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Liquid Diet Ideas and Equipment

Anyone who has ever had to go on a liquid diet for any length of time knows it isn’t that much fun. However, after certain types of surgery, it is often necessary. Patients, dieticians and kitchen managers alike simply must deal with the limitations imposed by this type of diet. For patients on liquid diets, a common list of complaints includes constant hunger, low energy, boredom with limited options and cravings for familiar food. With a little creativity, however, a skilled menu planner can help alleviate some of the stress and discomfort that goes along with an all-liquid diet.

Let’s take a look at the two types of liquid diet and the equipment needed to accomplish a satisfying and balanced menu.

There are two types of liquid diets. The first, and more limiting, is the clear liquid diet.

Clear Liquid Diet

Before certain laboratory tests or surgeries a clear liquid diet is sometimes prescribed. This diet is extremely limiting and only allows patients to consume liquids that can be seen clear through: this means no pureed veggies, no ice cream, not even milk. A complete list of what can be eaten on a clear liquid diet can be seen in the text box to the side, and anything not on this list should be avoided. See below for a sample, provided by the Mayo Clinic, of a daily meal plan that meets the standards of this strict dietary regimen.

Breakfast:
1 glass fruit juice
1 cup coffee or tea (without dairy products)
1 cup broth
1 bowl gelatin

Snack:
1 glass fruit juice
1 bowl gelatin

Lunch:
1 glass fruit juice
1 glass water
1 cup broth
1 bowl gelatin

Snack:
1 ice pop (without fruit pulp)
1 cup coffee or tea (without dairy products) or a soft drink

Dinner:
1 cup juice or water
1 cup broth
1 bowl gelatin
1 cup coffee or tea

As you can see, this diet is not very filling or nutritionally sufficient and is never intended for extended use.

Regular Liquid Diet

A regular liquid diet includes anything that can be sucked through a straw, and therefore allows meal planners to get more creative. However, these dietary restrictions often last much longer than the clear liquid diet and therefore much variation is needed to keep patients happy. Take a look at the different categories of liquid foods to get more ideas for items to serve to patients on this less stringent, but still very limiting diet.

Pureed Whole Foods

There are endless possibilities for pureed versions of your favorite meals. Often times these items will need to be thinned with milk, broth or juice, so be sure to keep plenty of these items on hand to ensure these foods will be able to make it through the straw.

  • Broccoli, cauliflower and cheese
  • Thin mashed potatoes with cream cheese and parmesan
  • Sweet potatoes with maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Applesauce, with optional spices such as cinnamon
  • Cooked oatmeal thinned with milk or juice
  • Malt-O-Meal
  • Tofu liquefies easily and can be combined with a number of other items for added protein

Soups

  • Cream of asparagus soup
  • Potato and cheese soup
  • Tomato soup (try with Mexican or Italian seasoning)
  • Creamy salmon soup
  • Strawberries, whipped cream and angel food cake blended for a strawberry short cake shake
  • Gazpacho
  • Egg drop soup
  • Any vegetables on hand, cooked in chicken stock can be blended and made into a drinkable soup

Desserts

To satisfy wheat cravings:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich shake

To satisfy sweet cravings:

  • Banana, peanut butter and vanilla ice cream shake
  • Puddings before they set, or put through the blender
  • Combine yogurt, honey and milk with a variety of fruits for tasty smoothies
  • Jello with Sprite

To satisfy fancy coffee drink cravings:

  • Blended nutrition drinks like Ensure with frozen yogurt and some coffee grounds

Juices of all kinds, fruit and veggie and combinations thereof, are a great way to add flavor variety and key nutrients to the liquid diet. Here are a few popular juice ideas:

  • Carrot and parsley
  • Carrot, beet and ginger
  • Pineapple and mint
  • Orange and  grapefruit
  • Strawberry and kiwi

Equipment

There are two basic pieces of equipment you’ll need to maintain a healthy and varied liquid diet: a juicer and a blender. Though you can get away with using a blender only, having a juicer on hand will make preparing more varied and interesting concoctions much easier.

Blender: A hospital kitchen serving patients on a liquid diet cannot operate without a blender. A blender is also a better option than a food processor as it is designed to mix foods into smoother consistencies, which is essential for easy drinking.

Unless you are purchasing a blender for home care, do not be tempted to buy a home use blender. A healthcare facility kitchen that accommodates multiple patients should invest in a commercial blender. These blenders are designed for extensive use and the initial investment in a heavy duty model will pay off in the end, as they will not need to be replaced nearly as frequently. When purchasing, be sure to get a machine with enough capacity to accommodate large-batches, as this will save time and labor expenses. 

FSW Recommends: Waring 64-ounce Extreme High Power Series

Juicer: Though blenders can blend up a great many things, they can typically only accommodate softer fruits and veggies. A juicer is designed to make smooth, drinkable juice out of a wide variety of ingredients that could potentially damage the blades of a blender, such as carrots or beets. Purchasing a commercial juicer for your healthcare kitchen will make patients happier and healthier, and the jobs of dieticians and kitchen managers far more simple.

When purchasing a juicer, consider the overall size of the unit to ensure that the dimensions will fit in the counter space you have available. Also take note of the type of juicer, as some juicers are intended for use with citrus fruits only while others are intended for use with all fruits and vegetables. For accommodating a liquid diet, be sure to purchase a juicer that can mix up a wide variety of products.

FSW RecommendsWaring Electric Juice Extractor

Straws: Of course, don’t neglect the straws! Unless you are serving patients on clear liquid diet, thick straws will be necessary to consume products like milkshakes and pureed vegetables. For clear liquid diets, regularly sized straws should suffice.

Being on a liquid diet is not easy, but because so many patients have had to endure this trial for many medical reasons, there are a host of great ideas out there on how to maintain variety and patient satisfaction.