A clear liquid diet is one that has foods and drinks made from liquids that you can see through. These foods are easy to eat and do not leave anything in the gastrointestinal tract.

It may be used when the gastrointestinal tract needs to be free of food or needs to rest, such as:

  • Before a test or surgery
  • After surgery before eating normal food
  • During flare-ups of problems like diverticulitis
  • After episodes of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

This way of eating does not give you enough calories. Be sure your doctor is watching you closely. Do not eat this way for more than a few days.

Foods You Can Have

  • Water
  • Tea or coffee (no cream)
  • Juices without pulp like apple, grape, cranberry, prune, and lemonade
  • Nutritional drinks
  • Soda
  • Clear broth
  • Gelatin without bits of fruit
  • Popsicles without fruit or cream
  • Italian ice

You can also have sugar, salt, and pepper.

Foods You Should Not Have

Any foods not on the above list, such as:

  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Smoothies
  • Milk shakes
  • Soup
  • Oatmeal
  • Cream of wheat


Do not eat this way unless you are told to. People with certain health problems should not follow this diet or may need closer monitoring while they are on it. For example, the diet contains foods and drinks that are high in carbohydrates and simple sugars. This could raise the risk of low and high blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. The diet also contains thin liquids. This could pose problems in people who have difficulty swallowing.


American Gastroenterological Association

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


Dietitians of Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada


Colonoscopy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/colonoscopy. Accessed February 3, 2021.

Oates, JR, Sharma, S. (2020). Clear Liquid Diet. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN  Last Updated: 2/3/2021