Keto Diet

What Is Clean Keto? A Quick Guide!

Have you heard the phrase “clean keto” being thrown around in keto communities or online? If you’re not sure what clean keto means, don’t worry. We’re here to explain everything you need to know about clean keto and how to dive into a clean keto diet.

What Is Clean Keto?

So, what exactly is clean keto? A traditional ketogenic diet is low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat. For most people, a typical keto diet is used to manage weight loss, among a myriad of other health benefits.

Clean keto refers to a type of keto that focuses specifically on the quality of food, as well as focusing on consuming very nutrient-dense foods. One might find that a clean keto diet is much more strict than your traditional keto diet in terms of food intake.

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A clean keto diet has no more than 25 grams of carbs per day and a very high fat intake of at least 75% of daily calories. Also, clean keto has a moderate protein intake of anywhere from 15% to 20% of daily calories.

keto-diet-food-pyramid

Clean keto prioritizes whole foods rather than processed foods. Most clean keto meals come from grass-fed beef, wild-caught seafood, free-range eggs, and vegetables without a lot of starch. Clean keto focuses on knowing where your food comes from and puts an emphasis on the quality of your ingredients.

So, What Can You Eat on Clean Keto?

While the concept of clean keto can sound daunting, there are actually many foods that are easy to prepare and can satisfy any number of food cravings. Let’s take a look at what kinds of foods are allowed on clean keto.

keto-diet-concept

#1 High-fat proteins

For your proteins on clean keto, you want to make sure they’re very high in fat and come from whole food sources. Grass-fed beef, salmon, tuna, chicken thighs, free-range eggs, and cottage cheese are all really great sources of protein that are also high in fat.

#2 Low-carb veggies

When it comes to vegetables, make sure you’re getting the lowest amount of carbs possible. This can include broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, peppers, zucchini, green beans, celery, kale, and cauliflower.

#3 Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds can be a great keto-friendly snack, especially for clean keto. Pumpkin seeds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, and flax seeds are all great clean keto snacks. But stay away from peanuts! Clean keto doesn’t allow for legumes.

#4 Healthy fats

When eating clean keto, you want to make sure you’re getting enough fat. Since it has to be 75% of your daily caloric intake, it’s good to know other fat sources beyond protein. On clean keto, you can also enjoy avocado, butter, olive oil, walnut oil, and sesame seed oil.

#5 Avoid these foods

While there’s plenty of food you can eat, you should avoid legumes, alcohol, and grains. You also want to avoid high-carb foods. 

On clean keto, you should be limiting your carb intake to no more than 25 grams a day.

Dirty Keto vs. Clean Keto: What’s the Difference Between Them?

Well, if there’s a clean keto, that must mean there’s also a dirty keto, right? So, what is it? Well, dirty keto, also known as lazy keto, is popular among people who are looking for a ketogenic diet without having to take the time to prepare all of the keto-friendly foods. 

On a dirty keto diet, you are not counting your protein, fat, and macros intake too strictly, but you will be monitoring that your carbs are limited to 20 grams or less per day.

clean-keto-vs-dirty-keto

So, what are the main differences between dirty keto and clean keto?

Food quality

One of the biggest differences between clean and dirty keto is food quality. While clean keto foods come from whole food sources, dirty keto allows for processed foods that come in packages. You can’t microwave a clean keto meal, but you can definitely microwave a dirty keto one!

Sodium intake

Because dirty keto foods tend to be lower in quality, you’re probably going to have a much higher sodium intake on a dirty keto diet. Processed foods have high amounts of sodium as opposed to the whole foods you’d find when eating clean keto.

Upsides

Another difference between these two diets are the benefits you’ll receive. While you can technically achieve ketosis through dirty keto, you’re not going to see the same amount of weight loss or health benefits you would on clean keto.

Fast food

When you’re on a clean keto diet, you’re definitely not going to be stopping at the popular fast food joints for lunch. However, for dirty keto dieters, fast food is actually something they’re allowed to eat.

What Does “Keto-Friendly” Mean?

keto-friendly

As you’re looking to start your keto diet, you may have seen the term “keto-friendly” floating around. But what exactly does it mean?

When something is called “keto-friendly,” it just means that the food itself is very low in carbohydrates and will fit into a strict ketogenic diet. Most keto diets insist that you consume 30–50 net grams of carbs or less every day.

Depending on how you’re planning your keto diet, something that might be keto-friendly to you might not be keto-friendly to someone else. It all depends on the net carb allowance.

However, understanding if something is truly keto-friendly is more than just looking at how many carbs it contains. For example, in a dirty ketogenic diet, as long as you’re hitting all of your daily intake of carbs, fats, and proteins, it really doesn’t matter what else is in the food.

On the other hand, clean keto is going to be much more strict about what you can consider “keto-friendly.” Something that’s keto-friendly on dirty keto most definitely won’t be keto-friendly on clean keto.

Don’t just take a label’s word for it; do some research to make sure that what you’re consuming is truly keto-friendly, especially for your specific ketogenic diet.

If you are a beginner or just tired of checking labels, try the Keto Cycle app. This app changed the keto market and made this diet simple. Even if you are on clean keto!

A Word From our RD

Ketogenic diets are great for weight loss and other health benefits, including heart health and managing type 2 diabetes. Plenty of people start a keto diet because they want to start eating healthier. Managing what kinds of food you eat and the quality is a great way to burn fat and lose weight.

While clean keto is the clear winner in overall health benefits, weight loss, and clean eating, dirty keto does have its place. For people who struggle with meal plans and travel a lot, dirty keto might be the only way to transition from a traditional diet to a keto-based diet.

However, dirty keto shouldn’t be the main way you access a keto diet if you can help it. While clean keto might not be for everyone in terms of accessing these whole foods, a traditional ketogenic diet is still beneficial, even if all of your meat can’t be grass-fed beef!

We recognize that a clean ketogenic diet can be inaccessible for some people, either because of the cost of ingredients, lack of resources, or little time to meal prep. Busy single moms and broke college students might not be able to access clean keto, but a mix of the two diets is still beneficial.

As always, make sure you talk to your doctor before making the switch to a keto diet.

Conclusion

Clean and dirty keto are both variations of a traditional keto diet. Where dirty keto allows for a lot more “cheating,” clean keto focuses on consistent whole foods, quality foods, and knowing where your ingredients come from. While it may seem daunting, clean keto consists of a lot of foods that are easy to access and prepare.

Keto foods aim to be low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat. Clean keto wants to take that a step further with grass-fed, wild-caught, nutrient-dense whole foods that focus heavily on the quality of what you’re eating.

While something might say “keto-friendly” on it, you definitely want to make sure you know what that means in terms of your own keto diet. While fast food, legumes, and processed oils might be “keto-friendly” to someone on a dirty keto diet, they definitely won’t be keto-friendly if you’re trying to stick to clean keto!

All in all, it’s always best to know where your food comes from and the kind of ingredients that you’re putting in your body. While clean keto might not be for everyone, it’s a diet that has a wide myriad of health benefits even beyond weight loss.

Edibel Quintero, MD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel's goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
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