If you have Crohn’s disease or a similar issue that makes it difficult for you to digest solid food, your doctor may recommend a liquid diet. Make sure to seek medical advice if you plan on having two or more of your daily meals in liquid form. (If you’re perfectly healthy but very interested in getting your calories in liquid form, talk to your doctor too – it may be best for you to stick to a diet that has a combination of solid and liquid foods.) Before blindly jumping in, here are 10 tips for starting a liquid diet.
1. Talk to Your Doctor First
We know we said this, but it's worth repeating. It’s important to talk to a doctor if a health concern is your reason for starting a liquid diet. It’s also important to talk to a dietician if you’re trying to lose weight because it’s highly likely you don’t need a liquid diet and would benefit more from a diet that combines some of the elements of a liquid diet with a more traditional solid-foods diet. It’s important to take your health seriously and don’t just switch to liquids because you heard a celebrity lost weight that way. Seriously restricting your calories through a liquid diet can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, disrupted blood sugar, potassium and sodium levels, and a much higher likelihood of regaining weight when you return to solid foods.
2. Don't Feel the Need to Make all the Drinks Yourself
If you’re having a difficult time keeping weight on – as is often the case with Crohn’s and similar diseases – you may want to hit up the aisles of your health food store and grab a case of Ensure or Boost. These commercial drinks are formulated to give you 200-300 calories, so they work well as a snack or light breakfast and are probably best supplemented with more calories for a lunch or dinner.
3. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Calories
Say no to overly restrictive diets – in liquid or any other form – that offer an inadequate amount of calories. Underfeeding your body can lead to fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, gallstones, cold intolerance, electrolyte imbalance, heart damage, constipation, lost lean body mass and ultimately weight gain. None of that sounds fun, so do yourself a favor and choose a plan that is not too low in calories and that encourages gradual weight loss. Unless you really need it for health reasons, it’s generally best to have one or two solid meals a day when embarking on a liquid diet.
4. Supplement Your Diet
If you're adding protein powder or another supplement to your drinks, look for one that will fulfill your nutritional needs. Find a supplement that has 100 percent of your daily vitamins and minerals, at least 60 grams of protein, 25 grams of fiber, and is a healthy source of fat. Most doctors and dieticians agree that unless you're treating a health condition, it’s generally not a good idea to stay on a liquid diet for more than a few days.
5. Keep Your Drinks Simple
If a health condition has you on a liquid diet for the long haul, make life easy on yourself by finding some simple smoothie recipes. Unless you want to spend all day in the kitchen, keep things easy by whipping up smoothies that only require a few basic ingredients. Try this one to start: milk (regular, soy or almond, depending on what you can tolerate), yogurt (or soy yogurt), protein powder (soy, egg, or whey) and a banana. Throw everything into a blender and mix it up. Your liquid meal is served.
6. Skip the Sugary Drinks and Reach for Coconut Water Instead
When you need something more than water, don’t grab a soda, coffee or fruit juice unless you want to cause an even bigger flare-up of Crohn’s or IBS symptoms. Instead, opt for coconut water, which offers a natural source of electrolytes. If coconut water isn’t your thing and you want to look for another electrolyte replacement beverage, steer clear of high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose and artificial coloring.
7. Experiment with the Ingredients that Work for You
Ingredients that are soothing for someone else may cause flare-ups for you, and vice-versa. Find the ingredients that work best for you and your body and avoid the ones that don’t. The ingredients in this Nutty Breakfast Smoothie (bananas, spinach, water, almond butter) are generally soothing for most people, but you should again figure out what works best for you.
8. Remember: A Few Days does not Negate all the Other Days of the Year
People who use liquid diets as a quick fix seem to assume that what they put into their bodies for 2 or 3 days will make up for everything else they do the other 365 days of the year. It simply doesn’t work like that. A diet that you only do for a few days is just that: a diet. A lifestyle, on the other hand, is a healthy way of life that you commit to and re-commit yourself to every day of the year. No liquid or detox diet can ever compete with healthy common sense. The best things you can do for yourself – today and every day of the year – are to drink enough water, get enough sleep, and eat a balanced diet that contains fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Once you get healthy, you’ll no longer be tempted to try potentially unhealthy quick fixes.
9. Sip Warm Broth to Fill You Up
A hot soup with a broth base that you eat before your main meal can fill you up and lead to less calorie consumption later. It’s also one of the healthiest comfort foods around. Take a cue from a liquid diet plan and include warm broth on your diet to get your comfort food fix without relying on calorie-laden foods like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and meatloaf.
10. Make Your Own Sorbet (and other treats)
It doesn’t have to be all juice, soup, juice, soup, water on a liquid diet. Blenders are a miraculous invention that help us get solid foods into a more liquid state, so we can add real, whole ingredients to the liquid meals we make. When you find yourself with a sweet tooth, give this three-ingredient (peach, strawberries, yogurt) sorbet a try. Experiment with other recipes too to make the liquid diet experience less stressful and more fun.