Food as Medicine: Clear Liquid Diet

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A clear liquid diet:

  • Includes clear liquids that are easy to digest and absorb
  • Does not leave any undigested food material in the intestinal tract
  • Provides fluids, some calories, and nutrients
  • Does not provide adequate nutrition and should not be followed for more than a few days

Your child might need a clear liquid diet for a few days before or after a surgical procedure or medical test.

  • Due to nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Due to intolerance of solid foods

Offering choices can make a clear liquid diet easier to follow.

You can adjust the temperature, texture, and flavor to add variety. Choose options that your child likes.


  • Drinks
    • Plain water
    • Flavored water
    • Clear fruit juice
    • Seltzer
    • Sparkling juice
    • Clear soda
    • Electrolyte drink
    • Sports drink
    • Pedialyte
    • Caffeine-free iced tea
  • By spoon
    • Water ice (no fruit bits)
    • Slushy/granita
  • Finger food
    • Flavored gelatin
    • Fruit popsicle (no fruit bits)
    • Lollipop


  • Drinks
    • Caffeine-free tea (black, green, herbal)
    • Honey lemon water
  • By spoon
    • Vegetable broth
    • Chicken or beef broth
    • Bouillon

Avoid using these ingredients:

  • Fiber and milk are not part of a clear liquid diet.
  • Caffeine, lactose, prune and pear juices, and sugar alcohols (erythritol, glycerol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol) can lead to increased stooling.


Infused water

Add fruit, vegetables, or herbs to filtered water. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours to infuse. Then strain and keep in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

  • Fruit (fresh or frozen chunks or slices): citrus, berry, melon, mango, kiwi, pineapple, peach
  • Fresh vegetable: cucumber
  • Fresh herb or spice (gently smash to release flavor): basil, mint, rosemary, fennel, star anise, sliced ginger

Sparkling juice

Add an ounce of clear fruit juice to seltzer or ginger ale. Try a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

  • Cranberry, white grape, and apple juices are all clear.


Steep a caffeine-free tea bag in hot water and enjoy hot, warm, or over ice. To make sparkling tea, try adding a tea bag to seltzer.

  • Use green, black, chai, ginger, fruit (peach, mango, passion fruit), white, mint, chamomile tea.
  • Add honey or lemon to taste.
  • Steep with cinnamon stick, ginger slices, anise, whole cloves.

Flavored gelatin (by spoon)

  • Sprinkle 2 envelopes (1/4 ounce, each) gelatin over 1 cup clear juice in a glass bowl.
  • Bring 3 cups clear juice to a boil, then pour over juice and gelatin mixture.
  • Stir until gelatin dissolves completely.
  • Pour into 5-ounce juice glasses and refrigerate 4 hours, until firm.

Flavored vegan gel

Bring 1 ½  teaspoon agar flakes (or ¾ teaspoon agar powder), 8 ounces 100% fruit juice, 8 ounces water, and ¼ cup granulated sugar to a boil, stirring often. Boil for 2 minutes.

Pour into serving bowls or glasses. Refrigerate 4 hours, until firm.

Flavored gelatin (finger food)

  • Sprinkle 2 envelopes (1/4 ounce, each) gelatin over 1/2 cup water in a glass bowl.
  • Boil 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons sugar; stir to dissolve sugar and pour over gelatin mixture.
  • Stir in clear juice, then pour mixture into 8-inch square pan and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.
  • Once firm, cut in 1-inch cubes and serve.

Chicken, beef, or vegetable broth

Can use homemade, from bouillon, or commercially prepared. Try adding flavor while warming the broth:

  • Herbs: sprigs of fresh herbs - steep for a few minutes, then strain
  • Ginger lemon: sliced ginger and a squeeze of lemon juice
  • Turmeric: sliced or dried turmeric, pinch of cumin, squeeze of lime juice


  • Bring 1 cup water and ½ cup honey to a boil.
  • Stir in 3 cups pulp-free fruit juice.
  • Pour into a bowl. Freeze 3 hours, stirring every 15 minutes with a whisk or fork.
  • Or, to make popsicles, pour into molds and freeze until firm.

Additional resources

April 2022