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Types of Diets in Hospitals

author image Nicole Etolen
Based in East Stroudsburg, Pa., Nicole Etolen is a freelance writer, blogger, and former Certified Nursing Assistant. She has been professionally writing since 1995, with articles appearing in "Lehigh Valley Bridal Magazine," "A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press" and numerous independent publications. Nicole is also the owner and sole author of Pretty Opinionated, a successful lifestyle blog for busy moms of school-age children, as well as a staff writer for several other parenting sites.

Doctors prescribe a variety of diets for patients in a hospital setting, ranging from a normal diet to nothing by mouth for a designated amount of time. The type of diet depends on the patient’s needs and restrictions, according to Susan G. Dudek in “Nutrition Essentials for Nursing Practice.” For example, a patient just coming out of tonsillectomy surgery will be on a completely different diet than a patient recovering from a broken leg.

Regular Diet

Dudek explains that regular diets, also called normal or house diets, are used to maintain or achieve the highest level of nutrition in patients who do not have special needs related to illness or injury. While regular diets do not have portion or choice restrictions, they are altered to meet the needs of the patient’s age, condition and personal beliefs. For example, a pregnant woman may require more calories and different nutrients than a young child would need.

Liquid Diets

The three types of liquid diets are clear liquid, full liquid and pureed, according to “Fundamentals of Nursing” by Carol Taylor. Doctors typically prescribe liquid diets as a transitional diet after illness or surgery. Clear liquid diets include water, broth, clear juices such as apple or grape, popsicles and gelatin. Full liquid diets allow all the liquids in a clear liquid diet plus thicker fluids such as milk, pudding and vegetable juices. A pureed diet allows all foods as long as they are converted to a liquid form in a blender.

Soft Diets

Soft diets transition patients from a liquid diet to a regular diet. Patients prescribed a soft diet are restricted to foods that can be mashed with a fork. This includes cooked fruits and vegetables, bananas, soft eggs and tender meats. A mechanical soft diet allows most foods as long as they can be chopped, ground, mashed or pureed to a soft texture. This excludes most raw fruits and vegetables or foods containing seeds and dried fruits.

Restricted Diets

Restricted diets encompass a variety of special diets that limit the amount of calories, fat, salt and other substances based on the patient’s medical needs. For example, a restricted-fat diet allows only low-fat versions of milk, cheese, cereal and ice cream but does not place limits on the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables a patient may consume, according to “Fundamentals of Nursing.” A restricted diet can also modify the other types of diets. For example, a post-operative patient with heart disease may be prescribed a low-fat full liquid diet.

Therapeutic Diets

Dudek explains that physicians use therapeutic diets to treat disease or illness. Like restricted diets, they can also be used to modify another type of hospital diet. Types of therapeutic diets include modification of calorie intake, such as with patients that need a high calorie diet to promote weight gain; modification of certain nutrients including protein and carbohydrates; or diets that encourage an increased fluid intake.

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  • “Nutrition Essential for Nursing Practice”; Susan G. Dudek; 2007
  • “Fundamentals of Nursing”; Carol Taylor; 2008
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