When living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), your ability to follow a healthy diet plan can make all the difference in your quality of life.

Among the many changes you can make, quitting smoking and other unhealthy habits are obviously at the top of the list. Establishing a COPD diet plan is equally important when it comes to enhancing your energy and lung function.

(FYI: Here’s a list of other, non-diet related COPD Lifestyle Changes from the American Lung Association.)

So, it’s clear the foods you choose and the way you eat will have a tremendous impact on your symptoms.

How do you eat with COPD?

Maintaining strength and energy levels can be quite challenging. Inflamed lungs and partially blocked airways make it a struggle to keep your health and spirits up.

Increases or losses in your body weight can similarly occur and have direct, negative effects. Your reduced energy levels may cause loss of appetite leading to extreme weight loss, while others may experience weight gain due to inactivity. Proper nutrition is the solution for both conditions.

Note: Before planning on any diet, please consult your physician for advice and recommendations.

Your first key habit

Every step you take in the right direction will help improve your ability to manage symptoms and your levels of comfort. That’s why it’s important to create every day, lifelong habits that establish a consistent pattern for your energy and wellness.

The first habit you should form is to eat smart and pay attention. It all starts with being accountable for every single thing that goes into your body. This includes counting your calories and comparing your intake to your doctor-recommended levels. Keeping a daily food journal is a great way to do this, as well as track the types of foods that make you feel good or bad.

Fruits and veggies, for starters

Your list of quality foods for living with COPD begins with the most obvious choices on any healthy menu, fruits and vegetables. Loaded with valuable nutrients, it’s a smart way maintain/improve your lung health and nourish your body in general.

While at the supermarket, focus on buying your fruits and vegetables fresh. Concentrate your selections on those rich in vitamins and potassium, like tomatoes, lettuce, avocados, bananas and oranges.

Pass on the gas

Anything full of nutrients is a winning move, but keep in mind that some of these foods may cause discomfort. Stay away from fruits and vegetables that cause gassiness and bloating.

This includes cabbage, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, apples and some types of melons. And no spicy bean burritos! Despite their nutritional benefits, these foods will also cause your breathing to become difficult and uncomfortable.

Make proteins your best friend

Proteins like meat, fish, and eggs should be the anchor of every COPD meal. It’s a staple of food that builds muscle, helps the body heal, and works to fight infection. The American Lung Association includes milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, poultry, nuts.

Yes, you want to make sure you’re using quality lean proteins, not fast food burgers. Finding ways to include different proteins in your COPD diet takes planning. Always keep a kitchen full of standard items like eggs, nuts, and dairy. Also, consider nonfat dry milk, protein powder, and some premade protein drinks which can be easily added to meals.

Eat often and effectively

Another good habit to form is in the way you eat. Not only should you eat more frequent, smaller meals, but you should also learn to eat the important foods first, before you get full. Eat your meat and vegetables right away and then eat empty-calorie foods like mashed potatoes.

Make sense? You can further avoid getting full by eating your foods before drinking during your meals. Hydration is very important to those with COPD but make sure it doesn’t interfere with your nutrition.

Some more COPD diet tips:

  • Frequent small meals require less energy and you’ll avoid getting overly full
  • Drink plenty of fluids—it makes it easier to clear your lungs
  • Increase your caloric intake and gain weight by drinking milk instead of water with meals
  • Combine your fruits, veggies, and proteins into smoothies for a convenient meal
  • Avoid caffeine, which often exacerbates COPD symptoms
  • Snack on high-calorie snacks like nuts or crackers and cheese
  • Keep a food diary and record how certain foods affect you

Stick to Your Plan

Planning your COPD diet makes all the difference in your quality of life. Maintain a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, and proteins; and remember to keep a variety of dishes in your plan so that you don’t get bored and steer away from your plan.

One final tip to remember is that shortness of breath can be a major roadblock to your healthy eating habits. An oxygen concentrator may be an effective way of increasing and maintaining healthy oxygen levels in your bloodstream. Check to see if your physician recommends supplemental oxygen.