What Is Dirty Keto (& Should You Follow It)

Keto is a diet where you have low-carb, high-fat foods. There are two types of keto: dirty and clean. In a dirty keto diet, you can eat processed and packaged foods. 

Prepare for a deep dive into the similarities and differences between dirty keto and clean keto. Once you have the facts, you can decide which works best for you.

Dirty Keto vs. Clean Keto: Which is Right for You?

High-fat, high-protein, and low-carbohydrate foods characterize a ketogenic diet. Although many people assume that keto means munching on bacon and eggs every meal, that is not true. 

Some low-carb veggies and fruits fit into the macronutrients required. In a standard keto diet (SKD), taking 5-10% of your nutrients from carbs, 20-25% from protein, and the rest from fat is typical. 

Clean keto involves eating foods that are in their most natural state. This means eating natural, fresh foods, including meat (beef, pork, fish, etc.), eggs, non-starchy veggies, and healthy fats such as nut butter, nuts, avocado, etc. 

People eating dirty keto eat processed foods, as long as they fit into their macros for the day. Many low-carb processed foods are available as this kind of diet has risen in popularity. Often, people eating dirty keto tend to allow a bit less fat. Dirty keto entails anywhere from 55-75% from fat, 15-35 from protein, and less than 10% from carbohydrates.

What Are Examples of Dirty Keto?

  • Meats: Dirty keto involves eating processed meats such as meat sticks and lunch meat. 
  • Cheese: Some cheeses are much more processed than others. Cheese spreads and American cheese are cheeses allowed on a dirty keto diet. 
  • Fats: Healthy fat examples are butter, nut butter, and olive oil. Dirty keto fats include other types of oil (like corn or canola oil) and fatty, processed meats and cheeses. 
  • Low-Carb Breads: There are many low-carb bread and wrap items out there that can be enjoyed by keto dieters. These are all dirty keto products. 
  • Packaged Foods:  You can find processed, packaged foods that are zero or low carb, like Moon Cheese and pork rinds. 
  • Sugar-Free Candy: Companies make sugar-free candy and snacks using artificial sweeteners. Although these are low in net carbs they should be enjoyed in moderation as these sweeteners can cause gastrointestinal distress. 
  • Beverages: Sugar-free soft drinks, energy drinks, non-carbonated beverages, etc. are also consumed on dirty keto.

Can You Lose Weight on Dirty Keto?

People who follow clean keto will tell you that you will reach ketosis and lose weight more quickly if you are eating clean. However, many people lose (and keep off) weight by following a dirty keto diet. 

Determining Which is Right for You: Dirty or Clean Keto

Embracing a keto diet can be a powerful strategy for weight loss. While it may seem restrictive to some, it doesn't necessarily require an all-or-nothing approach. Many find success by primarily eating whole foods while occasionally indulging in processed convenience items. 

I advocate for the 80/20 rule: if 80% of your intake consists of whole, unprocessed foods, the remaining 20% is less likely to impact your dietary goals significantly. This balance allows for flexibility and sustainability within the keto lifestyle.