What Does My Doctor Mean By “Clear Liquid Diet?”

By Alyssa Speicher July 17, 2017

When you’re getting a medical imaging exam, sometimes your doctor asks that you not eat or drink anything except clear liquids before the exam. But what exactly does a clear liquid diet mean?


Defining a Clear Liquid Diet

Your doctor or radiologist might need you to have a clear liquid diet hours or a day before your medical imaging exam. Most people think that “clear liquids” refers to water. And yes, clear liquids include plain water, but you actually have more options than that. Clear liquids can also include things like tea and coffee (without cream), popsicles (without pulp or yogurt), and cranberry juice.

“Clear” refers to the fact that the liquids do not have added substances like milk or solid foods. The reasons for the “clear liquids” restriction vary depending on what kind of test you are having. Sometimes, the restriction is there so there is nothing in your system that would interfere with any contrast agentswhereas other times it’s to prevent you from becoming nauseous.  

No matter the reason, the quality of your exam depends in part on you following the instructions provided. If you don’t follow the instructions correctly, your exam might need to be rescheduled or redone. Use this guide to help you decide what you can and cannot drink to be best prepared for your exam:

(Text only version)

Clear Liquid Diet Infographic




Infographic Text: Clear Liquid Diet
Okay to have:
  • Water, sports drinks.
  • Apple juice and other juices without pulp.
  • Black coffee or tea without cream.
  • Popsicles without fruit or yogurt.
Do not have:
  • Any solid foods.
  • Broth, applesauce, or other soft foods.
  • Orange juice or other juices with pulp.
  • Milk or dairy products.

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