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The most confusing thing about low carb living? There are so many ways to do it… and one of the most popular ones is dirty keto. But what is a dirty keto diet? Is it right for you? How effective is clean keto vs dirty keto? And most importantly, what dirty keto foods can you enjoy with this approach?
We’ll go over all the answers here. And if you want more keto guidance, take a look at these keto beginners tips.
What Is Dirty Keto?
Dirty keto is a way of eating that allows you to eat any kind of food that fits your macros – including processed foods, packaged food with artificial ingredients, or even added sugar. This is in contrast to clean keto, which (in addition to having the same macro goals) focuses on eating the most nutritious, natural food, and avoiding processed foods and sugars.
Should you try a dirty keto diet?
The answer is… it depends. It’s generally a good idea to follow a clean keto diet because you’ll get more nutrients from food and avoid possible deficiencies.
However, life happens and sometimes it’s not always easy to eat in a clean way. If you want a way to do low carb that allows you to eat more traditionally “off-limits” foods, a dirty keto diet plan might be right for you.
Clean Keto vs. Dirty Keto
Now that you know the dirty keto diet definition, how does it compare to clean keto?
Dirty and clean keto both share the goal of helping you achieve ketosis and the benefits that come with it. However, the means by which you get there are different. The other main similarity is that both approaches require you to keep track of calories and macros to stay on track.
With clean keto, you can achieve ketosis by eating clean, whole, nutrient-dense foods and strictly avoiding wheat, artificial sweeteners, gluten, foods with added sugar, and anything highly processed in general. Often times, clean keto is about becoming healthier, not only changing your clothing size.
The “dirty” approach allows you to eat just about anything, as long as you meet your target macros for the day. Examples of dirty keto foods include diet sodas, items from the drive-through, or store-bought keto foods with artificial ingredients.
Clean keto vs dirty keto: Who’s the winner? It all depends on how you want to eat and get the benefits of low carb living.
Dirty Keto Foods List
Below you’ll find foods and cooking styles specific to a dirty keto diet that you won’t find listed on a general keto food list (such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, or nuts). Of course, all the clean keto foods on that list would also be included on a dirty keto food list as well.
Since there are so many ways to approach this form of low carb, these are just examples of dirty keto foods, so that you get an idea of what to look for (or avoid).
Pre-Made And Processed Foods With “Less Clean” Ingredients
- Most fast food (if you aren’t 100% sure the ingredients are clean and whole)
- Sugar-free jello
- Packaged keto snacks with forms of sugar like maltodextrin or dextrose
- Store-bought keto bread with wheat-based ingredients
- Sugar-free sports drinks, diet soda, or juice drinks
- Sugar-free coffee syrups with sucralose
- Most packaged sugar-free candy
- Most store-bought keto ice cream
- Deep fried foods
- Whipped “toppings”
- Condiments with added sugar or less-clean sugar substitutes
- Artificial sweeteners like sucralose or asparatame
Adding Gluten, Sugar, Soy, or Starch To Recipes
- Using breadcrumbs in meatballs instead of a clean keto alternative like crushed pork rinds
- Thickening soups with cornstarch
- Adding beans or soy beans (however small the serving) to chili
Natural Foods That Are Not Keto-Friendly (But Could Be Dirty Keto In Very Small Servings)
Dirty Keto Recipes
All of the recipes on Wholesome Yum follow a clean keto approach, but they don’t all taste like it! If you want the flavors of a “dirty” approach while eating more whole foods, you’ll love these dirty keto diet recipes.
With dirty keto, you can only have popcorn in small servings. Try this recipe instead to enjoy more of a crispy, crunchy snack.
Keto Ice Cream
Why buy store-bought when you can make this 4-ingredient recipe with foods you can pronounce? 😉
Keto Fried Chicken
It’s addictively crispy, with no deep frying needed! See the secrets to making this dirty keto-style recipe with cleaner ingredients.
The best part about tacos is that you can make them squeaky clean, yet totally tasty. See all the flavor options!
Keto Burger Buns
No need to get store-bought keto buns to enjoy a juicy burger. Try these easy and clean buns instead!
Keto Chicken Nuggets
Tastes like it came from the drive through! Crispy nuggets are perfect for dunking in clean, sugar-free ketchup.
Keto Chocolate Milk
One of the best dirty keto snacks with clean and simple ingredients! This one tastes just like the real deal.
Keto Grilled Cheese
Gooey cheese melts all over crisp, buttery bread… have you tried dirty keto meals like this?
Keto Peanut Butter Cups
Avoid the funky taste and tummy trouble from store-bought sugar-free candy… make your own instead with this super simple recipe.
Keto Ranch Seasoning
Skip the fillers in dirty keto seasoning packets from the store — once you make your own, you’ll never go back.
Keto Sloppy Joes
No hidden sugar here… this super quick recipe uses a cleaner brown monk fruit allulose blend for sweetness in this smoky main.
No corn syrup or mystery sweeteners here! You can easily make fluffy, chewy, clean keto marshmallows with a few simple ingredients.
Keto Lava Cake
You’ll never go back to store bought “keto” cakes with weird ingredients when you try this ooey gooey cake.
Keto “Pink Drink”
Just like the one from your favorite coffee shop, but without the hidden sugar!
Keto Protein Bars
These are just as chewy and satisfying as store-bought keto bars… but with simple ingredients that won’t weigh you down.