Colonoscopy Diet Prep Made Easy
Do you have a colonoscopy scheduled soon? Maybe you are overwhelmed and confused by the colonoscopy diet prep instructions? This article is designed to make your colonoscopy diet prep EASY to follow!
My name is Katie and I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Diets are my thing, my area of expertise. But a colonoscopy diet prep has become pretty darn familiar to me as well.
Tomorrow will be my third colonoscopy in just over 6 months (lucky me!). In fact, I am on a Clear Liquid diet as I type. I know how challenging and frustrating colonoscopy diet prep can be. I’m here to make this easier for you. You have got this!
Now, every colonoscopy is a little different. From your gastroenterologist’s individual preferences to the types of bowel prep you will be completing.
Be sure to follow the instructions from your gastroenterologist. This article is meant to supplement and support the individualized advice you are getting from your healthcare team.
*This article includes affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
What is Colonoscopy Diet Prep?
Colonoscopy diet prep is simply the way you eat in the days preceding your colonoscopy. It is designed to help clear your bowels so your healthcare team can complete a successful colonoscopy.
A successful colonoscopy requires 100% clear bowels. Any type of stool in your colon can get in the way of your gastroenterologist’s ability to see the surface of your large intestine.
If you are unable to fully prep, your colonoscopy will be cancelled. Or worse, when you are in the procedure, the doctors will be able to complete the colonoscopy. You will have to reschedule and complete your colonoscopy diet prep all over again.
Aren’t Bowel Prep Medications Enough?
I know it can be a little confusing. You will be taking some type of medication to help prep your bowels… so why does your diet matter?
Maybe you are taking a prescription bowel prep like Suprep or GoLytely. Or perhaps you are taking over the counter options like magnesium citrate. These medications will absolutely help clear the bowels, but colonoscopy diet prep is important too.
It is estimated that 20-25% of those who have colonoscopies have poor prep. Following a colonoscopy diet will help to ensure that you have a successful prep and successful colonoscopy.
3 Days of Colonoscopy Diet Prep
In general, there are 3 days of colonoscopy diet prep:
- Day 1: Low Fiber Diet (2 days before colonoscopy)
- Day 2: Clear Liquid Diet (1 day before colonoscopy)
- Day 3: Nothing by Mouth (day of colonoscopy)
Now, there is emerging research on options for liberalizing diets and not following such strict diet prep. But because results are not consistent, most gastroenterologists do recommend following more strict colonoscopy diet prep rules to ensure a successful colonoscopy.
As a final reminder, be sure to work with your healthcare team and follow their individualized instructions. This article is meant to compliment their instructions, not replace them.
Colonoscopy Diet Prep: Day 1
You generally start your colonoscopy diet prep 2 days before your colonoscopy. On DAY 1 of your colonoscopy prep diet, you will be working on decreasing the amount of fiber in your diet.
In my opinion, this is the easiest day of the colonoscopy diet prep. As a dietitian I eat a ton of high fiber foods, but cutting them out for a day doesn’t cause me any problems.
Low Fiber Diet
A low fiber diet is actually pretty simple. You are just avoiding or limiting foods that contain fiber. Fiber is a non-digestible part of foods. It is important for forming bulk so you can have good bowel movements.
Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and in other food products. Be sure to read the nutrition label on packaged foods to see how much fiber is in an individual food.
High Fiber Foods:
- Whole Grains
- Some protein bars, snack bars
Low Fiber Foods:
- White bread
- White rice
- Some Crackers
- Some pastas
- Olive oil
Tips for Following a Low Fiber Diet
My number one tip for following a low fiber diet is to read the nutrition facts label! Before your colonoscopy prep diet begins, go to the store and start reading nutrition facts labels. Look for foods with no or low fiber.
Plan your meals and be ready before Day 1 of your colonoscopy prep diet. Be sure to check out our Colonoscopy Diet Prep SERIES for a premade foods list, shopping list, meal plan, and colonoscopy prep planner.
Low Fiber Diet Sample Menu
Here is a sample low fiber diet plan so you can see what a day might look like.
You’ll notice, I added some ice-cream at the end of the day. This is my little celebration before Day 2, when I know eating solid foods is out the window!
- White Toast
- Tortellini with pesto
- Cottage cheese
- Salmon with lemon juice & dill
- White rice
One thing to keep in mind with a colonoscopy prep diet, it’s a temporary diet. Don’t get too caught up in worrying about “healthy” foods. Your goal is to have a successful colonoscopy.
Colonoscopy Diet Prep: Day 2
This is my least favorite day of colonoscopy diet prep: clear liquid diet day. I’m a dietitian and I love food. Not eating real food just makes me a little sad. I’m mostly joking, but it’s a little true (remember, I’m on a clear liquid diet now. Ugh!).
The clear liquid diet is usually completed the day before your colonoscopy.
Clear Liquid Diet
A clear liquid diet involves only consuming liquids that are clear without any type of residue (think pulp). A clear liquid diet primarily consists of carbohydrate foods. It is difficult to feel full and satiated when on a clear liquid diet. But the good news is this diet is temporary!
Clear liquids are ones you can generally see through. Liquids like milk or orange juice are not included on a clear liquid diet. There’s a full liquid diet which includes these options, but this is not the diet you are following in Day 2.
It is very important that your clear liquids do not contain food particles at all. Below are some things to avoid on a clear liquid diet.
Avoid on a Clear Liquid Diet
- Any type of solid foods
- Any type of soft foods
- Milk (dairy or plant based)
- Orange Juice
- Dark purple or red colored drinks
- Juice with pulp
- Vegetable juice
- Cream based soups
- Soups with food chunks
Clear Liquid Options
- Apple Juice
- White grape juice
- Black coffee
- Tea (no cream)
- Sports drinks
- Chicken broth
- Beef broth
- Jell-o (gelatin)
- Sodas (7-up, ginger ale, cola)
- Popsicles (water based, without fruit, chunks, or dairy)
- Hard candies (lemon drops, clear lollipops)
- Ensure Clear*
Clear Liquid Diet Tips
I’ve mentioned how I don’t like following a clear liquid diet. No matter how many clear liquids I consume, I just don’t feel satisfied. My biggest tip is to keep yourself busy and distracted on Day 2 so you don’t get over focused on being hungry.
Maybe write a blog article like I’m doing now. 😉
Also be sure to shop ahead of time to have a good supply of clear liquids on hand. Here are some of my favorites on Amazon* if you want to order them ahead of time:
Clear Liquid Diet Sample Meal Plan
Here is a sample of what a day might look like on a clear liquid diet.
- Black coffee or tea
- Apple juice
- Lemon Jell-o
- Chicken broth
- Lime Jell-o
- Sports drink
- White grape juice
- Beef broth
- Orange Jell-o
- Hard candies
Colonoscopy Diet Prep: Day 3
Today is the day! Your colonoscopy. I always try to schedule my colonoscopy early in the day. This is because you are not able to eat on the day of your colonoscopy.
Nothing by Mouth
Day 3 of your colonoscopy diet prep includes eating nothing by mouth. In my world, we call this NPO. This means no eating food or drinking liquids at all.
Now you probably have started your bowel prep the night before. And you may have more bowel prep to finish this morning. It is fine to consume the bowel prep and recommended water along with it.
But do not eat or drink anything beyond this. This includes avoiding hard candies, gum, and ice chips.
If your colonoscopy is later in the day, your healthcare team may allow you to have some clear liquids or water in the morning. Please refer to your individual colonoscopy instructions.
Bowel Prep Tips
Today you aren’t eating anything. So diet recommendations are pretty easy this day! But I do want to give some tips about the bowel prep. The drink you have to consume to clear your bowels.
Drinking this beverage can be pretty rough for some people. But it has to be done. You may find yourself gagging or thinking there is no way you can finish your prep. Here are some tips to help you. Everyone is different, so there are a wide variety of tips.
Tips for drinking bowel prep:
- Drink your bowel prep cold, put it in the fridge the night before.
- Drink your bowel prep fast. If possible, chug that drink down.
- If you cannot chug the prep, try doing shots with water in between.
- Or, if slow works better, alternate prep with water and take your time.
- Take time to breathe and relax between sips.
- Have a glass of cold water nearby to drink after the prep.
- Try drinking prep with a straw placed near the back of your tongue.
- Hold your nose while you drink to minimize smell.
- Hold a slice of lemon or something with aroma under your nose.
If you are someone who will throw up the prep because you are so sensitive to taste and smells, be sure to talk to your healthcare team about potential options for you. An anti-nausea medication may be beneficial.
Eating After Your Colonoscopy
You have survived your colonoscopy diet prep!! Wooh hoo! Congratulations. You can now go back to eating a normal diet. Assuming there were no complications, of course.
You may still have some diarrhea and upset stomach from your prep, so take it easy as you re-introduce foods to your diet. Taking it easy may include avoiding spicy, fatty, greasy, or fried foods for the rest of the day.
Preparing for Your Colonoscopy Diet Prep
Let’s talk about preparing for your colonoscopy prep diet. It’s helpful not only to review what foods/beverages you can consume each day, but make a list of foods you will actually be eating.
I recommend going to the store before you start your colonoscopy diet prep. You may not have the right foods in your house. It is better to be prepared!
Be sure to check out our Colonoscopy Diet Prep SERIES for a premade foods list, shopping list, meal plan, and colonoscopy prep planner.
Colonoscopy Diet Prep 3 Day Meal Plan
I’ve shared sample meal plans above, but here is the 3 Day Meal Plan for your colonoscopy diet prep. Keep in mind these are just ideas. You can swap out items for allowed food/drinks that you prefer.
|Day 1: Low Fiber Diet||Day 2: Clear Liquid Diet||Day 3: Nothing by Mouth|
|2 days before colonoscopy||1 day before colonoscopy||Day of colonoscopy|
|Nothing unless advised otherwise by healthcare team (ex. You may need to finish bowel prep with water)|
Colonoscopy Diet Recipes
Just because you are following a colonoscopy prep diet, doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Here are some low fiber and clear liquid colonoscopy diet recipes.
Low Fiber Recipes
There is so much variety for low fiber recipes, but here are two to get you inspired!
MICROWAVABLE EGG BREAKFAST
This is one of my favorite breakfast recipes because it’s fun and easy. It also happens to be fiber free!
- 2 jumbo eggs
- 4 Tbsp shredded cheese
- 2 slices precooked bacon, diced
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Coat coffee mug with non-stick cooking spray.
- Add eggs, cheese, and bacon. Stir well.
- Microwave on high for 45 seconds.
- Stir ingredients with fork.
- Microwave for 30-45 seconds until fully cooked
You can learn more about this recipe here.
LOW FIBER CHARCUTERIE BOARD
Charcuterie boards are all the rage. Plus, they are fun. Who doesn’t like a tray full of snacks?
- Brie Cheese
- Water Crackers
- Deviled eggs
- Mini Cheese Sandwich Crackers
- Assemble ingredients on a plate, board, or tray.
This is a pretty easy recipe, but a fun one to create and enjoy.
Clear Liquid Recipes
Here are some fun clear liquid recipes to look forward to on Day 2.
Lavender lemonade is tart, sweet, and unique. Serve cold, over ice.
- Add ingredients to a glass and stir well.
This recipe is super easy and tasty. Add more lemonade powder or syrup to taste. We use the powdered lemonade in this recipe to avoid pulp. If you make your own lemonade, be sure to strain.
This is a simple, tasty, but kinda fancy recipe. The 7-up adds a fun twist on traditional Jell-o.
- 3 oz packet of Lime Jell-o*
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup 7-up
- Stir Jell-o powder into boiling water for 2 minutes until dissolved.
- Stir in cold 7-up and cover.
- Refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm.
You can swap out the lime Jell-o for lemon or orange if you would like.
Eating out on a Colonoscopy Diet
I wanted to add one quick note about eating out on a colonoscopy diet. Use caution in making food selections unless you are able to view the nutrition information or get information on the ingredients that are in a dish.
Here are some ideas for grabbing a bite (or drink) at Starbucks:
Low Fiber Starbuck Choices
- Bacon & Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites
- Egg White & Roasted Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites
- Mochas, lattes, cappuccino
Clear Liquid Starbucks Choices
- Black coffee
- Hot tea
- Iced tea
- Kiwi Starfruit Refresher (without fruit chunks)
Colonoscopy Diet Prep Conclusion
Following colonoscopy diet doesn’t have to be hard. Planning ahead goes a long way to help you have success as you prepare for a successful colonoscopy. Hopefully this article helped you figure out how to best navigate a colonoscopy diet.
And be sure to check out our Colonoscopy Diet Prep SERIES for a premade foods list, shopping list, meal plan, and colonoscopy prep planner. Best of luck to you!!