An all-liquid diet means that a person does not eat solid foods and only consumes liquids, such as soups, juices, and smoothies. For most people, this is a temporary measure rather than a long-term nutritional strategy. Solid liquids differ from clear liquids. On a clear liquid diet, a person can only eat clear liquids, such as water, tea, and broth. Whole liquids offer more variety of flavors and more nutritional value. One may be able to have purees of their favorite foods as well as a variety of thick liquids, such as tomato soup.
In this article, you’ll learn more about all liquid diets, their potential effects, and which foods to eat.
Liquid diet: what to eat
The foods you should eat as part of a complete liquid diet depend on your nutritional needs and your doctor’s recommendations. A person may be able to eat the following foods:
All foods allowed on the clear liquid diet, including:
– soup broth
– Mashed fruits and vegetables
Strained or pureed soup
– mashed oats
Protein shakes and other liquid nutritional supplements
Margarine, butter and mayonnaise
It can be difficult to get enough protein and fiber on a full liquid diet. People who follow this diet, especially if they do it for more than a few days, should focus on foods rich in nutrients.
Here are some examples of foods you can eat that offer more nutritional value:
Low glycemic protein shakes
Fruit and vegetable juices
Soft egg products, such as eggnog or egg-based baby food
Meat and mashed beans
– Mashed potatoes with meat sauce
It is recommended that you ask your doctor for a detailed list of foods to eat and which ones to avoid when following a full liquid diet.
Why follow a full fluid diet
Doctors generally recommend liquid diets as a short-term strategy when a person has a medical condition that makes eating solids unsafe.
They may recommend that people follow a full liquid diet in the following situations:
When recovering from pancreatitis
After weight loss surgery, as a transitional step between clear liquids and soft foods
After oral and dental surgery, either to reduce pain or because the person is unable to chew
After gastrointestinal surgery or to relieve symptoms of gastrointestinal disease
After losing several teeth
After breaking a bone in the mouth or jaw
When a doctor or dentist places a wire on the jaw.
Some people may also turn to liquid diets in an effort to lose weight because a full liquid diet makes it difficult to consume a large number of calories. Severely restrictive diets for weight loss are not safe and are not recommended by doctors. A person often regains lost weight once they return to a normal diet.
What to avoid
A person on a full liquid diet should avoid solid foods, as well as mashed foods that may contain bits.
Here are some examples of foods to avoid
Whole fruits and vegetables
– the bread
Soups that contain large lumps or solid lumps
Solid meat or fish
Anything with seeds or other hard or sharp particles in it
Nuts and peanut butter
– Ice cream cut
– the pasta
– Cookies and Cakes
For most people, a liquid diet is a short-term measure. People who need to follow a full liquid diet for a longer period should be careful about the foods they eat and avoid potentially unhealthy options.
The following practices may be helpful
Avoid getting all or most of your calories from sugary foods, such as ice cream
Increase your fiber intake by drinking soft juices made from fruits, vegetables and Greek yogurt
Try milk as a source of protein
Avoid foods with low nutritional value such as lollipops and gelatin
Ask your doctor to recommend a vitamin and mineral supplement
Keep a food diary to keep track of changes in nutrients over time.
Dangers of a liquid diet
It is very difficult to get enough nutrients from a full liquid diet, especially in the long term. Liquid diets are generally low in vitamin A, iron, vitamin B12, and thiamine. People who must follow a full liquid diet for extended periods may need to take nutritional supplements to avoid nutritional deficiencies. It is possible to get enough protein, fiber and other essential nutrients by following a complete liquid diet. However, this requires some planning and basic nutritional knowledge.
People who follow this diet and who are recovering from surgery may not have the energy or motivation to seek out healthy foods. One of the biggest risks is to back off on easy but less nutritious foods, like thawed ice cream or high-sodium broth. Although a full liquid diet may satisfy food cravings better than a pure liquid diet, an all liquid diet can be challenging and frustrating.
Besides malnutrition from long-term use, other risks include:
Mood swings due to hunger
Lack of pleasure in eating
Difficulty eating in restaurants or participating in other social activities centered around food.
Although doctors may recommend a complete liquid diet for various conditions, some research suggests that this diet may be more restrictive than necessary.
A 2010 study, for example, found that a solid whole diet was safe for people recovering from mild acute pancreatitis and helped shorten hospital stays.
A 2012 analysis concluded that the soft diet was also safe for people recovering from mild acute pancreatitis.
A person whose doctor recommends a complete liquid diet should ask questions such as:
What can I do to stay healthy with this diet?
How long should I follow this diet?
What are the risks of this diet?
Why do you recommend this diet?
Is there an alternative to this diet?
What specific foods should I avoid?
Following a full liquid diet can be a challenge. If a full liquid diet is necessary for an extended period, a dietitian should be consulted to ensure that she is getting enough vital nutrients. In many cases, a satisfying and nutritious diet can be achieved by mashing foods that a person would normally enjoy.
Oates, JR, & Sharma, S. (2019). Clear liquid diet.
Rajkumar, N.; , and others. (2012). Clear liquid diet versus soft diet as a first meal in patients with mild acute pancreatitis [Abstract].
* Presse Santé strives to impart medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In no way can the information provided replace medical advice.
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