Some people largely accredit success with weight loss to the ketogenic diet. Variations of keto followed differ and there’s such a thing as dirty keto where people stick to the macronutrient profile of a keto diet, but they consume foods typically looked at as ‘bad’ or far too indulgent to be included in such large amounts within a typical keto diet.

What’s Dirty Keto?

Typical Keto

A typical macronutrient profile on a keto diet consists of:

  • 70 – 85% fat
  • 10 – 25% protein
  • 5 – 10% carbohydrate

Someone on a typical keto diet would be likely to eat:

  • Fatty cuts of meat (ox cheek, pork belly, chicken thighs, pig’s ears, chicken feet)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Bacon
  • Eggs
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Root vegetables (in moderation)
  • Herbs

These foods being higher in fat and protein whilst being low in carbohydrates help the body to adapt to using fat as the main energy source instead of carbohydrates. They’re also rich in micronutrients which will help optimise body function along with improving health and wellbeing.

Popular Foods On Dirty Keto

Whilst dirty keto consists of a macronutrient profile which is more or less identical to a typical keto diet, the foods consumed tend to be seen as ‘cheat’ foods and are consumed in large amounts. Where someone on a typical keto diet may have a couple of bacon rashers a week, someone on a dirty keto diet may have a plate full of smoky bacon. The concept behind dirty keto is that since you’re consuming the same macronutrient ratio, there is little difference between eating a typical keto and dirty keto diet.

Popular foods on a dirty keto diet which are emphasised include:

  • Bacon
  • Vegetable oils
  • Double cheese burgers
  • Sausages
  • Cheese
  • Uncured meats
  • Double cream cheese
  • Whipped cream
  • Butter (lots of it)
  • Diet sodas (they contain negligible amounts of carbohydrates)
  • Pork rinds
  • BBQ cheese crisps

These foods aren’t necessarily bad, but they certainly shouldn’t make up the majority of a healthy diet whether you’re eating keto or not. For one, they’re all heavily processed and unlikely to trigger the same signals of satiety as eating unprocessed or less processed foods. Secondly, many of these foods contains far fewer micronutrients than those consumed on a typical keto diet since those on a dirty keto diet tend to skip vegetables where possible.

Pros Of Dirty Keto

For those who really struggle to eat a healthy diet full of nutrient-dense foods then dirty keto may provide an easier first step in moving away from a sugar and carbohydrate dependant diet and promoting fat adaptation. This may help them to transition onto a normal ketogenic diet promoting nutrient-dense foods. It’s also likely to be much more enjoyable for those who can’t stand ‘heathy foods’.

Here’s a quick summary of the pros of dirty keto:

  • Promotes fat adaptation without giving up your favourite fatty foods.
  • Removes excess carbohydrates, sugars and grains from the diet (in excess they are quite inflammatory).
  • More enjoyable for most on a keto diet.
  • For a certain population it provides a sustainable way of adhering to a keto diet.
  • More and more keto friendly foods are being sold on the market e.g. keto pizza, keto crisps.
  • For those who have lots of excess body fat, dirty keto is likely to be effective at dropping most of the excess body fat.

Cons Of Dirty Keto

Dirty keto has its pros, but it most certainly is not without its cons.

  • It’s focused around the consumption of lots of many processed foods.
  • Many of these processed foods have additional colours, flavourings, preservatives and additives.
  • Tends to be severely lacking in micronutrients like vitamins and minerals which are essential for optimal health.
  • Due to a lack of micronutrients, it may result in inflammation, bloating, cravings and fatigue.
  • Theoretically, not sustainable over a very long period if only processed foods are consumed due to micronutrient deficiencies.

Final Thoughts On Dirty Keto

If you’re going to use dirty keto as a tool to transition to a typical keto diet then great. I don’t think it’s a bad way to start although ultimately, I do suggest gradually reducing carbs till you’re eating what could be considered a low carb diet for a month or so before deciding to try a keto diet.

I think that a dirty keto diet should not be followed for a prolonged period of time, but only if you really struggle to stick to foods in a typical keto diet. After all, there’s no reason why you can’t consume a typical keto diet whilst adding in a few ‘dirty keto’ foods or falling to a dirty keto way of eating for several days whenever you feel like it!


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Further Reading:

What Can I Eat On A Keto Diet?

What Is The Ketogenic Diet?

Optimising Nutritional Biochemistry

Watch Out For Ultra Processed Foods