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COPD: Keeping Your Diet Healthy


If you have COPD, you may have little appetite or feel too tired to prepare and eat meals. But eating regularly and eating healthy foods is important. That's because food:

  • Provides your body with the energy it needs to function, such as for breathing and digestion.
  • Gives you the energy you need for daily activities.
  • Helps strengthen your body's natural defence system (immune system). This makes it easier to avoid infections.

Tips for eating when you have COPD

The following tips can make eating easier and help you get the nutrition you need. But if you have other diet limitations, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making changes in what you eat.

  • Make eating easier.
    • Choose foods that are easy to prepare.
    • Eat in a relaxed setting.
    • Eat with friends and family.
    • If you eat a main meal, try to eat it early. This way, you will have energy throughout more of the day.
    • Try to include a favourite food in your meals.
  • Avoid shortness of breath while eating.
    • Rest before eating if eating makes you short of breath or tired.
    • Use your bronchodilator about an hour before you eat. Then clear your lungs. This can help you breathe better during your meal.
    • Eat while sitting up. This helps remove pressure on your lungs.
    • If you use oxygen, use it while eating. Eating and digestion require energy, which causes your body to use more oxygen.
    • Try eating smaller, frequent meals so the stomach is never too full. A full stomach can push on the muscle that helps you breathe (your diaphragm) and make it harder to breathe.
    • Drink your beverage at the end of the meal. Drinking before or during the meal can fill you up more quickly.
    • If you notice that you have belly bloating that makes it hard to breathe, limit the amount of foods you eat that cause gas. These foods include onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and beans.
    • Avoid foods that are hard to chew. Eat and chew slowly so you are less likely to become short of breath. Try putting your spoon or fork down between bites to slow your eating speed.
    • If you have trouble breathing while eating solid food, try a liquid meal replacement, such as Ensure, Boost, or instant breakfast drinks.
  • Eat healthy foods.
    • Try to eat a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, dairy products, grains, and proteins.


Current as of: November 14, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Ken Y. Yoneda MD - Pulmonology