What is a full liquid diet?
You may have heard of a clear liquid diet, where you only drink things like water, tea, and broth. A full liquid diet is similar, but it includes all foods that are liquid or will turn to liquid at room temperature, or melt at body temperature. It gives you more nutrition than a clear liquid diet. It also allows your body to heal from a procedure.
Your doctor may recommend a full liquid diet when you’re:
- preparing for a test or medical procedure
- recovering from a surgery, such as bariatric surgery
- having difficulty swallowing or chewing
Most people will only need to follow a full liquid diet for short periods of time, such as five days to two weeks.
Here’s more about how this diet works, what you can eat, and other important considerations.
As mentioned above, you may eat foods that are liquid or turn liquid at room temperature on a full liquid diet. These foods contain little to no fiber or protein, so they give your digestive system a break.
You may need to eat more than the three standard meals a day to get in all your calories and nutrients on a full liquid diet. Try eating six to eight times throughout the day with a variety of liquids and strained or blended foods. To increase your caloric intake, incorporate full-fat dairy, such as butter or whole milk, or high-calorie supplement shakes.
A liquid multivitamin is another good option if you’re worried about getting full nutrition on this diet.
A day’s menu might include:
- 1 cup of hot cereal (like Cream of Wheat) thinned with whole milk
- 1/2 cup fruit juice
- 1/2 cup supplement beverage, like Boost or Ensure
- 1/2 cup custard-style yogurt
- 2 cups of soup
- 1/2 cup tomato juice
- 1 cup chocolate pudding
- 1/2 cup supplement beverage
- 1/2 cup fruit juice
- 2 cups soup
- 1/2 to 1 cup blended oatmeal thinned with milk
- 1/2 cup lemonade
- 1 cup supplement beverage
- 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
Compared to a clear liquid diet, there are a variety of foods you may eat on a full liquid diet.
Fruits and vegetables
- all fruit or veggie juices (avoid pulp unless your doctor says otherwise)
- clear broths (beef, chicken, vegetable)
- strained and pureed vegetable soup
- strained meat- or cream-based soups (may contain pureed veggies or meat)
- all types of cow’s milk (whole, low-fat, reduced fat, fat-free)
- lactose-free milk products, such as soy, almond, or flax milk
- sour cream
- custard-style yogurts
- Cream of Wheat
- Cream of Rice
- other cooked cereals made from refined grains and thinned with milk
- creamy peanut butter, or nut butter of choice
- coffee and tea
- hot cocoa
- artificially flavored fruit drinks
- sports drinks, like Gatorade
- milkshakes (you may add smooth peanut butter or canned fruit, but blend until smooth)
- pasteurized eggnog
- Carnation Instant Breakfast
- ice cream (plain varieties)
- fruit ices
- sweeteners, such as honey, sugar, and maple syrup
- herbs, spices, and flavored syrups, like chocolate syrup
- brewer’s yeast
Ask your doctor or dietitian about the following foods. They’re sometimes included in a full liquid diet, or as you get closer to resuming a more normal diet:
- pureed fruits, such as applesauce
- pureed vegetables diluted into soups, such as strained pumpkin puree in a cream soup
- cooked cereals, such as oatmeal
- pureed potatoes
- strained, pureed meats
You should avoid any solid foods on a full liquid diet. This means to stay away from raw, cooked, or canned fruits or vegetables that have the skin or seeds.
Other foods to avoid include:
- mashed fruits and vegetables, such as mashed avocado
- nuts and seeds
- hard and soft cheeses
- soups with noodles, rice, or other chunks in it
- ice cream with solids in it
- whole cereals and other grains
- meats and meat substitutes
- carbonated beverages, such as sparkling water and soda
People who have had stomach surgery may also want to avoid consuming orange and other acidic fruit and vegetable juices. These juices may cause burning. If you’re concerned about your vitamin C consumption, ask your doctor about liquid vitamin C supplements.
Your doctor may give you further diet instructions based on the procedure you had.
Your doctor is your best resource for what foods you should and shouldn’t eat on a full liquid diet. You can also work with a registered dietitian.
A registered dietician can help you plan your meals within the guidelines of a full liquid diet and tailor it to your specific needs. For example, some individuals may need to eat a special diet if they have diabetes. Others, who have had bariatric surgery, may need to avoid or limit certain foods on the full liquid diet for some time, such as sugar.
Here are some other considerations:
- Pureed foods should be of stage 1, or “baby-food” consistency. There should be no chunks or visible pieces before mixing it into soups and other liquids.
- Adding milk, water, salad dressings, and mayonnaise can help moisten foods for easier blending.
- Feeling full is a sign to stop drinking. Pay attention to your body’s signals as you consume liquids. That said, try to get in at least 64 ounces of liquids each day.
- Trouble drinking enough is also a concern. Try drinking what you can at 15 to 20 minute intervals throughout the day.
- Nutritional supplements may be a good option if you need to be on a full liquid diet for longer than five days. Discuss your options with your doctor.
- Specific menus and food ideas are also important things to discuss with your doctor or dietitian.
- You may rapidly lose a significant amount of weight while following this type of diet. It’s meant to be used temporarily, not long term, unless directed by your doctor.
- Experiencing fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain are all reasons to call your doctor while following a full liquid diet. These may be signs of infection or other complications of your surgery or medical condition.