There are two types of liquid diets that you may have to follow before or after a medical test or procedure: full and clear liquid diets. And while it can be limiting to cut out solids, there are still a variety of liquid diet foods to incorporate into your meals.
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Here are liquid diet food lists — one for each type of diet — to help you prepare your menu.
Foods to Eat on a Full Liquid Diet
There are two types of liquid diets, and each has specific requirements. The first is the full liquid diet, which is made up of fluids and foods that are liquid at room temperature, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). In other words, you can enjoy most foods with a clear or smooth consistency, and in some cases, even mashed fruits, vegetables and grains.
Full liquid diets are typically used only at your doctor's recommendation for weight loss or due to a medical procedure, according to the NLM. For instance, you might follow this diet after surgery to go easy on your digestive tract while your body heals.
So, what can you eat on a full liquid diet? Here's a list of foods to include in your meals.
If you use a medicine that needs to be taken with food, like NSAIDs or certain prescriptions, talk to your doctor about whether or not your medication should be altered while you're following a liquid diet.
1. Juices and Smoothies
Fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies are loaded with the nutrients you need to sustain your body without having to eat solid foods, per the NLM. Pick your favorite juice, or blend produce with other full liquid diet foods like yogurt or milk to make a smoothie.
2. Soft Dairy Products
Get your fill of beneficial fat and protein by eating dairy products (assuming you're not lactose intolerant), per the NLM. Fat and protein help give you energy and keep your body functioning well, according to the National Institute on Aging. Even better, they can make you feel full while you're sticking to liquid foods, per Harvard Health Publishing.
According to Northwestern Medicine, soft dairy foods include:
3. Milk Alternatives
If you're lactose intolerant or vegan, you can still reap some of the energy-promoting benefits of liquid dairy products by sipping on a milk alternative instead. Some of these beverages may also be a good source of additional nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.
Non-dairy milks include:
- Almond milk
- Hemp milk
- Cashew milk
- Coconut milk
- Oat milk
- Rice milk
- Soy milk
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Canola oil
- Cashew oil
- Corn oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Olive oil
- Safflower oil
- Sesame oil
- Soybean oil
- Sunflower oil
Soup is another delicious component of a liquid diet, as it can pack a variety of nutrients and flavors into a single dish, according to the NLM. Per Northwestern Medicine, sip soups such as:
- Pureed vegetable soups
- Cream soups
- Chicken, beef, bone or vegetable broths
Just make sure your soup doesn't have any chunks of solid food in it before you tuck in.
6. Soft Grains
In certain cases, your doctor may allow you to eat mushy grain foods while on a liquid diet, per the NLM. These meals may include:
- Cooked, refined cereals like cream of rice, oatmeal or grits
- Strained meats (like the ones in baby food)
- Pureed foods like potatoes
Just make sure to clear it with your doctor before you eat these foods, as not every liquid diet permits them.
7. Nutrition Supplement Drinks
Add nutrients to your liquid diet — particularly protein — by drinking a supplement beverage, according to the NLM. Some brands to consider include:
Full Liquid Diet Recipe Options
Foods to Eat on a Clear Liquid Diet
A clear liquid diet differs from a full liquid diet in that it only permits foods and drinks that are see-through at room temperature, according to the Mayo Clinic. You'll typically follow this diet before a medical procedure like a colonoscopy in order to completely empty out your intestines so your doctor has a residue-free view of your colon.
Here's a list of clear liquids to include in your diet.
1. Pulp-Free Fruit Juice
Drink clear, pulp-free fruit juices to get important nutrients like vitamins while you're on a liquid diet, per Kaiser Permanente. Good options include:
- Apple juice
- White grape juice
- White cranberry juice
2. Sports Drinks
It's possible to get dehydrated before a colonoscopy because you can lose lots of fluids and electrolytes while undergoing the pre-colonoscopy laxative prep, according to University of California, Irvine Health. Enter sports drinks, which can help rehydrate you and replenish lost electrolytes, per the Mayo Clinic.
If you're on a clear liquid diet before a colonoscopy, your doctor may ask you to skip fluids that are dyed red, blue or purple to avoid staining your colon and messing with your results, per Harvard Health Publishing.
3. Clear Sodas
Soda is another approved clear liquid to drink on this diet, per the Mayo Clinic. But be careful not to drink too much, as the added sugars aren't nutritious, particularly if you have diabetes.
Both light and dark varieties (like ginger ale and cola) should be OK, though check with your doctor to make sure this can be included in your clear liquid diet, especially if you have diabetes or another underlying condition.
4. Ice Pops
Slurp an ice pop for extra calories and energy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Just make sure the type of ice pop you pick is free of milk, chunks of fruit or other foods and red, blue and purple dye.
The Mayo Clinic also suggests snacking on gelatin products like Jell-O while sticking to a clear liquid diet. Make sure to avoid flavors that include red, blue and purple dyes, and stick to gelatin snacks that are free of solid chunks.
Sip on clear, fat-free broth, bullion or consommé for calories and flavor, according to the Mayo Clinic. But skip any broths that appear cloudy or creamy, which could leave unwanted residue in your digestive tract.
7. Coffee or Tea
Get your caffeine fix on a clear liquid diet by drinking black coffee or tea without milk or cream, according to Harvard Health Publishing. However, hold off on caffeinated beverages if you have an upset stomach or heartburn, as caffeine can exacerbate these issues, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Why Is Coffee Considered a Clear Liquid?
Even though it's not technically see-through, coffee is included on the clear liquid diet food list because it's the color of coffee — not solid substances — that make it opaque, per UVA Health.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Full liquid diet"
- Northwestern Medicine: "Full Liquid Diet"
- Mayo Clinic: "Clear liquid diet"
- National Institute on Aging: "Important Nutrients to Know: Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Extra protein is a decent dietary choice, but don’t overdo it"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How to Choose and Use Healthy Cooking Oils"
- University of California, Irvine Health: "Getting to the bottom of colonoscopy prep"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Preparing for a colonoscopy"
- Kaiser Permanente: "Clear-liquid diet for colonoscopy preparation"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Caffeine: How to Hack It and How to Quit It"
- UVA Health: "Clear Liquid Diet – What to Eat and What to Skip"