This series has been created to help you kick start your keto journey so you can lose weight, feel healthier, and get closer to your goals each and every day. We will be breaking down the basics of the keto diet, how to get started and how to guarantee your success so that you stop starting over. In Part 3 we will be sharing how to avoid the keto flu, and what you can eat – as well as the foods you should avoid – when following a keto diet!
What is the “keto flu”?
Keto flu is the name given to a set of symptoms some people experience when first starting keto. It’s not actually a flu and definitely not contagious, but it can become quite tiring. Keto flu symptoms are very similar to that of your regular flu and can last anywhere from a day to a few weeks! You may experience:
- Muscle cramping
- Dizziness / light-headedness
It’s important to note that this isn’t the real flu! It’s called keto flu due to similar symptoms but it is not at all contagious and doesn’t actually involve a virus. Many people who experience these symptoms in the beginning of their keto diet will believe that their new diet is to blame and carbs are good after all. In actual fact, these symptoms are a telltale sign that you were very dependent on carbohydrates! Your body is going through a MAJOR withdrawal from sugar and carb-heavy foods.
When we stop eating sugar (or carbs altogether) it is common for our bodies to experience a withdrawal. Many people will feel irritability and experience mood swings. Our bodies are just adjusting without the sugar-hit that comes from carbs. The keto flu is a more intense version of this withdrawal.
What causes the keto flu?
The main cause for keto flu is your body lacking electrolytes, especially sodium. When starting keto, you will likely cut out lots of processed foods and eat more whole, natural foods. Although this is great for your long-term health, it normally causes a sudden drop in sodium intake.
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that carry an electric charge. Electrolytes affect the amount of water in your body, the pH level of your blood (acidity), your muscle function, and other important processes. They are super important, particularly in the beginning stages of keto when your electrolyte sources have been depleted!
How can I avoid the keto flu? Or, if I have it already, what can I do to make the symptoms go away?
The best way to avoid (or end) the keto flu is to add more sodium and electrolytes to your diet. We recommend:
- Adding more salt to your food
- Adding a stock cube to 1 cup of boiling water, and sipping it
- Adding an electrolyte to your daily routine (having 1 – 2 cups a day). We have a recipe for our Homemade Electrolyte drink in the Welle Club recipe collection, or you can buy an electrolyte powder, or a pre-made electrolyte like a sugar-free Poweraid if you prefer!
- Adding a magnesium supplement (these can be found at the supermarket of pharmacy)
If you do catch the keto flu, just remember that once you start increasing your water intake, electrolytes and sodium, it will go away quickly and you’ll emerge feeling like your old self – only better!
How should I start the keto diet?
It is as simple as picking a day, and jumping right in! We recommend stocking your pantry and fridge with delicious and wholesome, keto-friendly foods that will make the process easier! Having tempting foods in your home can be one of the biggest reasons for failure when starting any diet. To maximize your chances of success, it is a good idea to remove as many triggers as you can.
If you aren’t living alone, make sure to discuss with your family or flatmates before throwing anything out. If you simply can’t get rid of those tempting items try to compromise and agree on a new location they can be stored in so that they’re kept out of sight.
What do you eat on a keto diet?
You can find all of the keto-friendly foods you need in your local supermarket, or farmers market! The basic items that you should make sure you have on hand are:
- Water, coffee, tea (just make sure it is unsweetened)
- Keto-friendly sweeteners (our favourites that are available at the supermarket include liquid stevia drops, erythritol and stevia blended sweeteners, and monk fruit and stevia blended sweeteners)
- Condiments like full-fat mayonnaise, and reduced-sugar ketchup
- Seeds and nuts (chia seeds, pecans, almonds, macadamia, walnuts, etc)
- Alternative products for keto baking like almond flour (or almond meal) and coconut flour – for more information on keto baking essentials, check out Elle’s YouTube video here!
The other foods you can fill your plate with include:
Meat, Fish & Eggs
Just about every type of fresh meat and fish is good for keto including beef, chicken, lamb, pork, salmon, tuna, white fish, seafood etc. Eggs are a great option for any meal too! If you follow a vegetarian diet, then vegetarian meat substitutes (like tofu, veggie sausages, etc) can also work great! When looking at a vegetarian meat substitute, check the nutritional information to see whether it is a low-carb keto friendly option.
Eat plenty of non-starchy veggies including asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, salad sprouts, cucumber, lettuce, onions, capsicums (bell pepper), cauliflower, tomatoes, garlic, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and zucchini… The list goes on!!!
Dairy & Non-Dairy Alternatives
Instead of selecting a low-fat option, always go for the full-fat dairy option! Foods like sour cream, cream (heavy whipping cream, pure cream), cream cheese, butter, cheeses and unsweetened yogurt are all great keto-friendly options. Although not dairy, unsweetened almond milk and coconut milk are both good milk substitutes, as is choosing an unsweetened coconut yogurt.
We recommend limiting regular milk (better yet, remove it), and avoiding skim milk and sweetened yogurts altogether because they contain a lot of sugar. Instead of milk, try using a splash of cream or soy cream in your coffees – or using unsweetened almond or coconut milk!
Oils & Fats
Olive oil, avocado oil, butter and bacon fat are all great for cooking and including in your diet!
Berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries are great keto-friendly fruit options!
Water, sparkling water, sparkling flavoured mineral water, black/green/white/herbal tea and coffee are the best drink options! You can also have diet soda too if you’re missing them, just be mindful that the different sweeteners they use can affect everyone differently.
While we’re talking drinks it is important to note that while following a low carb diet, drinking water is crucial!!! The fat inside your cells will become replaced with water as a place holder when losing weight. This is what is known as the “whoosh effect”, where your body retains water in place of those fat cells, and then once it lets goes of that water you will see a drop on the scales! Although it may seem counterintuitive, drinking more water during this phase will actually help your body get rid of the water it is holding, as it will see that water is continuing to flow freely. So drink lots of water!!
What should I avoid eating while following a keto diet?
We’ve included an overview of the items you should avoid while following a keto diet, but don’t worry, there are great keto-friendly alternatives to all of these things that you will LOVE instead!
Starches and Grains – cereal, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, corn, oats, quinoa, flour, bagels, rolls, croissants, pastries, and wraps.
Sugar – this includes all refined sugar (white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, date paste, maple syrup, etc), fruit juices, desserts, chocolate/chocolate bars, candy bars, lollies/candy, etc.
Processed Foods – potato chips, crackers, fast-food/takeaways containing starch like rice/noodles, ready-meals, etc.
Legumes – beans, and lentils.
Vegetable & Seed Oils – sunflower oil, soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil and grapeseed oil. Avoid margarine.
What does a day of following a keto diet look like?
To give you an idea of the delicious foods you will be eating while following a keto diet, we have created a sample day below! All of the recipes for each of these meals is linked!
Breakfast – Salted Caramel Smoothie Bowl
Lunch – Miso Salmon Nourish Bowl
Dinner – Best Butter Chicken
Dessert – Caramel Slice