What Is a Liquid Diet?
A liquid diet is what it sounds like – having meals made up of only liquid foods or foods that turn into a liquid at room temperature. A doctor might suggest a liquid-only diet before undergoing certain medical procedures, like a colonoscopy or bariatric surgery, to manage certain recurring digestive disorders like Crohn’s Disease, or immediately after some dental surgeries. It can also be recommended for anyone who has difficulty chewing or swallowing. It’s a way of eating that’s usually meant to be temporary, and under advisement by a doctor or dietician.
Kinds of Liquid Diets
There are two kinds of liquid diets: a full liquid diet or a clear liquid diet. A clear diet is more stringent and offers fewer options for what you can eat. It’s meant to keep you hydrated before some medical procedures and provide enough nutrients for a few days at most while keeping your stomach and intestines clear and unstrained. A clear liquid diet will commonly be recommended before a colonoscopy. Some examples of foods you can eat include:
- Coffee or tea (no milk is allowed on a clear liquid diet)
- Pulp-free fruit juice
- Sports drinks without red or purple dye
A full liquid diet is less restrictive. It encompasses all the foods on the clear liquid diet menu, as well as some thicker ones like protein shakes, creamed and strained soups, DIY yogurt, and smoothies. It is more sustainable for longer periods than a clear liquid diet, but should still be considered a short-term measure, about five days to two weeks.
Liquid Diet Foods
There are still plenty of foods you can have while on a liquid diet. Be sure to diversify what you have under a liquid diet, and avoid getting too much of your caloric intake from sweet things, like ice cream.
Some of the foods that are permissible under a full liquid diet are:
- Soup broths (clear or creamed)
- Smoothies and protein shakes
- Sports drinks and soft drinks
- Coffee or Tea (with milk is allowed under a full liquid diet)
- Melted margarine, butter, mayonnaise
- Milk (dairy or non-dairy milk)
- Puréed and strained meats (sometimes)
- Baby food
- Ice cream
- Fruit juices without pulp
A liquid diet doesn’t include mashed foods, like avocado or mashed potatoes. Only true liquids can be consumed, and even those should be thinned and strained. Adding water can help to thin out foods like applesauce, which can then be blended and puréed down to a true liquid consistency.
When on a liquid diet, you will want to monitor your blood sugar and adjust your activity levels to account for the different fuel that your body is taking in. It’s also important you drink enough water to stay hydrated – anywhere from 2.7 liters to 3.7 liters a day (92-124 ounces a day).
Liquid Diet Tips
It’s important to make sure that you get enough nutrients from your meals while following a liquid diet. A liquid fast takes planning, and you may not feel up to it right before or after a procedure that would require this kind of diet. Try preparing liquid meals in advance and freeze them, and make sure you have a blender and strainer accessible. There should be no solids involved in any of the foods you have, whether that’s chocolate bits in ice cream or vegetable chunks in soups.
Liquid Diet Nutritional Value
Most people on this diet will aim for around 1,500 calories a day, with about 45 grams of protein. Some liquid diet ideas can help add calories and nutrients to meals. Try adding dietary supplements like Ensure if your doctor allows it. Using full-fat milk or melted butter to liquid meals can also help add calories into the day. Of course, for many people with Crohn’s Disease who choose temporary liquid diets to help manage flare-ups of their symptoms, milk and dairy products may be part of the problem. In this case, lactose-free milk or coconut water, which is a good natural source of electrolytes and minerals, can be a useful alternative to thin out smoothies and shakes.
For less restrictive diet, it can be helpful to have certain smoothie recipes on hand, as well as common ratios for how to liquefy solid foods in a blender. However, liquid diet recipes that involve blending solid foods should only be used after consulting with a doctor.
Liquid Diet Sample Plan
A day’s sample meal plan on a full liquid diet might look like:
- Breakfast: Yogurt or cream of wheat cereal thinned with hot milk, fruit juice, coffee, or tea
- Lunch: Tomato soup, pudding or jello, protein shake
- Snack: Yogurt, Milkshake or Protein Shake
- Dinner: Creamed, thinned and strained soup, custard, protein shake, fruit juice
- Dessert: Milkshake or ice cream
When supplementing a liquid diet with protein shakes and smoothies, selecting varying flavors can help make meals more appetizing, and can make the diet more sustainable. But no matter how much you try to change up your diet, you may find you need a liquid multivitamin in order to get the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients in your routine.
Remember, the best liquid diet is one that’s been advised by a doctor or dietician to make sure you get the essential nutrients you need. Usually, this diet only involves foods that are already liquid, like soups or foods that become liquid at room temperature, like ice cream. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to consume solid foods that have been liquified but only after consultation with your doctor or dentist who has recommended the liquid diet. Regardless of how you choose to meal-prep for the diet, remember that it is usually meant to be only a temporary measure. Look for variety, and try to diversify what you consume to get the nutrients your body needs.