Liquid diets and juice cleanses are popular among those who want to shed pounds fast. However, experts advise against using them for weight loss, as they may lead to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue and digestive distress. But there are certain situations when solid food is off-limits, such as before and after gastrointestinal surgery. From soup and yogurt to almond milk, there are plenty of liquid diet foods that will provide your body with the nutrients needed to heal and function optimally.
Avoid fatty foods, coffee, alcohol, sodas and other products that may irritate your stomach.
Liquid Diet Ideas
There are two types of liquid diets, and each has specific requirements. Your doctor may recommend a clear liquid diet before and after gallbladder surgery, for example. This eating plan consists of beverages and transparent liquid foods, such as broth, herbal teas and fruit juices without pulp.
A full liquid diet plan offers more flexibility. It may include cream soups, milk and dairy, protein shakes, meal replacement shakes, fruit and vegetable juices, pudding, ice pops and more. Some versions even allow mashed fruits and veggies. Basically, you can enjoy most foods with a clear or smooth consistency.
Whether you're going on a liquid diet for weight loss or for medical reasons, plan your menu in advance. Choose nutrient-dense liquid foods, such as smoothies and vegetable juices. According to the Journal of the Spinal Research Foundation, the highest demand for protein is during the first two weeks following a surgical procedure. Whey protein shakes, Greek yogurt, sour cream and other high-protein foods can get you back on your feet faster.
Unsweetened Almond Milk
Rich in vitamins and antioxidants, unsweetened almond milk is ideal for both clear and full liquid diets. It's dairy-free, so it can be safely consumed by people with lactose intolerance or milk allergies. One cup provides 39 calories, 1 gram of protein, 2.5 grams of fat and 3.4 grams of carbs. It's also rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin E and folate.
This beverage contains oleic acid, a dietary fat that may protect against heart disease. A 2015 review published in the journal Advances in Nutrition suggests that replacing trans fats with oleic acid may lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, leading to a reduced risk of cardiovascular events.
The nutritional value of almond milk varies from one brand to the next. Blue Diamond's Unsweetened Almond Milk, for example, delivers half the daily recommended intake of vitamin E, 25 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin D and 20 percent of the DV for calcium. According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin E reduces oxidative stress, regulates gene expression and supports immune function.
Organic Hemp Milk
Hemp milk is a good source of protein and phytonutrients. One cup has only 83 calories and provides 4.7 grams of protein, 1.3 grams of carbs, 7.3 grams of fat and 7 percent of the daily recommended iron intake. It also delivers significant amounts of omega-3s, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and zinc.
As the National Hemp Association notes, this healthful beverage contains no soy, gluten, dairy or allergens such as nuts. Therefore, it's suitable for vegans, dieters and individuals with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance.
Fruit and Vegetable Juices
Freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices are among the healthiest liquid diet foods. Loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they nourish your body and promote healing. If you're on a full liquid diet plan, simply remove the pulp.
Experiment with different fruits and vegetables to boost your nutrient intake. Apples, pears, oranges, beets, lime, kale, spinach and carrots are all excellent choices. For an exotic flavor, add papaya, mango or persimmon to the mix.
Read more: 10 Ultimate Smoothies for Any Time of Day
A recent study, published in the journal Neurology in 2018, has linked higher intakes of fruits, vegetables and fruit juices to a lower risk of cognitive problems. Researchers have found that orange juice can significantly reduce the odds of age-related cognitive decline. This beverage has been also shown to decrease inflammation and protect against oxidative stress, due to its high content of flavonoids.
Yogurt and Sour Cream
Both yogurt and sour cream are ideal for a liquid diet menu, assuming that you're not lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy. Rich in protein, these foods increase satiety and promote wound healing. Plus, they're high in calcium and quite low in calories.
One cup of plain yogurt has 137 calories, 14 grams of protein, 18.8 grams of carbs and less than one gram of fat. It also provides almost half the daily recommended calcium intake, 8 percent of the DV of phosphorus and 25 percent of the DV of vitamin B12. With 20 grams of protein per cup, Greek yogurt is even more nutritious.
The same amount of sour cream boasts 455 calories, 5.6 grams of protein, 11 grams of carbs and 45 grams of fat. It's high in vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium. Your body needs these extra calories while on a liquid diet, especially after surgery. However, you can always opt for fat-free varieties, which have as little as 170 calories per cup.
Clear Soups and Broths
If you're looking for liquid diet ideas, experiment with soup and broth recipes. Chickpea and lemon broth, beef bone broth, green borsch, consommé and Thai soup are just a few examples. Just make sure you strain the liquid or at least remove the potatoes, noodles, meat and other large pieces of food.
The research on soups and broths is limited. Their nutritional value depends on the ingredients used. According to Christine Zoumas, RD, these beloved dishes preserve water-soluble vitamins that are usually lost during cooking. Certain nutrients, beta-carotene and lycopene, become more bioavailable, meaning that your body can absorb and process them more easily.
These foods also keep you hydrated and help increase your protein intake. Bone broth, for example, has only 69 calories per serving and more than 6 grams of protein per serving, depending on the recipe. It's also a good source of potassium, iron, manganese and vitamin C. If you add salt, your body will retain more water, which can be helpful when you're dehydrated.
Foods to Avoid
Liquid diets exclude solid foods, so you may not eat whole fruits and vegetables, meat, starches, grains and so on. Some foods with smooth consistency are not safe, either. Limit or cut out vegetable oils, peanut butter, cheese spreads, crème fraîche and high-fat dairy in general. Compared to protein and carbs, fat takes longer to digest and may cause nausea, especially after surgery.
Avoid any foods and beverages that may irritate your stomach. Fried foods, spices, alcohol and soda are acidic and may cause heartburn. The same goes for coffee — your body may not tolerate this beverage. Fizzy drinks can leave you feeling bloated, so it's better to remove them from your diet.
- LiveScience: 6 Potential Dangers of Juice Cleanses and Liquid Diets
- Journal of the Spinal Research Foundation: Nutrition for Healing Post-Surgery
- USDA: Unsweetened Almond Milk
- Oxford Academic: A Systematic Review of High-Oleic Vegetable Oil Substitutions for Other Fats and Oils on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors
- SELFNutritionData: SILK Blue Diamond Unsweetened Almond Milk
- NIH: Vitamin E
- Nutritionix: Unsweetened Hemp Milk
- National Hemp Association: Health Benefits of Organic Hemp Milk
- Neurology: Long-Term Intake of Vegetables and Fruits and Subjective Cognitive Function in US Men
- Hindawi: Effect of Fresh Orange Juice Intake on Physiological Characteristics in Healthy Volunteers
- Nutrition Journal: Effects of High-Protein vs. High-Fat Snacks on Appetite Control, Satiety, and Eating Initiation in Healthy Women
- Advanced Tissue: The Role of Protein in Wound Healing
- SELFNutritionData: Plain Yogurt
- Nutritionix: Plain Greek Yogurt
- Nutritionix: Sour Cream
- Calorie King: Fat-Free Sour Cream
- UC San Diego Health: Taking Stock: The Health and Hype of Bone Broth
- Spark People: Calories in Beef Bone Broth, Grass-Fed
- WHFoods.org: In Your Opinion, What Food Takes the Longest to Digest and/or Break Down in Our System?
- NHS: Good Foods to Help Your Digestion