Dirty Keto Diet: What It Is and How to Get Started

Dirty Keto is a variation of the standard keto diet that only focuses on tracking keto macros and puts less importance on food quality.

This comprehensive article will cover Dirty keto, its difference from Clean keto, its benefits and drawbacks, and a sample meal plan to help you start.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dirty keto follows the standard keto diet macros (70-75% fat, 15-25% protein, 5-10% carbs) but with a broader range of food options.
  • When doing dirty keto, you can have fast food, processed food, sugar-free drinks, and lots of snacks as long as they fall within your macro ratio limit.
  • Dirty keto is an alternative for beginners and those not ready for clean keto, as it is convenient and affordable.
  • Drawbacks include the harmful effects of inflammatory oils and artificial ingredients, lack of fiber, possible micronutrient deficiency, and prone to increased cravings.

Table of Contents:

What Is Dirty Keto?

Dirty Keto is a variation focusing on macronutrient intake but prioritizing quantity over quality foods.

Followers of Dirty Keto adhere to the standard macronutrient ratios required for ketosis but permit a broader range of food choices. The concept is that as long as you stay in ketosis, the body will use fat as energy rather than glucose.

Doing the Dirty keto also means you are allowed to:

  • Eat fast food all the time: Most people doing the dirty keto don’t have the time to source and meal prep healthy food options, so they can quickly get take out or delivery from fast food chains.
  • Store packaged and processed foods: Yes, despite all the preservatives, Dirty keto followers consume packaged foods, marinated meat products, and frozen goods, as long as they are low-carb.
  • Drink sugar-free drinks: Dirty keto does not mind artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors. If your favorite drinks are “sugar-free,” you can have them anytime.
  • Have unlimited snacks: You can have any snack as long as it fits within the daily carb limit.

While this flexibility can make it more accessible and convenient, it raises questions about the potential impact on overall health, especially in the long run.

What Is Clean Keto?

Clean Keto is a strict variation valuing food quality alongside macronutrients.

It prioritizes whole, nutrient-dense foods, removing processed items, additives, and inflammatory oils.

This approach aims to achieve and maintain ketosis and promote overall health and well-being through mindful food choices.

Clean vs. Dirty Keto

The main difference between clean and dirty keto is the choices of food sources.

Clean Keto places a premium on the quality of food sources, emphasizing whole and nutrient-dense options. This approach involves choosing high-quality fats, lean proteins, and low-carbohydrate vegetables, steering clear of processed and inflammatory foods.

Dirty Keto offers a more flexible path to ketosis, prioritizing only the macronutrient ratios over the quality of food sources. This flexibility allows for the inclusion of processed and convenient foods, making it a more accessible option for those with busy lifestyles.

However, critics argue that the potential health consequences of relying on such foods need thorough consideration.

Dirty Keto Benefits

Before diving into the benefits of Dirty keto, it’s crucial to note that this keto variation has not been studied widely, as most clinical data available are based on the medically supervised standard keto diet.

dirty keto diet


The main benefit of Dirty Keto is its convenience, especially for those who cannot commit to sourcing organic and whole foods for their keto meal plans. You can eat and drink anything with the Dirty Keto if you count your macros.

This adaptability can be particularly appealing for those who find it challenging to adhere to a stricter, whole-food-based ketogenic diet.

Weight Loss

Because your body is technically in a state of ketosis, you will most likely lose weight1 even while eating fast food.

The restriction of carbohydrates2 prompts the body to rely on stored fat for energy, making Dirty Keto a potential tool for those seeking effective weight loss strategies.

However, this benefit can be easily overridden if you are not tracking your macros properly. For instance, fast food menus often have hidden carbs, which you may overlook.

Can Be More Affordable for Beginners

For individuals on a budget, Dirty Keto may offer a more affordable avenue into the ketogenic lifestyle, especially during the introduction phase. You may get overwhelmed by all the foods you must consider with Clean Keto. 

However, it’s also important to consider that cooking at home can be more cost-efficient in the long run, as long as you learn how to manage your time and choose affordable whole-food options.

Drawbacks of Dirty Keto

Before diving into the drawbacks, it’s crucial to establish that the keto diet has scientifically proven health benefits, but this section will mainly talk about the possible overconsumption of processed foods in Dirty keto.

Use of Inflammatory Oils

The use of oil in deep frying, especially when done repeatedly,3 can generate a variety of compounds, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), some of which have been reported as carcinogenic, including reports of lung cancer4 and prostate cancer.5

Moreover, the use of oil in deep frying causes oxidation, increases the amount of trans-fatty acids6 in food, and is positively associated with the risk of hypertension.7

Moreover, high fried food consumption is also linked to anxiety and depression8 due to lipid metabolism disturbance and neuroinflammation.

Use of Artificial Ingredients

Dirty Keto often involves the consumption of foods loaded with artificial ingredients, preservatives, and additives. These substances may enhance flavor and extend shelf life but offer little to no nutritional value.

Moreover, regular consumption of these artificial ingredients may disrupt the gut microbiota, resulting in insulin resistance.9 This means that in the long run, doing the Dirty keto may stall your weight loss and cause weight gain instead.

Prolonged use of artificial sweeteners10 has also been proven to increase the risks of developing cancer.11

Lack of Fiber

A notable drawback of Dirty Keto is the limited inclusion of fibrous vegetables, leading to a lack of dietary fiber. Adequate fiber intake12 is crucial for digestive health, promoting regular bowel movements and supporting a healthy gut microbiome.

Possible Micronutrient Deficiency

The possible decreased micronutrient intake is already notable in other keto variations, but all the more in the Dirty keto, as most of these vitamins and minerals are found in whole foods.

The keto diet encourages intake of non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, zucchini, mushrooms, cucumber, and bell peppers, which are all low-carb and nutrient-dense.

While some fast food options may include vegetables, it’s crucial to note that food processing alters food chemistries,13 which affect their nutrients, making them incomparable to fresh whole foods.

May Increase Cravings

Including processed and convenience foods in Dirty Keto may trigger cravings. Highly palatable processed foods, often engineered for taste, can create a cycle of cravings14 that may be challenging to manage.

Increased cravings often lead to overeating, making one take more calories than the daily required, which may result in weight gain.

While the Dirty keto is highly convenient and cost-effective, it may not be the best keto variation regarding adherence, especially in the long term.

Can You Lose Weight on Dirty Keto?

You can lose weight even when doing dirty keto.

The main principle in any keto diet is to decrease carbohydrate intake drastically to induce ketosis, where the body uses fat as the energy source,15 leading to increased fat oxidation.16

The increase in fat and low carbohydrate intake also suppresses appetite,17 which makes it easier to keep the limits within the required macronutrient ratio you’re following. However, this greatly depends on the food types you eat.

Like any weight loss strategy, Dirty Keto’s effectiveness hinges on maintaining a caloric deficit18—expending more energy than consumed.

The convenience of processed foods doesn’t negate the fundamental principle that weight loss occurs when the body burns more calories than it takes in. This means you’ll lose weight if you closely watch your calorie intake.

How Many Carbs Can I Eat on Dirty Keto?

Like the standard keto diet, dirty keto allows less than 10% of carbohydrate calories.

This means that if your required daily calorie intake is about 2,000, you can take up to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Here’s what the keto macros should look like:

  • Carbohydrates: 5-10%
  • Proteins: 15-25%
  • Fats: 70-75%

Take note that adhering to this macro ratio is crucial to maintain ketosis. If you do not take into consideration hidden carbs, you will most likely go beyond the recommended carb intake, and you could lose the benefits of ketosis.

Dirty Keto Diet Plan for Beginners

In this part, we will help you set up your Dirty keto meal plan in a way that will prevent the side effects of long-term processed food consumption.

This beginner-friendly guide will incorporate easy ways to introduce healthier ingredients to your diet while maintaining convenience.

MondayBacon and eggsFast-food burger without the bunGrilled chicken wings with a low-carb dipping sauce
TuesdaySausage and cheese omeletCaesar salad with grilled chicken (dressing on the side)Beef stir-fry with low-carb vegetables
WednesdayAvocado and bacon roll-upsTake-out grilled meat skewers with a side of non-starchy vegetablesKeto pizza with a low-carb crust
ThursdayBacon and cheese omelet and bulletproof coffee (coffee with added butter and MCT oil)Deli meat and cheese roll-upsSalmon fillet with butter and herbs, roasted low-carb vegetables
FridaySausage and Greek yogurt with nuts and seedsFast-food grilled chicken saladKeto Alfredo salad with low-carb sauce and grilled shrimp
SaturdayKeto-friendly protein smoothie (with low-carb protein powder, almond milk, and nut butter)Take-out bunless hot dogs with sauerkrautKeto tacos with cheese shells
SundayCream cheese keto pancakes with sugar-free syrupCobb salad with avocado, bacon, and ranch dressingFried chicken thighs with a side of broccoli

Examples of Clean Keto Foods

  • Healthy Fats: Avocados, organic dairy, such as grass-fed butter, ghee, full-fat Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese,
  • Healthy Oils: Avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil
  • High-fat Protein: Grass-fed beef, chicken thighs, salmon, tuna, shellfish, eggs, bacon (in moderation)
  • Low-Carb Vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, green beans, peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, and celery
  • Low-Carb Fruits (in moderation): Berries
  • Low-Carb Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts, as well as hemp, flax, sunflower, chia, and pumpkin seeds

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can you have fruit on dirty keto?

Yes, you can enjoy low-carb fruits with Dirty keto. You must only remember to count your carbs and not exceed your daily limit.

How long does it take to lose weight on dirty keto?

As long as you keep track of your macros enough to stay in ketosis, you will notice weight loss after 4-8 weeks.

Will dirty keto kick you out of ketosis?

It does not automatically kick you out of ketosis, but the main problem relies on overeating carbs, which results in breaking your state of ketosis.

Do you lose more weight on clean or dirty keto?

No studies compare weight loss on clean and dirty keto, but given that overconsumption of processed foods results in weight loss stalls, clean keto may be more beneficial for long-term weight management.


1Ting, R., Dugré, N., Allan, G. M., & Lindblad, A. J. (2018). Ketogenic diet for weight loss. Canadian Family Physician, 64(12), 906. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6371871/

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Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc.

Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.

Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.

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