For some medical procedures and conditions, your doctor may prescribe a short-term diet of clear liquids. This does not have to be a deadly-dull ordeal if you include flavorful alternatives to the usual bland fare and try these clear liquid diet food ideas.

A clear liquid diet includes plain water, clear juices, broth or bouillon, tea or coffee (WITHOUT cream or creamers but can be sweetened with honey or sugar), gelatin, clear sodas like ginger ale, and ice pops or other frozen products made from pure juice that contain no pulp, pures or chunks of fruit. The goal, after all, is to keep food residues out of your digestive system long enough so that your doctor can perform tests such as a colonoscopy, or until your body can begin to digest food on its own again after surgery or an illness. This diet sounds pretty miserable, yes? Not necessarily.

Drinking plain water can get old really fast on this diet, even if you normally love it. Jazz it up with flavorings like Crystal Light or a splash of clear fruit juice like cranberry, apple or grape.

It’s not exactly soup, but clear broth can be an important part of the short time you’re on a clear liquid diet. First, it provides electrolytes like salt and potassium that you’re not getting from your regular diet. Second, since it’s hot and you sip slowly, it can feel like you’re eating something more substantial than the other components of this diet. But before you grab that can or box of broth from the supermarket shelf, consider that making your own broth is much cheaper, does not contain chemicals like MSG, and can be tailored to fit your tastes. And it’s easy. Add a quartered onion, a couple of stalks of celery, a couple of carrots, salt and pepper to taste (fresh, coarsely ground pepper works best), and your own bouquet garni – a combination of herbs and spices tied in a little cheesecloth bag – to four to six cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain the broth twice to make sure all particles are removed, and enjoy as frequently as you desire.

Who says gelatin has to be boring? Why not make non-alcoholic “Jell-O shots” and pretend it’s a little more interesting? Just follow the package directions, but pour the hot, dissolved gelatin mixture into shot glasses. After it has set, loosen the edges with a popsicle stick or a butter knife and enjoy. Or, while making the gelatin, replace some of the water with clear fruit juice to your preference. Cranberry/lime, anyone?

Sorry, no ice cream on this diet. But the “treat” feeling of an ice pop can help with the monotony. Sure, you can buy commercially-available ice pops, and some commercially-prepared Italian ices are allowed (check labels carefully to make sure no fruit solids or pures are included), but to avoid artificial colors that may not be advisable in some conditions, for example, in colonoscopy prep, make your own frozen goodies. For ice pops, all you need is an ice pop form – available from companies like Tupperware or at stores like Target – and a selection of clear fruit juices like apple, grape or cranberry. You can also use lemonade or fruit punch as long as you carefully strain to remove any pulp. Either using individual flavors or a combination (apple/cranberry is nice), pour into molds and freeze. If you’re feeling ambitious and want to make your own lemon Italian ice, bring to a boil 2 cups of water, 3/4 pounds of granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon zest. Simmer for 10 minutes, strain out the zest and let cool. Then add the strained juice of three lemons. Adjust the balance of sweet/tart to your preference by adjusting the amount of sugar or the amount of water. Churn in an ice cream maker until slushy. This can also be made without an ice cream maker. Just pour the cooled mixture into an airtight container, put into your freezer and stir about every half hour until it reaches the desired consistency.

Yes, coming up with clear liquid diet food ideas can be a trial, and yes, being on the diet can be unsatisfying and tedious, but if you plan ahead and use some creativity, you can make the very short time you or a loved one is on a clear liquid diet go faster.

NOTE: Using a clear liquid diet for weight loss can be dangerous. This diet should only be undertaken under a doctor’s supervision and for no more than a few days, as this type of diet does not contain adequate nutrition or calories.

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