An older woman with oxygen on a scooter in the grocery store

10 COPD Nutrition Tips

A diet full of healthy nutrients can help you live better with COPD. It can make sure you are getting all the right nutrients so your body has all it needs to generate the energy it needs to function. Here are some basic nutritional tips.

  1. Choose foods that are easy to prepare. With COPD, breathing alone may use up lots of your energy. It can make you feel easily fatigued. Easy to prepare meals makes it so you use less energy preparing the foods you need. Microwavable meals are one example of an easy to prepare meal. You may also wish to get others to prepare food for you. Another option some people use is Meals on Wheels.1
  2. Eat foods that are soft and easy to chew. This is especially important when you are having trouble breathing right now. Soft foods make it so you are using less energy to get them down. Examples of soft foods are eggs, pudding, cottage cheese, mashed potatoes, and peanut butter.2
  3. Eat six small meals rather than the traditional three larger ones. Large meals can make you feel bloated and full. When this happens, your stomach grows larger and presses up on your diaphragm. This makes it so your lungs have less room to expand. So, it’s best if you eat smaller meals more often.1
  4. Limit carbohydrates and focus on high fat foods. Carbs and fats are broken down by cells in a process called metabolism. Oxygen is a key ingredient used during cellular metabolism. The end result of this process is energy. The end result of metabolism is a waste product called carbon dioxide (CO2). The metabolism of fats creates less CO2 than the metabolism of carbohydrates. This is important because some people with COPD retain CO2, and this may cause breathing difficulties. So, for this reason, some people with COPD may benefit by eating a diet high in fats and low in carbs.3-4
  5. Avoid gas-causing foods and drinks. Some foods are known for causing gas. This may not bother people without COPD. But, when you have COPD, gas can make you feel full and bloated. It can push your stomach upwards on your diaphragm. Foods with the potential to cause gas include broccoli, cabbage, onions, peas, apples, cauliflower, beans, whole wheat, lentils, etc. Fried foods (like onion rings, french fries, and fried chicken) may also cause gas and bloating. Carbonated beverages too. CO2 is also made to make the carbonation. So, it may be best to avoid them or drink them sparingly.5
  6. Choose foods high in fiber. Fiber is essential for proper bowel function. So, this is something that is very important, especially when you have COPD. Most experts recommend 20-30 grams of fiber per day. A downside is that high fiber intake can cause gas and bloat. So, another option is to discuss with your doctor about taking fiber supplements.3
  7. Choose foods high in protein. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. So, a general recommendation is to make sure to eat a meal high in protein in at least two of your daily meals. Good sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, milk, nuts beans, and peas.3
  8. Drink water, but save it for later. Water is essential for proper lung function. It’s needed to keep airway cells well hydrated. It’s also needed to thin mucus. So, it’s important that you incorporate plenty of water into your diet. However, there are a few things to consider. First, when you do drink water, you should save it until after your meal. This is because water can make you feel full. So, it’s best to eat a healthy meal and then drink water. Also, some people with COPD also have heart failure. If this is the case, your doctor may have you limit your fluid intake. So, just make sure you get clearance from your doctor before incorporating extra water into your diet.
  9. Take your time when eating. Over time, you will find a pace that works best for you. But, many people with COPD find it best if they eat slow. This makes it so you are using less energy to eat. So, taking your time between bites can prove helpful. Some people find it helpful to use pursed-lip breathing between bites.6
  10. If prescribed oxygen, wear your oxygen at meal time. This can help assure your oxygen levels stay at healthy levels while your eating. And it can help prevent you from feeling short of breath while eating. Likewise, the food you’re eating will be metabolized. This metabolism requires oxygen. So, wearing oxygen will assure your body is getting all the oxygen it needs.

Discuss with your doctor

So, these are just some basic tips that might help people with COPD. These are just things to consider, or maybe even discuss with your doctor. Your doctor may also have some more specific nutritional tips for you. Or, your doctor may refer you to a dietician.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.

Community Poll

Do you struggle to afford your COPD medications?