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Help, I'm Too Thin - How Can I Get the Extra Calories I Need?

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Updated December 12, 2010

Protein Shake

Protein Shake

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Question: Help, I'm Too Thin - How Can I Get the Extra Calories I Need?

When thinking about a COPD diet, bear in mind that according to the American Lung Association, people with COPD require 10 times as many calories to breathe than a healthy person. Sound easy? Not really, because some people with COPD can barely make it through a meal without becoming short of breath. So, how does someone get additional calories without having to increase the amounts of foods that they eat? That's easy -- by making the right food choices.

Answer: Not being able to meet your daily caloric requirement can lead to malnutrition, a common complication of COPD. To get extra calories and maintain energy along the way, make sure your shopping list includes the following types of foods:

High-calorie snacks

Choosing high-calorie snacks will help you maintain a high energy level between meals. Try creamy, rich puddings, crackers with peanut butter, dried fruits and nuts. Spread honey, jam or peanut butter on dense, whole grain breads, bagels or muffins. Grab a banana and spread some peanut butter on it while washing it down with a tall glass of milk. Buy some trail mix in bulk and put it in your favorite candy dish instead of those beloved M&M's. Pop a potato in the oven or microwave and fill it with vegetables and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Tip: If you don't know the caloric content of foods, try About.com's calorie counter or purchase one from the checkout counter of your local grocery store.

Make Your Beverages Count

Make beverages mean more calories by drinking milk-shakes, regular milk and high-calorie fruit juices. Avoid coffee, teas and diet sodas. Try blending your own protein shakes with protein powder from the health food store and mixing it with fresh or frozen fruit and lots of ice.

Breads and Cereals

Whole grains and cereals are loaded with calories. If you love oatmeal or cream of wheat for breakfast, try mixing it with milk instead of water. For an additional treat, slice up a fresh banana or stir some tasty, sweet berries into it. Granola and muesli are excellent choices for cold cereal lovers. Avoid thin cut, fluffy white breads. Choose dense whole grain, pumpernickel, or oat bran instead.

Pep up Your Protein

Adding extra protein to food items is a great way to boost calories. Try Carnation Instant Breakfast or Ovaltine in your milk. Stir some hearty wheat or oat bran into those special casserole dishes. Add dry milk or soy protein powder to mashed potatoes, gravies, soups and hot cereal. Choose shellfish or salmon cooked in olive oil as opposed to fatty cuts of red meat.

Choose High-Calorie Fruits

When you need to increase your daily caloric intake, fruits that are high in calories are best. Grab bananas, mango, papaya, dates, dried apples or apricots instead of apples, watermelon or honey dew.

Remember Your Vegetables

Did you know that watery vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and green beans are extremely low in calories? Choose starchy vegetables instead, like potatoes, beets, corn, peas, carrots or winter squash.

Healthy, Unsaturated Fats

When it comes to fats, most of us avoid them because we don't want to gain weight. But, remember, fats are an essential part of any diet, as long as you choose the right ones. Drizzle some olive oil on some pasta and vegetables for a great dinner idea. Use flax-seed or canola oil instead of shortening or hard margarine. Grab a handful of nuts or seeds. Cut some avocados up on a salad. And don't forget that peanut butter!

Soups and Salads

Robust soups or healthy salads are an excellent way to supplement calories. Try hearty split pea, navy or lentil instead of broth or vegetable soups. Drench black bean chili with a dollop of sour cream and an ounce of cheese. Choose higher calorie dressings, but be mindful of the saturated fat content. Try adding some colorful, starchy vegetables to salads for extra flavor and zest.

Adding creative calories to your diet plan is a great way to ensure unplanned weight loss and avoid low energy levels, which often accompany a COPD diagnosis. The key to adding calories, however, is to avoid calories from the wrong sources, like pastries, donuts, cakes or ice cream. Print this list out the next time your go shopping to help you make high-calorie food choices that are healthy and best for a COPD diet.
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