupted. Clear liquids are easily absorbed by the body. They reduce stimulation of the digestive system, and leave no residue in the intestinal tract.
This is why a clear liquid diet is often recommended in preparation for surgery, and is generally the first diet given by mouth after surgery. Clear liquids are given when a person has been without food by mouth (NPO) for a long time. This diet is also used in preparation for medical procedures such as sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or certain x-rays.

Nutrition Facts

A clear liquid diet is not adequate in calories and nutrients. It should not be used for more than five days unless high-protein gelatin or other low-residue supplements are added.

Special Considerations

  1. Limitations - The physician may limit certain liquids, depending on the patient's condition, or the surgery or test being performed. Therefore, individual instructions should be strictly followed.
  2. What is a clear liquid? A good rule-of-thumb is anything you can see through. For example, apple juice is a clear liquid; milk is not. If unsure, check with the physician or registered dietitian.
  3. Should persistent abdominal cramps or discomfort occur with a clear liquid diet after surgery and fasting, the patient should notify the physician, nurse, or dietitian at once.
  4. Preparing for a medical test-It is important that the clear liquid diet be followed exactly. Remember that the value of the examination will depend on getting a thoroughly clean digestive tract.

Food Groups

Group Recommend Avoid
Sweets & Desserts Gelatin, fruit ice, Popsicles without pulp, clear hard candy All others
Fats & Oils None All
Milk & Milk Products None All
Meat or Meat Substitutes None All
Vegetables None All
Fruits Fruit juices without pulp Nectars, all fresh canned and frozen fruits
Breads & Grains None All
Soups Bouillon, consommé, fat free broth All others
Beverages Coffee, tea, soft drinks, water, lactose-free, low residue supplements if approved by physician All others

Sample Menu

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Strained fruit juice 1 cup Consommé ¾ cup Consommé ¾ cup
Gelatin ½ cup Strained fruit juice 1 cup Strained fruit juice 1 cup
Hot tea with sugar & lemon Fruit ice ½ cup Fruit ice ½ cup
Gelatin ½ cup Gelatin ½ cup
Hot tea with sugar & lemon Hot tea with sugar & lemon

Sample diet provides the following

Calories 660
Protein 6 gm
Carbohydrates 209 gm
Fat Virtually none
Sodium 1500 mg
Potassium 1440 mg