5 COPD Tips for Holiday Dinners

1. Plan healthy dishes that follow your diet.

Good nutrition helps the body fight infections, keeps muscles strong for breathing, and keeps your bones stronger. Planning your meal based on your diet will help you continue to eat well while enjoying holiday events. Continue to follow or seek dietician recommendations of which foods you should add or avoid. If you are eating at someone else’s house, offer to bring a healthy dish to ensure there is something you can eat if you have dietary restrictions. While eating healthy, you can still enjoy the holiday treats you normally avoid, just start with eating the healthy options and save your not-so-healthy favorites for last. If you start to fill up on healthy food, you naturally eat smaller portions of the rest. Remember to drink plenty of unsweetened fluids with your meal, such as water or tea, to stay hydrated. Hydration helps keep mucus loose so that you can breathe easier.

2. Focus on breathing while you eat.

Eating uses your muscles and organs to break down and digest food. This process consumes oxygen and can increase shortness of breath. Take breaks between bites when you need to catch your breath. One way to help reduce shortness of breath when eating is to choose soft foods. These foods are easier to eat because they require less chewing, which conserves more energy and oxygen. A few soft foods popular at holiday dinners includes mashed & potatoes, yams, sweet potato, macaroni and other noodles, cooked carrots, soup, cooked fruit, casseroles, cranberry sauce, moist fish, and gravy-coated meats.

3. Don’t skip meals to “Save Room” or overeat.

A full stomach pushes against the diaphragm, making it difficult for the lungs to fill with air, which causes discomfort and shortness of breath, so some people plan to skip meals and make up for it later so they “have more room” to try lots of food. However, it can actually make your condition worse! If you have diabetes, skipping a meal can affect your blood sugar levels. If you have COPD, skipping meals leads you to eat too quickly to realize you are full, which takes about 20 minutes. Eating fast also uses energy and oxygen quicker, leaving you feeling drained after the meal. Instead, eat snacks leading up to dinner and savor each bite between chatting with family to give yourself time to feel full. If you want room to try each dish, opt for small portions and start with your favorites.

4. If you are hosting, choose foods that are easy to prepare.

After using all of your energy to cook, you may feel too tired to eat the meal and socialize. Luckily there are a few ways to make holiday dinner easier. One way is to suggest a potluck, which has become more popular at get-togethers. Everyone coming to the event can bring a dish, this distributes the work so that you have more time to rest. You can also prep what you can in the days leading up to dinner, some dishes that are easy to make in advance include casseroles, cooked vegetables, and most desserts. You can also look up recipes with a shorter prep time, which means less time chopping ingredients or hovering over the dish. It is also important to be well-rested before the event. Try to leave some time to relax right before guests arrive, preparing things ahead of time can help with this too!

5. Maintain your sleep and exercise routine.

While you can often get caught up talking with family, your immune health and energy levels depend on a regular sleep schedule and daily exercise. Suggesting a light walk with family after dinner can help you work in exercise. To maintain your sleep schedule, make sure to sleep a full 8 hours the night before, and try to limit drinking alcohol as it can interfere with your sleep quality. Remember to keep an eye on the time during dinner too, so you can call it a night before you miss your regular bedtime. If you are planning the dinner, it can help to set a time range for the event and include it on invites. This helps prepare guests so they already know when to head home.