Clear Liquid Diet – How It Works, What To Eat, & Foods To Avoid

Learn how this nutrient-dense diet works and what to eat and avoid while following it.

Medically reviewed by Vandana Gujadhur, RD & Yoga Expert Vandana Gujadhur Vandana GujadhurRD & Yoga Expert facebook_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Charushila Biswas MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist Experience: 6 years
Edited by , BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Ravi Teja Tadimalla BSc, Professional Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health Experience: 8 years
Fact-checked by , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach Payal Karnik MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Health & Nutrition Life Coach Experience: 2.5 years

A clear liquid diet consists of transparent liquids like water, broth, juice, etc. It is a nutrient-rich diet that is easy on digestion. It is prescribed by doctors for people with gastrointestinal problems, including those who are about to undergo a colonoscopy, or who have just come out of surgery. It should not be used as a weight loss diet. Vandana Gujadhur, Registered Dietitian, says, “the goal of the clear diet is to keep your gut clear while keeping your body hydrated.” This article gives you all the details about how a clear diet works and its benefits. You will also get a food list and learn what this diet is NOT meant for. Read on to get all the information!

What Is A Clear Liquid Diet?

According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), a clear liquid diet is a dietary plan that “consists solely of liquids/semi-liquids that are fully clear (1).” It is restricted to liquids that remain transparent at room temperature. The foods can have color but have to be transparent (2). This 3 to 5 day-long diet plan is prescribed by doctors to people dealing with digestive health issues, gastrointestinal tract issues, ulcers, diverticulitisi  Inflammation or infection in one or more pouches in the digestive tract that causes abdominal pain and fever. , and before or after gastrointestinal or colon surgeries. We will discuss how a clear liquid diet works in the next section. Read on.

protip_icon Fun Fact
Oprah Winfrey, the American talk show host, embarked on a liquid diet in 1988 and shed 30 kgs in order to get back into her Calvin Klein jeans while working in Baltimore.

How The Clear Liquid Diet Works

Woman following the clear liquid diet .
Image: Shutterstock

The clear liquid diet is rich in nutrition and electrolytesi  Electrically charged minerals in the blood and other bodily fluids responsible for regulating water and pH levels in the body. without being too harsh on digestion. It is meant for those dealing with GI tract inflammation or digestion problems that warrant a surgery or any other medical procedure. The diet provides hydration and the calories required to sustain a normal life for a short period of 3 to 5 days. But can being on a very low-calorie diet like this for a short time be good for you? Yes! Keep reading to find out why.

Why Clear Liquid Diet Is Good For You

Clear liquid diet helps the digestive system recover.
Image: Shutterstock

The clear liquid diet might be good for you as it is very light on your digestive tract. Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, IBS/IBD, ulcer, diverticulitis, colonoscopyi  A medical exam where a camera is passed through the anus to look for changes like swollen tissues or cancer in the intestines. , or any surgery involving the digestive system calls for giving complete rest to the stomach and the GI tract. Hospitals give this diet to patients before their surgery. You will be on this diet only for a few days before you gradually reintroduce semi-solid and solid foods into your diet.

protip_icon Fun Fact
Lily James went on a liquid diet for the movie “Cinderella.” Beyonce also went on a liquid diet and shed 20 pounds for her part in Dream Girls.

Following is the list of foods you can consume if you are asked to be on a clear liquid diet.

Clear Liquid Diet Foods List

Woman drinking fruit juice for clear liquid diet.
Image: Shutterstock

Foods allowed in a clear liquid diet are (1):

  •  Water
  •  Clear broth
  •  Fruit juices without pulp
  •  Vegetable juices without pulp
  •  Tea
  •  Gelatin
  •  Ice and ice chips
  •  Clear ice popsicle sticks
  •  Carbonated drinks
  •  Black coffee
  •  Sports drinks
  •  Hard candies

Scroll down for a simple chicken broth recipe you can make at home.

Clear Liquid Diet Recipe

1. Homemade Chicken Broth

Chicken broth
Image: Shutterstock


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 10 cups of water
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How To Prepare

  1. Rinse the chicken thoroughly under cold water. Remove excess fat and skin.
  2. Add the chicken and some water to a large pot. Bring it to a boil, reduce to low heat, and simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours.
  3. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to the pot. Continue simmering for another 1-2 hours until the chicken is fully cooked and the vegetables are soft and tender.
  4. Season the broth with salt and pepper to taste and strain it.
  5. Ladle the broth into bowls and enjoy.

The food choices are limited, and depending on your medical condition, your nutritionist, physician, or dietitian may alter the above list. You will generally be on this diet for a maximum of 5 days. With that in mind, check out our sample menu plan for a clear liquid diet.

Clear Liquid Diet Sample Menu

Breakfast1 cup tea/coffee
Snack1 cup fruit juice without pulp
Lunch1 cup clear broth
Snack1 cup carbonated drink/gelatin/ice pop
Dinner1 cup clear vegetable or bone broth

Staying on a clear liquid diet is not going to be easy. But remember why your doctor has recommended it.

Here’s the list of foods to avoid when on a clear liquid diet.

Foods To Avoid

Avoid protein and high-fiber food in clear liquid diet.
Image: Shutterstock
  • Solid food
  • High-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Protein sources like meat and fish, eggs, lentils, soy, and soy products
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt (unless your doctor permits), and cheese
  • Pulpy fruit juice
  • Spicy food
  • Fried food
  • Processed and canned foods
  • Soft drinks
  • Alcoholic drinks

You cannot consume any solid or semi-solid foods, whether whole or processed/canned. You also need to keep a few other points in mind.

Other Things To Know

  • Let your dietitian know if you have diabetes. People with diabetes may experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if they go on a very low-calorie diet like the clear liquid diet.
  • Avoid consuming a clear liquid diet with red or purple-colored liquids if you are going for a colonoscopy. Such liquids may hamper the imaging. Ask your doctor about red or purple clear liquids. Additionally, following a liquid diet might lead to a headache, nausea, and weakness prior to and after the procedure. Kate Bennet, a blogger, shared her experience following a clear liquid diet on the day of her colonoscopy. She ate easy-to-digest foods the days before to ease into the liquid diet. She made homemade jello and drank chicken broth on the day of the procedure. She adds, “Last time, I had to be at work for half the day, but this time around I was able to stay home and work on my blog, do a few things around the house, and relax. No headaches from having to stare at the computer. I also was able to sleep in so that left me with less time to be hungry (i)!”

The clear liquid diet may be beneficial for treating gut issues; however, it is not recommended for weight loss. Scroll down to understand why.

Why The Clear Liquid Diet Is Not Meant For Weight Loss

Followng clear liquid diet for weigh loss may cause nausea.
Image: Shutterstock

Many people who want to lose weight quickly prefer going on a clear liquid diet or a liquid diet to achieve their goals. But a clear liquid diet or any liquid diet is NOT recommended for weight loss. It is low in calories and lacks enough nutrients required for the normal functioning of the body and brain. Also, such a diet is unsustainable. It can cause nausea, mood swings, irritability, and increase hunger pangs. You will not adhere to the diet for long. You may also give in to the hunger and consume more calories. The clear liquid diet needs to be done under constant supervision of a healthcare professional.

Infographic: Clear Liquid Diet: Benefits And Foods To Eat And Avoid

The clear liquid diet is nutrient-rich, easy to digest, and a great option for people with gastrointestinal issues or those undergoing surgery. Unlike other diets, it is not for weight loss and only keeps you hydrated while getting treated for digestion-related issues. Check out the following infographic to learn about its benefits and what to eat and avoid.

clear liquid diet benefits and foods to eat and avoid (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

A clear liquid diet consists of clear liquids such as water, broth, and some juices that are easy to digest. This transparent liquid diet helps you recover from medical procedures and surgery and provides hydration. It is low in calories and easy to follow. Also, it is an ideal diet plan for anyone with GI tract and serious digestive problems. Fruit and vegetable juices without pulp, gelatin, tea, sports drinks, and carbonated drinks are some of the best foods for a clear liquid diet. However, this diet should only be followed upon medical recommendation. Let your dietitian know if you have diabetes or are allergic to specific food sources before starting this diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is applesauce okay for a clear liquid diet?

No, applesauce is semi-solid and unsuitable for a clear liquid diet.

What soups are considered clear liquid?

Clear strained soup, broth of chicken, veggies, seafood, and plain water-based transparent soups are all considered clear liquid.

Do you still poop on a liquid diet?

Yes, you do pass fecal matter during a liquid diet. However, a liquid diet can result in frequent loose stools due to a lack of solids.

Is tomato soup a clear liquid?

No, tomato soup is cloudy and is not considered a clear liquid.

Is sherbet a clear liquid?

No, sherbet is not considered a clear liquid as it is usually non-transparent.

Is Chicken Noodle Soup a clear liquid diet?

You may take strained chicken noodle soup on a clear liquid diet.

Key Takeaways

  • On a clear liquid diet, you can only consume liquids that remain transparent at room temperature.
  • This diet is usually prescribed in the recovery phase after surgery and for gastrointestinal problems.
  • Water, clear broth, tea, and juices without pulp are some of the liquids included in this diet.
  • It is generally recommended for a duration of 3 to 5 days.
clear liquid diet

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Learn how to make the most of a clear liquid diet with this helpful video! Click on it now to get tips on what to eat, how to stay hydrated, and how to stay healthy.

Personal Experience: Source


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Vandana Gujadhur

Vandana GujadhurRD & Yoga Expert

Vandana is a registered dietitian with the Dietitians of Canada and part of the Cardiovascular, Obesity and Diabetes networks. She has 11 years of experience and is also a certified yoga instructor. She has a bachelor’s degree in Food and Nutrition from Acadia University and completed an Integrated Dietetic Internship at Annapolis Valley District Health Authority in Nova Scotia, full bio

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