What’s the Difference Between Clean, Dirty, Strict, and Lazy Keto?

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What is dirty keto, and how is it different from clean keto, strict keto, or lazy keto?

man eating tasty pastry

Which flavor of keto do you prefer?

Clean or dirty? Lazy or strict? These seem like weird terms to use to describe the keto lifestyle!

But unfortunately, the idea of eating whole, fresh, real food (a.k.a. a well-formulated keto lifestyle) has turned into cliquey spin-offs called “dirty”, “clean”, “lazy,” and “strict” keto.

Curious what Stetson is munching on in the pic above? A REALLY expensive Legendary Foods Low-Carb Tasty Pastry! That would be considered dirty keto. 😆

woman with plate of keto foods

So what’s the origin of these terms?

Social media groups are where I first learned of the various spin-offs of keto, like “dirty” and “lazy” vs. “clean” and “strict”. It was a bit off-putting to see the dogmatic opinions and judgment passed onto others regarding whether or not a particular food they’re eating is “keto.”

the sneetches dr suess book

The classification system of sorting people into “groups” based on how they choose to eat and track their food brought to mind similarities of the famous Dr. Seuss story The Sneetches, where the Star-Belly Sneetches think they are the best and look down upon Sneetches without stars.

Therefore, I am now calling all these keto diet “spin-offs” the Sneetches of keto.

This is the epitome of fad dieting, which is full of judgment, labels, rules, and that “all-or-nothing” mentality. Not to mention, they almost always lead to feelings of failure, guilt, and shame, which is exactly what we want to avoid.

What is Clean Keto?

platter of fresh keto vegetables

Clean keto typically refers to:

  • A diet full of nutrient-dense foods, like grass-fed/grass-finished beef, pasture-raised pork, free-range eggs, wild-caught seafood, and plenty of non-starchy fresh vegetables.

Clean keto usually goes hand in hand with strict keto, which I’ll explain more later.

What is Dirty Keto?

man holding Quest bars

Dirty is the opposite of clean, right? So in reference to keto, the term “dirty” refers to:

  • Freely eating artificial ingredients like those found in diet soda, sugar-free energy drinks and candies, artificial sweeteners, low-carb tortillas, or processed vegetable oils.
  • Processed meats like hot dogs and bacon.

With dirty keto, there’s typically little focus on the quality of food being consumed.

What is Strict Keto?

carb manager measure vegetable nutrition

Strict keto usually accompanies “clean” keto, but with the emphasis of “strict” referring to:

  • Religiously counting all macros (fat, carbohydrates, protein) and calories on a daily basis (with or without a food scale).
  • Medical therapy to treat conditions like epilepsy and cancer, where the strictness of the diet is imperative to obtain a therapeutic level of ketosis in order to achieve effective results.

People with a strict keto diet sometimes struggle with tuning in to their physical hunger and fullness cues, relying solely on a calculator to tell them when, what, and if they can eat.

What is Lazy Keto?

cheesecake fat bomb with a bite out of it

Lazy keto basically refers to the practice of tracking your carb intake just enough to make sure you stay between 20-50g per day, but there’s no real emphasis on tracking everything else. Instead of strictly using a food scale and counting macros, “lazy” keto dieters simply strive to eat a high-fat, low-carb diet in general.

Typically, with lazy keto, there isn’t a strong focus on the quality of ingredients in one direction or the other.

Which is best?

meal prep container with keto-friendly lunch

Truthfully? Well, I guess a hybrid of all four, or what I like to refer to as intuitive keto.

Basically, intuitive keto means eating whatever works for you.

It isn’t a group or class, but a way of eating that provides positive results for you personally.

Intuitive keto often means:

  • Troubleshooting through plateaus.
  • Adjusting how you eat, even if it sometimes isn’t “keto.”
  • Listening to your body.
  • Being flexible when life calls for it.

Intuitive keto is whatever “style” of eating that allows YOU to maintain and sustain optimal health over time.

So what’s the takeaway?

with keto bagels

People often miss the mark by overcomplicating simplistic concepts like turning healthy eating into cliquey diet spin-offs. It’s time to do away with the Sneetches of keto (or just the diet mentality in general), and start eating more intuitively for long-term, sustainable success.

The next time you come across judgmental terms like “dirty” and “lazy” or people passionately arguing simplistic concepts, just remember the story by Dr. Seuss, The Sneetches, and then… “You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all”.

The Sneetches book opened up

We answer the most common, “is this keto?” questions.

Join The Discussion

Comments 7

  1. Cindy

    Good post! Thank you!!

  2. Blucky

    Love the reference to Dr.Suess! Its perfect 🙂

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)


  3. Denise Ward

    Thank you so much for this explanation.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re welcome! Glad this was helpful! 🙌❤️

  4. Laura Harlow

    I used to read that book when I was little or had it read to me. I like the way you’ve shown the various classifications of keto in one place. Nice work!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Aww, How cool! You’re so welcome, Laura! 🥰 Thanks for the feedback!

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