Nutrition and metabolism have been the topic of extensive scientific research in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) but clinical awareness of the impact dietary habits, nutritional status and nutritional interventions may have on COPD incidence, progression and outcome is limited. A multidisciplinary Task Force was created by the European Respiratory Society to deliver a summary of the evidence and description of current practice in nutritional assessment and therapy in COPD, and to provide directions for future research. Task Force members conducted focused reviews of the literature on relevant topics, advised by a methodologist. It is well established that nutritional status, and in particular abnormal body composition, is an important independent determinant of COPD outcome. The Task Force identified different metabolic phenotypes of COPD as a basis for nutritional risk profile assessment that is useful in clinical trial design and patient counselling. Nutritional intervention is probably effective in undernourished patients and probably most when combined with an exercise programme. Providing evidence of cost-effectiveness of nutritional intervention is required to support reimbursement and thus increase access to nutritional intervention. Overall, the evidence indicates that a well-balanced diet is beneficial to all COPD patients, not only for its potential pulmonary benefits, but also for its proven benefits in metabolic and cardiovascular risk.