Eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are important parts of managing COPD. While it can be difficult to focus on this aspect of your life, eating well plays a big role in feeling good and staying healthy.
If you are underweight, focus on gaining weight. The average person requires approximately 50 calories per day for breathing. Individuals with COPD may expend 750 calories per day on breathing alone. This increases daily calorie requirements making it difficult to maintain weight.

If you are overweight, focus on losing weight. There are many benefits of weight loss, including reducing shortness of breath by decreasing pressure on the diaphragm and respiratory muscles. A good weight loss program should include a variety of foods and physical activity.

Talk with your health care provider about your ideal weight.


Nutrition Tips for Gaining Weight

The best way to gain weight is to eat more. However people with lung disease often feel full after eating a small amount of food. If this is happening to you, try to eat smaller amounts more often. In addition, try to add calories to everything you eat with extra sauces and gravies. Here are some tips for weight gain:
  • Eat five to six small meals a day and snack whenever you are hungry.

  • Keep your favorite foods on hand for snacking and meals (such as frozen dinners).

  • Fat is a concentrated source of calories. Small amounts of vegetable oil, butter or margarine can increase the calorie content of any food.

  • Use higher calorie versions of foods you eat (butter crackers or cheese crackers instead of soda crackers).

  • Avoid “lite” products (skim milk, low fat yogurt and cottage cheese, etc.).

  • Don’t fill up on fluids. Drink fluids between meals rather than with meals. Drinking during a meal can make you feel full quickly.

  • Avoid filling up on low-calorie foods like salad at meal times; instead eat the heartier foods first.

  • Choose nutritious drinks, such as whole milk, milkshakes and juices. Consider supplemental drinks such as Boost®, Ensure® or Scandishake®. Replace no calorie drinks such as water with calorie-containing fluids, such as whole milk.

  • Meet with a registered dietitian (RD) for additional advice on meal planning.


Nutrition Tips for Losing Weight

If weight loss is your goal, focus on establishing a plan that includes a variety of foods. Avoid using the word “diet,” as a diet is something you go on and then go off. Try to make healthy lifestyle changes you can maintain for the long term. A healthy rate of weight loss is ½ to 1 pound per week. Rapid weight loss usually results in loss of fluid or muscle rather than body fat.
Here are some weight loss tips:
  • Do not skip meals.

  • Include three food groups with each meal.

  • Limit snacks to designated times, often mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

  • Limit sweetened beverages to no more than 12 ounces a day. This includes juice, soda and lemonade, to name a few.

  • Keep high fat or high sugar foods out of the house.

  • Limit serving sizes. Refer to the package for information on serving size.

  • Limit use of high calorie condiments such as mayonnaise or salad dressings. Use lower calorie versions.

  • Increase activity to help strengthen your body and lose weight.

Meet with a registered dietitian (RD) for additional advice.


Reviewed by National Jewish Health dietitians December 2015

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