Full Liquid Diet Benefits and Indications

A full liquid diet is made up only of fluids and foods that are normally liquid as well as foods that turn to liquid when at room temperature, like ice cream or milkshakes. It differs from s clear liquid diet in which you can only eat foods you can see through, like tea, broth, and gelatin.

A full liquid may be used to transition you from a clear liquid diet following a gastrointestinal surgery or injury. It may also help if you have swallowing or chewing problems.

This article discusses the benefits and risks of a full liquid diet, including why your healthcare provider may recommend one. It also offers a list of foods to eat and avoid, along with tips to ensure that you meet your daily nutritional needs.

General Benefits of a Full Liquid Diet

The full liquid diet is one that places little stress on your gastrointestinal (digestive) tract but provides you more in the way of flavor and nutrition compared to a clear liquid diet.

The full liquid diet requires no chewing. It includes clear fluids and thicker ones like milk, fruit juices, shakes, and smoothies. Your healthcare provider may also include thicker foods like yogurt or puddings that contain no lumps or solid pieces.

The aim of a full liquid diet is to promote the healing of your digestive tract, which includes everything from your mouth and throat to your colon and rectum. It is not used before gastrointestinal procedures like colonoscopy, which requires a clear liquid diet.

Compared to a full liquid diet, a clear liquid diet has limitations in that it delivers only around 600 calories and 150 grams of carbohydrates per day as well as inadequate protein, vitamins, and minerals. The average adult in the United States requires between 1,600 and 3,000 calories per day (and between 225 and 325 grams of carbs per day) to function normally.

By contrast, a full liquid diet includes foods that are nutritionally dense with higher levels of protein and carbs. While you may still be shy of your optimal nutritional needs, the diet is a good stopgap until you are better able to eat soft or solid foods.


Verywell / Joshua Seong

Indications for a Full Liquid Diet

Your healthcare provider may prescribe a full liquid diet if you have certain medical conditions or are recovering from certain medical injuries or procedures.

Indications for a full liquid diet include:

  • Swallowing problems (dysphagia)
  • Chewing problems
  • Severe mouth or throat sores
  • Jaw injuries
  • Digestion problems (such as gastroparesis and bowel strictures)
  • Recovery from a gastrointestinal infection, injury, or illness
  • Recovery from gastrointestinal, dental, oral, or weight loss surgery

Goals of a Full Liquid Diet

The aim of a full liquid diet is to consume enough nutrition without placing stress on the digestive tract. This may be easier said than done given that certain digestive disorders can make you feel fuller faster or cause nausea even after a few bites.

To meet the goals of a full liquid diet, you need to focus on:

  • How much you eat: As a general rule, eat enough to feel satisfied. To avoid overtaxing your system, eat several smaller meals per day instead of three big ones.
  • What you eat: The diet should also include a variety of six or seven different foods that are nutritionally dense. A registered dietitian or nutritionist can help you with this.
  • Track your nutrition: To ensure your nutritional needs are met, keep a food diary of everything you eat and use a nutrition app to calculate your daily calories, protein, and carb intake.

Nutritional Targets

With the right combination of food, a full liquid diet should deliver around 1,500 calories and 45 grams of protein per day.

A full liquid diet is generally prescribed for only a few days to help you transition back to your normal diet. It is rarely used for longer than two weeks.

Exceptions may be made for people who are preparing for weight loss surgery, recovering from a fractured jaw, or managing chronic conditions like Crohn's disease.

Due to its restrictive nature, you should be closely monitored by a healthcare provider when on a full liquid diet for more than a few days.

A Full Liquid Diet Menu

The following compliant foods are allowed on a full liquid diet. Non-compliant foods are not allowed because they are solid or their textures are too thick and lumpy.

Compliant Foods
  • Fruit and vegetable juice (no pulp)

  • Broth

  • Soft drinks

  • Sports drinks, electrolyte-replacement drinks

  • Coffee, tea

  • Milk or dairy-free milk alternatives (soy, almond)

  • Milkshakes, malts, smoothies

  • Clear or creamed soups (thinned, strained, no solids)

  • Honey, syrup, sugar

  • Gelatin, pudding, custard

  • Ice pops, ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet (no nuts, candy, solid toppings/coatings)

  • Yogurt (regular or Greek; no granola, seeds, fruit chunks)

  • Melted cheese

  • Powdered protein, dry milk, other nutritional supplements

  • Liquid dietary supplements (Ensure, Glucerna, Boost)

Non-Compliant Foods
  • Meat (unless puréed, thinned, and strained)

  • Tofu, meat substitutes

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Raw fruits and vegetables

  • Solid cheese

  • Soft or mashed food (e.g., potatoes)

  • Soups or stews with noodles, meat, or vegetables

  • Bread

  • Whole pasta or rice

  • Cereals, granola, oats

  • Applesauce

  • Potato chips, crackers, pretzels, popcorn

  • Muffins, cakes, cookies, pastries

  • Hard or chewy candy 

  • All other solid foods unless specifically approved by your healthcare provider

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruit and vegetable juice is allowed on a full liquid diet as long as it has been strained to remove any solids, like pulp. You may need to avoid any high-fiber juices such as prune juice.

Making your own juice with a high-speed blender allows you to control the thickness. Pour the juice through a mesh sieve or tea strainer to remove any residue.

Mashed potatoes and other types of vegetable mash are generally not approved but can be if they are sufficiently thinned. You can blend them with butter, gravy, or sauces, season to taste, and thin with water or broth. They should be no thicker than a smoothie when you're done.


Cooked cereals can be thinned with water or milk, then strained. Farina and rice cereal are also easy to thin this way. To add nutrition, prepare your cereal with whole milk or creamer instead of water or skim milk. 


Milk or lactose-free alternatives are approved for a full liquid diet. You can drink it by the glass or add it to smoothies and shakes. Powdered milk can be added to cereals, soups, and eggs to boost protein.

Regular yogurt works well as a base for sweeter-tasting liquid meals, and Greek yogurt can be a good base for more savory recipes. Cottage cheese is easy to blend into a liquid meal and most shredded cheese will melt easily with a little heat.

You can also use butter or margarine to add calories and fat to your meals. 


Meat is approved as long as it’s the consistency of baby food. Mix meat with potato flakes and milk before or after cooking to give it the right consistency for a liquid diet.

Nut butter is a good source of healthy fats and protein that can be easily added to shakes or smoothies.

Eggs, egg whites, or egg substitutes are also a great source of protein and can be prepared soft or blended into a liquid meal. 


Ice cream, frozen yogurt, and ice pops are approved on a full liquid diet as long as they do not contain nuts, candy, pulp, or other hard pieces. Puddings and custards can be thinned to a liquid consistency with milk.

If you need to add calories, try topping ice cream, pudding, malts, or milkshakes with fruit that is thoroughly blended with whipped cream. 


Any clear broths, pulp-free juices, or other drinks are approved on a full liquid diet. You can use milk, half-and-half, and non-dairy creamer to add calories to coffee or tea.

Other hot beverages like cider, chai, and milk-based espresso drinks are approved as long as they do not contain solid pieces such as chocolate flakes or mulling spices.

Full Liquid Diet Side Effects

If you need to be on a full liquid diet for more than a few days, you may become constipated from the lack of fiber. Your healthcare provider may recommend an over-the-counter fiber supplement, such as Metamucil, to relieve your symptoms. 

You might also have frequent, loose stools on a full liquid diet simply because you are not consuming solids. As you begin to return to a solid food diet, your bowel movements should improve. 

You can lose weight on a full liquid diet. This may be sudden and significant even if you're not on the diet for a long time. To overcome this, ask your healthcare provider about high-calorie protein shakes like Ensure. You should start regaining weight once your calorie intake increases.

Because you are consuming fewer calories, vitamins, and minerals, you may feel fatigued, irritable, depressed, or generally unwell. Don't hesitate to tell your healthcare provider about these symptoms as there may be solutions that can help.

Full Liquid Diet Modifications 

A full liquid diet may need to be adjusted based on your age, general health, and any medical conditions you may have.

For instance:

  • After gastric surgery, you may need to avoid acidic drinks like orange juice or coffee which can irritate your stomach.
  • If you have kidney or cardiovascular disease, you may need to limit your fluid intake to prevent fluid retention and disease complications.
  • If you have diabetes, you may need to take extra steps to manage your blood sugar. This includes monitoring your intake of carbohydrates that can raise your blood sugar.
  • If you have gastroparesis, a condition in which food moves through your intestines slowly, you may need to avoid any high-fat foods that are harder to digest.
  • If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), you may need to limit your sodium (salt) intake.
  • If you are lactose intolerant, you would avoid cow's milk and other dairy product and find other quality sources of protein, calcium, and vitamin D.

Babies and Children

Some adjustments may be needed to make the full liquid diet safe for babies, toddlers, and children. For example, honey should not be given to a child under one year of age.

When creating purées or liquid meals, avoid adding new foods to your child’s diet. Stick to those they already enjoy and indulge them with treats like ice cream or custard to add additional calories.

Speak with their healthcare provider about how much milk a child should drink as it can be very filling. Adding electrolyte drinks or ice pops can help prevent dehydration if the child experience diarrhea.

Tips and Considerations

Following a full liquid diet may present some challenges. You may need to do some extra planning to fit liquid-only meals into your daily life. These changes may take some time to get used to.

Practicality and Preparation

If you’re on a liquid diet while you’re recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery, you might not feel up to preparing meals. Friends and family may be willing to help. If so, make sure they know exactly what you can and cannot eat.

You can also prepare many liquid meals in advance and freeze them. It may be worth buying a large-capacity food processor or blender so you can make big batches.

Stock up on as many items as you can before your diet starts, especially beverages and powder supplements you might need.

Cooking Tips

The easiest way to thin soft food is to add water or milk. If a food doesn't fully liquefy, apply a little heat or microwave. Shredded cheese can easily be melted in the microwave and added to soups or purées. Chocolate can be melted in a saucepan or microwave. 

Kitchen tools like food processors can be a big help if you’ll be making liquid meals for yourself at home. A blender is useful as you purée fruits and veggies. You can also use it on a lower setting to pulse thicker foods like oatmeal into a safe consistency. 

Pasta, rice, and potatoes can be cooked until very soft, then thinned with water, butter, or gravy. You can also use water or milk and heat to soften crackers, which can be added to soup or broth. 


You may be able to save yourself some work by purchasing foods that have already been puréed, but these can be pricey and hard to find. You may find it more cost-effective to purée foods at home. 

Baby food is an option but doesn’t come in big enough portions for adults (and, at a dollar or so a jar, can end up being costly). Even so, you can use them as the base for a liquid meal.

On the flip side, while nutritional shakes like Ensure and Glucerna are costly, they can add a good boost of protein and nutrition to better meet your daily needs. While the added cost of nutritional shakes may be well worth the investment, they should not be used as the sole source of nutrition.

Full Liquid Diet vs. Other Diets

A full liquid diet is similar to other diets used to treat digestive disorders or help you get ready for or recover from surgery. However, there are some key differences.

Clear Liquid Diet

A full liquid diet is similar to a clear liquid diet, which is often necessary before surgery and is a required part of the prep for a colonoscopy.

The main difference is that a clear liquid diet only allows fluids that are completely free of particles, such as water, pulp-free apple juice, and broth. Other juices and bullion may be okay as long as they have been thoroughly strained. Thick, opaque fluids are not allowed.

clear liquid diet options

Verywell / Cindy Chung

Mechanical Soft Diets

A mechanical soft diet is one that doesn't require much chewing. With that said, certain soft foods may be excluded based on their texture or consistency. These include foods that are high in fiber or fat, even if they are easy to chew.

A mechanical soft diet is typically recommended if you're healing from an injury or surgery involving your mouth, jaw, or throat. It also allows your digestive system to rest after an illness or surgery.

A mechanical soft diet may also be recommended as you progress from a full liquid diet back to regular solid food.

Dysphagia Diet

If you have trouble swallowing (dysphagia), your doctor may recommend a special, three-stage diet to help you get back to eating solid food:

  • In stage one, you will only eat food that doesn't require chewing, such as yogurt.
  • In stage two, you can add foods that only require a little bit of chewing, like soft-boiled eggs.
  • In stage three, you can add fruits and vegetables that have been mashed or chopped into tiny pieces.

After you've moved through each of these stages, you should be ready to consume a normal solid food diet. 


Your healthcare provider may prescribe a full liquid diet if you are recovering from an injury or illness that makes it hard for you to chew, swallow, or digest food. It may also be recommended after gastrointestinal surgery to heal you better.

Full liquid diets are usually used for a few days and up to two weeks. Side effects include constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, tiredness, and weight loss.

To better ensure you meet your nutritional needs, work with your healthcare provider, a registered dietitian, or a nutritionist who can help you build an appropriate dietary plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much protein powder should someone add to a full liquid diet?

    Most people on a liquid diet are able to consume enough protein for the duration of the diet, but adding protein powder can help meet these needs. The general protein recommendation for a full liquid diet is at least 45 grams of protein per day.

  • How long can someone safely be on a full liquid diet?

    How long someone should stay on a liquid diet depends on the individual person, but most people only need it for five days to two weeks. It is important that a physician or dietitian supervise the diet.

  • Is doing a liquid diet healthy?

    No. This is not the best choice for a diet program as it may not give you enough fiber, vitamins, or minerals. A full liquid diet should only be used if prescribed by a professional for a specific medical reason.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. McNally PR. Chapter 59: nutrition, malnutrition, and probiotics. In: GI/Liver Secrets Plus (Fourth Edition). New York NY: Elsevier: 2010.

  2. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

  3. MedlinePlus. Full liquid diet.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Instructions for liquid diet before surgery.

  5. MedlinePlus. Full liquid diet.

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a healthcare journalist and fact checker.