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Nutrition & Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Date issued: July 2022

Review date: July 2024

Ref: C-280 v3

PDF:  COPD final July 2022 v3.pdf [pdf] 375KB

Nutrition and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disease that causes breathing difficulties.

People who suffer from COPD often lose weight.

This booklet offers advice and tips on how to eat well and enjoy your food, and prevent further weight loss.

Eating Well & Body Weight

Having COPD can make it difficult to eat enough to maintain your body weight. Eating well can help to:

  • Keep your breathing muscles as strong as possible

  • Help you fight infections

  • Reduce time spent in hospital

Eating well is not always easy due to:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Too tired or out of breath to buy and prepare food

  • Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath while chewing and swallowing

  • Drugs that may cause stomach upset                   

  • Food may taste different.

If you are losing weight, or have lost weight, eating food high in both calories and protein will help prevent further weight loss and can help you to gain weight.

Tips To Get The Most From Your Food

Milk & Dairy Products:  are rich sources of both energy and protein.  Try to include them in your daily diet.

  • Full fat milk, milk powder, evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream

  • Full fat yoghurts and fromage frais
  • Cheese                             

 Rich Source of Energy:  Helps you add extra calories 

  • Add butter, cream, cheese, mayonnaise, salad cream to everyday foods e.g. potatoes, vegetables, sandwiches, sauces, soups

  • Add sugar, jam, honey, syrup to bread puddings, breakfast cereals

  • Include milk and dairy products

  • In your daily diet e.g. cheese, yoghurts, fromage frais, milky drinks

  • Add grated cheese to pasta dishes, soups, vegetables and potatoes

  • Try tinned rice pudding, custard or other ready made desserts such as mousse, ice cream.

Quick & Easy Snacks

  • Toast, crumpets, teacake, malt loaf, or scone and jam with cream or clotted cream 

  • Cheese and biscuits, nuts, crisps, chocolate

  • Dried fruit 

Small Meals

  • Toast: with butter and tinned fish e.g. pilchards, sardines, baked beans with cheese, pate, chocolate spread, peanut butter,

  • scrambled egg/omelette/scotch egg on toastScrambled egg/omelette/scotch egg

  • Jacket potato with butter and beans and/or cheese

  • Sausage roll, small pastie, pork pie.

  • Tinned soup.

Nourishing Drinks

  • Hot milky drinks, milky coffee, malted milk, Drinking Chocolate. 

  • Build-up® and Complan® – these are high energy protein drinks available in sweet and savoury soup flavours and can be bought in most Supermarkets and Chemists.

Fruit and Vegetables

These are important sources of vitamins and minerals but as they are low in energy, it is advisable to add high-energy foods to them.


  • Add cheese, butter or margarine to the vegetables

  • Try roasting vegetables with cooking oil or butter.


  • Mix in a blender with ice cream, sugar and milk to make fruity drinks

  • Chop into fruit salads and add cream, yoghurt or ice cream.

Helpful Advice to Improve Eating

General Advice:

  • Try to eat slowly, avoiding fizzy drinks and foods that make you feel bloated

  • Try to eat your main meal earlier in the day instead of the evening

  • Relax before and after meals

  • Softer foods may be easier to manage

Poor Appetite:

  • Try to eat small and frequent meals throughout the day and sip milky drinks

  • Try eating your favourite foods     

  • Buy ready prepared meals or get someone else to prepare food if you become out of breath or too tired to cook  

  • Try smaller portions at mealtimes (see tips on page 5)

  • Make food as nourishing as possible

  • If you are unable to eat a meal, replace it with a nourishing drink

  • Don’t drink fluids just before or during meals as this can fill you up

  • Try to eat a variety of foods and eat the high energy   ones first

  • Try eating with friends or family

Difficulty Breathing:

  •  If using oxygen try to wear your nasal specs/cannula while eating  

  • Choose softer foods which are easier to chew and swallow e.g. stews and casseroles

  •  Cut food into small pieces and chew well 

  •  You may find it easier to eat 5-6 small meals a day rather than 3 large meals  

  • Try to sit as upright as possible while eating  

  • Clear airways at least an hour before eating 

Too Tired:

  • Choose foods which are easy to prepare. Make enough so you can chill or freeze for later/another day

  • Try to get help with food preparation when possible

  • Try ready-made meals and convenience foods

  • Consider Meals on Wheels or similar home delivery companies if food preparation becomes too difficult e.

    • Wiltshire Farm Foods
    • Meals Direct
    • Home Farm Foods
  • Rest before and after meals to save energy 

Dry Mouth:


  • Drink plenty of cold fluids during the day (not immediately before meals)

  • Try sucking ice cubes,Fruits such as oranges and grapefruit can also help

  • Avoid very salty food

  • Try moist foods.  Add gravy/sauces to food

Useful Information Sites





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