What Is the Difference Between Keto and Dirty Keto?

A bacon and cheese omelette is high in fat and low in carbs, which is what keto is all about. Right? So, what is dirty keto?

It’s tempting when starting the keto diet to feel like you can eat whatever you want as long as it contains the right macronutrient ratio.  But all nutrition rules don’t just go out the window once you’ve started doing keto. Not all high-fat or low-carb foods are created equal, and there are certain ways of following keto that are healthier than others. 

This is where the difference between “clean keto” and “dirty keto” comes in.These are the terms experts are using to describe the different ways one can eat while participating in the keto diet. But what do they mean exactly, and is one really better than the other? We’ve broken it down for you.

Clean Keto

You may have already heard of clean eating which involves focusing on whole, unprocessed foods that are packed with nutrients? Well, clean keto is the clean eating version of the keto diet. It involves focusing on whole, unprocessed foods that are packed with nutrients, with a focus on micronutrients as well.

Those who follow the clean keto diet focus on getting their calories from foods such as avocado, grass-fed beef, olive oil and coconut oil, nuts and seeds, pasture-raised eggs, wild seafood, etc. Clean keto also involves getting enough fiber and eating plenty of low-carb vegetables such as leafy greens. 

Clean keto meal example. Plate showing baked salmon topped with aspargus and tomatoes.An example of what a Clean Keto Meal might look like: Baked Salmon served with asparagus and tomatoes and a side of creamy Lemon Dill sauce

Dirty Keto

On the other hand, dirty keto still adheres to the same macronutrient breakdown and carb restrictions as clean keto, but the emphasis on the quality of food eaten is not as strict. Think a fast food meal versus a meal prepared at home.

Those who follow dirty keto tend to eat more processed and packaged foods than their clean keto counterparts. They usually focus more on meat, cheese, and butter and may not have as balanced of a meal  that includes whole foods such as other vegetables. Because of this, a dirty keto diet tends to lack essential micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. 

What is dirty keto? Dirty Keto Meal. Plate shows fried chicken and a small bowl of ranch dipping sauce.

An example of what a Dirty Keto meal might look like: fried chicken with ranch dipping sauce.


Dirty Keto vs Clean Keto: Does it Matter?

You may not think eating one way or the other matters as long as you’re losing weight, but your diet should do more than just help you shed pounds. You want to maintain a balanced, nutrient-rich eating regimen regardless of what diet you choose, and keto is no exception. Eating an imbalanced diet can have long-term effects, ranging from harming your gut health to messing with your blood-sugar and your hormones. And if your health isn’t in check, this could eventually slow down your weight loss goals as well.

Any diet that feels too restrictive will be hard to stick to so remember:  you can still enjoy bacon and cheese omelette from time-to-time #treatyoself. Just remember to try to eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich, healthy foods the majority of the time.

What is Dirty Keto? Animated GIF showing Aziz Ansari from Parks and Rec Throwing a Scarf on. The text on the GIF reads 'treat yo self'

Trying to stick to a clean keto will help you reach your goals both in the long-term and short-term. When in doubt, stick to fresh, unprocessed foods and chances are you’ll feel healthier and more energetic overall. 



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