Nutrition is an important part of your COPD management.

The benefits of healthy eating include:

  • helping you maintain a healthy weight
  • helping your immune system fight infections
  • making it easier to exercise
  • providing you with more energy

All these benefits contribute to improving your lung function.

Canada's Food Guide is an excellent resource for healthy eating.

7 tips for eating well with COPD

1. Avoid shortness of breath while eating

  • Eating and digestion takes energy.
  • If eating is tiring you out or making you short of breath, give yourself a rest before a meal.
  • Eating while sitting up helps relieve the pressure on your lungs.
  • Having a full stomach can push on your diaphragm (the muscle that physically moves air in and out of your lungs), making breathing more difficult. If this happens, try eating smaller meals more often throughout the day. Instead of 3 big meals a day, have 6 frequent mini-meals.
  • If you are on oxygen, keep using it while you eat.

2. Pass on the salt

  • Too much salt can cause fluid retention or bloating.
  • Bloating can make it more difficult for you to breathe. Health Canada recommends foods from each food group that are lower in sodium and preparing foods with little or no added salt.

3. Maintain a healthy weight

  • Being underweight or abnormally losing weight can cause a loss of muscle – including the muscles that help you breathe and perform daily activities.
  • If you need to gain weight, consider eating healthy foods that can increase muscle mass. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can advise you which high protein and high-calorie foods are right for you.
  • Being overweight can also affect your breathing. Excess fat around the stomach can press on your diaphragm, making breathing more difficult. Consider reducing excess weight by avoiding high-calorie food and drinks.
  • A certified dietitian can help you choose healthy, nourishing foods.

Adding calories
How can you add more calories to your diet without overeating? Try these quick additions to your regular menu to add extra calories:

  • Mix an egg or egg yolk to dishes such as meatloaf or macaroni and cheese.
  • Mix an extra tablespoon of margarine or olive oil in casseroles, pasta, potatoes, rice, or vegetables.
  • Mix powdered milk to creamed soups, scrambled eggs, puddings, potatoes, yogurt, and casseroles.
  • Sprinkle ground nuts over puddings, potatoes, casseroles, salads, and yogurt.
  • Use cheese in sandwiches, crackers, casseroles, soups, toast, and pasta.

Adding protein
Dairy products and meats are excellent sources of protein. You can eat more of these foods or try these alternatives:

  • Use skim milk powder to enrich milk, cereals, scrambled eggs, creamed soups, and ground meat.
  • Add cheese or peanut butter to snacks.
  • Try high-protein shakes and nutritional supplement drinks.

4. Eat nutritious snacks, high in calories

  • If you're underweight, your doctor may recommend adding nutritious calories.
  • Eating healthy snacks throughout the day can help maintain your energy level without having to digest a larger meal.
  • Your options for healthy snacks include:
    • cheese
    • granola bars
    • hard-boiled eggs
    • crackers with peanut butter
    • bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter
    • hot or cold cereal with half-and-half cream
    • popcorn mixed with margarine and parmesan cheese

5. Limit unhealthy snacks

  • Say no to snacks that contain little nutritional value.
  • Eating these products can add unwanted pounds. Excess fat around the stomach can press on your diaphragm, making breathing more difficult. Also, carrying this weight wastes energy that your body uses to breathe, move, and digest healthy food.
  • Snacks to avoid include:
    • candy bars
    • potato chips
    • soft drinks

6. Limit foods that cause bloating

  • Some foods cause more gas or bloating than others. Bloating of the abdomen can make breathing more difficult for you.
  • If you have trouble with bloating, fruits and vegetables known to cause bloating include:
    • beans (not green beans)
    • broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • cabbage
    • cauliflower
    • corn
    • cucumbers
    • melons
    • onions
    • peas
    • raw apples
    • turnips
  • Other foods that can cause bloating include:
    • carbonated drinks
    • fried foods
    • greasy food

7. Consider nutritional supplements

  • Adding nutritional supplements may be necessary if you can't get all the nutrition you need by food alone.
  • To maintain a healthy weight, try vitamin-fortified high-protein drinks, which are sold in pharmacies.
  • Don't skip breakfast if you have difficulties breathing in the morning. Try drinking a liquid breakfast or nutritional supplement.
  • Always discuss dietary options and supplements with your doctor before changing your dietary habits.