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Dirty Keto vs. Clean Keto: Which One is Right For You?


If you’re a faithful follower of the ketogenic diet – adamantly tracking your macros and eating healthy foods – you may be upset to hear about people succeeding on a much unhealthier version of the diet. If a friend or coworker told you how they’re dropping pounds on “dirty keto”, while eating “junk foods”, you may be wondering if all your hard work has been for nothing.

Or, maybe you’re not currently on the keto diet, but you’re curious about which version of keto is right for you. This article will go into depth on Dirty vs. Clean Keto, laying out the facts so you can decide for yourself which version supports your ultimate health goals. 

So, What the Heck is “Dirty Keto”?

When following a normal ketogenic diet, the daily dietary breakdowns that you need to aim for are 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein and 5-10% carbs. To get a more accurate picture of what this looks like for you based on your age, weight, activity level and other metrics, check out this free keto calculator

The goal of eating this way is to get your body into the state of ketosis, where you’re burning ketones (or fat) for fuel instead of carbs. To learn more about all the immense potential benefits of keto, see this Keto Beginner’s Guide.

 When you follow a dirty keto diet, you still have to stay within your set macronutrients every day in order to reach ketosis. The key differentiating factor is where you’re getting those macronutrients from.

The main goal of a regular keto diet is enhanced health, which you can only reach by eating clean foods that support your optimal wellness. On a dirty keto diet, most people completely ignore this rule

The main goal of a regular keto diet is enhanced health, which you can only reach by eating clean foods that support your optimal wellness. On a dirty keto diet, most people completely ignore this rule, eating whatever they please (mostly unhealthy choices) as long as it still keeps them in ketosis.

Clean Keto vs. Dirty Keto Foods

Let’s take a look at the kinds of foods people should be eating on a regular, healthy keto diet to gain the health benefits, versus the “dirty keto” foods people are replacing them with…

Clean Keto Foods

  • Healthy oils: avocado, coconut, olive, MCT
  • High-fat fruits: avocados and olives
  • Fatty fish with heart-healthy omega-3s: salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies
  • Healthy proteins: grass-fed beef, organic chicken and turkey, shrimp, eggs
  • Moderate amounts of full-fat cream, cheese, and grass-fed butter
  • Nuts and seeds in moderation (and their butters)
  • Low-carb, fiber-rich veggies (leafy greens, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts)
  • Small amounts of berries (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries)
    Homemade keto “carbs” like keto bread and keto desserts in moderation (using almond flour and other healthy substitute ingredients)
  • Small amounts of nitrate-free bacon

Typical “Dirty Keto” Foods

  • Packaged keto-friendly products full of artificial sugars, fillers, additives, etc.
  • Sugar-free flavorings and diet drinks with artificial and chemical ingredients
  • Carb-free fast-foods like burgers and hot dogs without the bun
  • Pork rinds and other high-fat, high-sodium snacks
  • Lots of cheese and processed meats instead of healthier, unsaturated fats


6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Try Dirty Keto

If you’re looking at the food lists above thinking, dirty keto is actually pretty tempting… wait until we give you all the facts!

Can you lose weight on dirty keto? Sure, people are doing it. As long as you stay in ketosis, you can essentially “hack” the system and still meet your goal. But you may want to skip dirty keto for these reasons… 

  1. Missing key nutrients for optimal health – Fast-food burgers and keto-friendly Doritos might fulfill the right macronutrients, but the micronutrients they’re missing are vitamins and minerals your body needs! Not to mention fiber for healthy digestion and antioxidants to help keep you well. 
  2. You’ll likely feel pretty bad – Processed junk foods are typically high in sodium and low in fiber which can cause bloating, gas, constipation and other GI problems. You also won’t get those great “brain and body” benefits of regular keto. Instead, you’re likely to feel less energetic and less focused instead of the other way around.
  3. You might not lose weight – Junk foods are high in calories while lacking satiety, so if you aren’t careful, you could actually gain weight on dirty keto instead of losing it. Or, you may just see no difference at all.
  4. Keto flu symptoms are likely to be worse – Especially when you start the keto diet, your body needs to adjust to low-carb living –which may come with some side effects that eventually go away. But if you aren’t giving your body nutrient-rich foods, you’re likely to feel even worse than if you were following regular keto. Symptoms may include fatigue, headache, stomach problems and nausea.
  5. Your physical health and appearance may suffer – Many people do keto to improve their health but dirty keto will likely do just the opposite. With all of the inflammatory foods, you’re likely to weaken your immune system. And you may even experience problems with your skin such as acne, along with brittle hair and nails.
  6. Hard to maintain your weight after you lose it – Even if you do lose weight, there is no way you can keep up with dirty keto forever. And if you aren’t putting healthy dietary practices into place, you’re likely to just regain the weight you lost.

Want Quick Keto? Try This Instead…

Even if you don’t follow a dirty keto diet all the time, you may be tempted to do it when you travel or feel as if you have ZERO time to meal prep. Not to worry, because you can still eat clean while on keto, even on a busy schedule, with keto-friendly meal replacement shakes.

You can still eat clean while on keto, even on a busy schedule, with keto-friendly meal replacement shakes.

Benefits of the Best Keto Meal Replacement Shakes:

  • Low in carbs and net carbs
  • Sugar and artificial sweetener free
  • No chemical ingredients
  • Provides great fiber
  • Has vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  • Has superfoods for additional health benefits
  • Has probiotics for great gut and digestive health
  • Tastes GREAT!
  • Quick and easy for on-the-go
  • Easy to make smoothies with high-fat keto foods such as MCT Oil, avocado, etc. 

We hope this article has motivated you to try keto the right way, and we even have a Keto Kit that can help you take your first steps. The kit has all the essentials to make clean, healthy meal options for on-the-go or everyday living. Try clean keto and this 310 keto kit today!









Written by:

Dana Gates

310 Nutrition Senior Writer

Dana Gates is a seasoned writer and researcher with over a decade of experience writing about all things health and wellness. Through her articles, she aims to inspire others to live their best, healthiest, and most active lives–by making wise lifestyle and dietary choices daily. Her ultimate goal at 310 [...]

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