The Ultimate Guide to Liquid Diets

The Ultimate Guide to Liquid Diets

Alex Brecher

If you are following or about to follow a bariatric liquid diet, there’s a lot you need to know. You’ll need to know what the diet is, how long to follow it, and how to survive a clear liquid diet and full liquid diet. You can rest easy because it’s all in this ultimate guide to liquid diets.

Reasons to Follow a Bariatric Liquid Diet

First off, do you really need to follow a bariatric liquid diet? Can’t you just lose weight by eating low-calorie, high-protein foods? It’s not that simple! There are important reasons for following a bariatric liquid diet before and after surgery.

Before surgery, a liquid diet helps you lose weight, which makes surgery safer by reducing the risk of complications. It also helps make surgery safer in another way. That’s because it can help shrink the size of your liver. The result is that surgery is easier to perform because your liver isn’t getting in your surgeon’s way as much.

After surgery, a bariatric liquid diet helps you recover more quickly and more safely. A clear liquid diet minimizes stress on your surgery wounds but lets you get fluids into you so you can stay hydrated. A full liquid diet lets you stay nourished with protein and vitamins, while continuing to let you stay hydrated and minimize strain on your surgery wounds. 

There are also times, later on, when you might return to a full liquid or clear liquid diet. A doctor might suggest it, or you might ask a healthcare provider if it’s the right step for you at that time.

Clear Liquid Diet Foods and Meal Plan

So, what can you eat on a clear liquid diet? There are the clear liquid diet foods that most surgeons include.

  • Diluted fruit juice, but not orange, grapefruit, or other citrus juices
  • Diluted vegetable juice, but not tomato juice
  • Sports drinks and electrolyte water
  • Flavored water
  • Sugar-free, non-carbonated beverages
  • Sugar-free ice pops
  • Broth, bouillon, and consomme
  • Tea and Herbal Tea
  • Coffee (ask your surgeon)
  • Sipping Broth

You’ll have to ask your surgeon or nutritionist about sugar-sweetened items such as flavored gelatin and flavored ice pops that aren’t sugar-free. Some surgeons say to avoid these products. Others say it’s okay to have them for now because you’re having such small amounts.

It’s also best to ask about sugar and other sweeteners for coffee and tea. Creamers and milk are not allowed.

Here’s a sample meal plan on a bariatric clear liquid diet.

Breakfast: Diluted apple juice and herbal tea

Snack: Sugar-free gelatin

Lunch: Chicken bouillon and sugar-free gelatin

Snack: Sugar-free ice pop

Dinner: Diluted apple juice, beef broth, and sugar-free gelatin

Full Liquid Diet Foods and Meal Plan

After a clear liquid diet, a bariatric full liquid diet may seem exciting. You can usually include everything you had during the clear liquid diet. However, your surgeon or nutritionist may ask you to reduce or eliminate items with sugar, such as fruit juice and sugar-sweetened ice pops and gelatin, if you had them before.

These are the items that you can usually add during the full liquid diet post-op phase.

The BariatricPal Store has hundreds of items suitable for a full liquid diet. You may find flavors that you’d never even imagined, and they taste fantastic.

Here’s a sample meal plan on a bariatric full liquid diet.

Breakfast: Watery cream of wheat with unflavored protein powder

Snack: Chocolate Salted Caramel Protein Shake

Lunch: Cream of Mushroom Protein Soup and Chocolate Protein Pudding

Snack: Classic Hot Chocolate Protein Drink

Dinner: ½ cup of skim milk and Strawberry Banana Protein Gelatin

Be sure to keep sipping low-calorie or calorie-free liquids between meals and snacks to stay hydrated.

How to Survive a Clear Liquid Diet and Full Liquid Diet

It’s best to ask how to survive a clear liquid diet before you start one! First, you’ll need to gather the clear liquid diet foods you need so you’re not scrambling for them when you need them. For a clear liquid and full liquid diet, you’re probably best off getting a variety of liquids so you are less likely to get bored. Another reason to have a variety of foods is so that you will be prepared in case your tastes change or you are unable to tolerate certain flavors. That is common after surgery!

These are some other tips for how to survive a bariatric liquid diet.

  • Make a plan so you’re not wondering…”what can I eat?” and risk reaching for something you’re not allowed to have.
  • Remember that it’s temporary.
  • Remind yourself how important this stage is. It’s important pre-op so your surgery is safer, and it’s important post-op so you can recover better and lose more weight in the long run.

There’s another aspect of how to survive a clear liquid diet and a full liquid one. Many bariatric patients become susceptible to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and start to experience acid reflux. Symptoms can include heartburn, which is a painful, burning sensation in your chest, as well as burping and feelings of fullness. 

To prevent this, many surgeons ask patients to avoid caffeinated beverages and acidic ones after surgery. That includes coffee, which is a highly acidic beverage and a commonly reported trigger for heartburn. If you are a coffee drinker, this can make an already-tough post-op period even tougher. A low-acid coffee can help. Alex’s Acid-Free Coffee is available in regular and decaffeinated versions so you can keep making your reliable, comforting cuppa joe.

You’ll need to sip slowly and try new beverages and foods cautiously. You may have nausea or pain if you eat too fast or too much, or if you have too much fat or sugar. It’s also good to be cautious about possible new intolerances, such as lactose intolerance. You may find that you can no longer tolerate milk on a post-op diet, even if you were able to drink it before surgery.

How Long to Follow a Bariatric Liquid Diet

Your surgeon can tell you how long to follow each stage of a bariatric liquid diet. The bariatric clear liquid diet may be about a day before surgery, or you may not have one at all. 

It’s likely you’ll be on a full liquid diet before surgery. It may last 1 to 2 days, but some surgeons require you to follow one for 2 or more weeks before surgery so you can lose more weight and further shrink the fatty tissue around your liver.

After surgery, the amount of time you are on a liquid diet can vary. It could be just a day, or until you are discharged from the hospital. You may have a 3-day liquid diet with only clear liquids. 

After your surgeon gives you the okay, you can progress to a full liquid diet. This stage can last up to two weeks, or longer if your surgeon and nutritionist say that’s better. You can progress to a pureed foods stage after you can tolerate full liquids and you’re healing well.

Pouch Reset Bariatric Liquid Diet

There may be times when you choose to follow a bariatric liquid diet even though you are well past surgery. These are some examples.

  • If you need to get back on track with your eating and you repeat your post-op diet progression, though likely progressing faster through each stage than you did initially. 
  • If you have adjustable gastric band surgery and you go to get your band filled and you feel more sore.
  • If you are feeling as though your pouch has stretched and you want to follow a pouch reset diet that progresses quickly through each stage of the post-op diet. You might follow a quick, 2-day pouch reset diet, or you could try a 2-week pouch reset diet that includes a 3-day liquid diet.

Precautions on a Bariatric Liquid Diet

The main precaution to take on a bariatric liquid diet is to follow it only under the supervision of your healthcare team. That may include your surgeon and a nutritionist. They’re not there just to tell you what is on a bariatric full liquid diet or which clear liquid diet foods you can have. They’re also there to keep you safe and guide you through these important stages of your bariatric surgery journey.

For either type of bariatric liquid diet, these are some considerations.

  • It is critical to eat the bariatric liquid diet foods that you are allowed, and not to eat anything that you’re not allowed to have. 
  • It can be hard to swallow at this point. You may need to spend a lot of time sipping your liquids to make sure you get enough.
  • Hydration is important, but tricky. It may be not only hard to swallow, but you may also find that your tastes change. If you liked water and certain other liquids before, you may find that you don’t like them now. You’ll need to keep trying clear liquids and, later, protein-packed liquids until you find some that you can tolerate.
  • Medications can be difficult to take at this time if you normally take capsules that need to be swallowed. Ask your doctor how you can take your medications safely. You may need to grind them and dissolve them in liquid, or you may be able to work with a compounding pharmacist for special arrangements. Your surgeon is likely to have experience with patients like you and can probably give you good pointers for any medications you may be on so that you do not have complications due to avoiding medications.

These are some additional concerns on a clear liquid diet.

  • The clear liquid diet isn’t nutritionally adequate. You’ll want to work closely with your surgeon and nutritionist to make sure you progress as you should so you can start getting better nutrition.
  • Ask your surgeon about whether it’s necessary to take liquid vitamins at this point, or whether you should just wait until you get to your full liquid diet.
  • Very hot beverages can irritate your surgery wounds. Be cautious of coffee, tea, broth, and anything else that is usually served hot.

On a full liquid diet, you may want to keep these items in mind.

  • It may be time to start taking your bariatric vitamins if you haven’t already. This is true especially if you are on a longer-lasting full liquid diet, such as 2 weeks. Liquid vitamins, chewables, and vitamin patches may be better choices than capsules since capsules may be tough to swallow so soon after bariatric surgery. Your surgeon can let you know what you need, but you’ll need a bariatric multivitamin and additional calcium at a minimum.
  • This is when it becomes important to approach your protein goals. Many patients have a daily protein goal of at least 65 grams. You may not be able to quite hit that on a full liquid diet, but you should keep it in mind.

A bariatric liquid diet is challenging, but it is worth following correctly. You can make it easier on yourself by knowing how to survive a clear liquid diet, having clear liquid diet foods and full liquid diet foods on hand, remembering that it’s temporary, and working with your surgeon and nutritionist to stay healthy. The BariatricPal Store has a wide variety of bariatric-friendly clear liquid diet and full liquid diet products to help you ace this part of your journey. We are here for you!

Clear liquid dietFull liquid dietLiquid dietPost op diet