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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 six 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.

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.

  1. Rawal, et al, “Nutrition in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A review,” Journal of Translational Internal Medicine, 2015, Oct. to Dec., tps://, accessed 12/19/19
  2. “Nutritional Guidelines for People with COPD,” Cleveland Clinic,, accessed 12/19/19
  3. “Nutrition And COPD,” American Lung Association,, accessed 12/19/19
  4. “Weight Loss,” Mayo Clinic,, accessed 12/19/19
  5. Lashkari, Cashmere, “Foods That Can Irritate COPD,” News Medical Life Sciences, 2019, February 26,, accessed 12/19/19
  6. “Short of breath after eating,” COPD Foundation,, accessed 12/19/19


  • BeverlyDeMarco
    2 weeks ago

    Just came out of the Hospital from having a colonoscopy and ENDOSCOPY because of being high risk with breathing problems and on Oxygen 24/7 , I had to have it done in the Hospital, I EAT very little because I get Bloated right away and my stomach hurts when I EAT. The both test came back good so don’t know what’s wrong with my stomach. I do have a lot of MUCUS and that is part of the problem, I GO back to my LUNG Doctor tomorrow so Maybe he will get me something to get rid of the Mucus.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Beverly, and thanks for bringing us up-to-date on your current situation. So glad to hear both the endoscopy and colonoscopy came back negative for any issues. That is good to hear!
    I want to wish you ‘good luck!’ going back to the pulmonologist tomorrow. As my colleague, Lyn, said, please do check back and keep us posted as to your progress.
    Warm regards,
    Leon (site moderator

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Beverly – I’m so happy to hear the colonoscopy and endoscopy went well and came back negative. That’s great! I’m sure if you explain to your doctor that mucous is a problem, they’ll be able to help. Let us know.
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • davidjroll
    2 weeks ago

    I have found recipes for simple, and I believe nutricous, meals in student sites where cooking options are limited. Particularly handy if you are a single person.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Hi davidjroll, and thanks for your post sharing the simple recipes you have had success with. As my colleague, Lyn, said, I believe others in the community will find this to be a helpful suggestion. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    2 weeks ago

    That’s a great suggestion, davidjroll! I’m sure others on the site will find that useful information. Thanks!
    Best, Lyn (site moderator)

  • Janet Plank moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Very good info John. Some I knew but had never seen in print. Thank you!
    Janet (site moderator)

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    Thank YOU. John. Author/ Site Moderator.

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