Cooking with COPD

Use these kitchen tips to make it easier to prepare and eat healthier meals

steaming greens

Having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) means that your “breathing muscles” work harder, so those muscles might need up to 10 times the calories of someone without COPD. The shortness of breath and fatigue of COPD also can make it difficult to grocery shop and prepare and eat snacks and meals. The result? Many people with COPD lose too much weight, and their muscles (including those used for breathing) can start to break down. 

Following a healthy diet won’t make COPD disappear, but according to the Cleveland Clinic and the American Lung Association, good nutrition can help you feel better by increasing energy, preventing infections, and helping to keep bones and muscles stronger. 

Here are some healthy cooking and eating tips from these and other COPD experts. 

Go low-prep when you’re low-energy. A bowl of high-fiber, whole-grain cereal with milk is quick and nutritious. So is a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat bread. 

Choose easy-to-use ingredients. Many foods come precooked, precut, and even pre-scrambled. For instance, you can make an omelet with liquid eggs, preshredded cheese and prechopped vegetables, fresh or frozen. Or, choose a ready-prepared supermarket dish like hot roast chicken from the deli area or grilled chicken breast from the fridge or freezer case. Simply reheat and eat, or use in a recipe. 

Drink your meal. Let the blender do most of the work! Smoothies are a good way to get in extra fruits and veggies. You can even add some protein powder or nut butter for your muscles’ sake. Simpler yet: “Snack” on a premixed meal-supplement drink. 

Rethink your cooking methods. Microwaves, Crock-Pots, and rice cookers all make meal prep a no-brainer. Plus, a Crock-Pot lets you do the work earlier in the day when you feel better. These methods can be safer, too: If you’re using oxygen, you need to stay away from appliances including ovens, gas stoves, and grills.

Rearrange your kitchen. Keep everything within easy reach. With help, move favorite foods to easy-access locations in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. Do the same with cookware, utensils, and dinnerware. Shelves and a wheeled food-prep cart may be additions worth considering, too. 

When you cook, make extra. Planned-overs (planned leftovers) allow you to cook once and eat often. Freeze the extras in single-serving portions. 

Set yourself up for easier eating. To give your lungs more breathing room, don’t eat too much at once, and sit up straight (during meals or otherwise!). Have 4 to 6 mini meals spaced throughout the day, with the biggest one occurring when you feel your best. Take small bites, chew slowly, and savor the flavor.