If you’ve been hankering to go keto, because now everyone in the known universe has, but you were waiting for someone to hack the lazy person’s version of this restrictive low-carb, high-fat diet plan that mimics starvation for big weight loss, well gather ’round, children, because that day has come.
CNN notes that keto has officially gone mainstream, with the term not only crushing searches for paleo and Whole30, but with companies peddling keto-friendly snacks and protein powders hitting pay dirt. For the even lazier keto lover, however, there’s now something called “dirty keto,” and it promises all the keto benefits, but with a lot less suffering. Followers insist that you can eat fast food and other processed foods for the same weight loss, but without the intense personal shame.
Sound too good to be true? Is dirty keto just a dirty con? Let’s find out.
Here’s the deal: To go full keto dirtbag, you’d do the same stuff you’d do on traditional keto (75 to 80 percent fat; 20 percent protein; 5 percent carbs). But you’d skip sweating the grass-fed, organic, healthy fats, veggies and meats you might call “clean,” and trade them for down-and-dirty versions that look like a lot like the shit you ate in colllege, like sausage, eggs, bacon and other commercially prepped foods, just minus the carbs. Basically, just imagine if everything on the Jack in the Box menu were exactly the same, only with no bread in sight.
“Dirty keto is a pithy way of referring to the ‘fast and dirty’ practice of using premade, packaged foods instead of homemade food crafted from whole food ingredients,” nutritionist Stephanie Pedersen told Bulletproof’s blog on the subject.
Foods charting in the dirty keto orbit on breathless blogs and Facebook groups include:
- Bunless bacon-double cheeseburgers
- Diet orange soda
- Pork rinds
- Cheez Whiz
- Bacon BBQ cheese crisps
- Biscuit-less fast food egg-and-sausage sandwich
- Steak slathered in butter
- Asparagus in bacon grease
- Brats and cheesy cauliflower
Recently, too, seemingly sugar-bombed coffee drinks have entered the keto fray, and now there are coconut milk dirty keto chai recipes, and an off-menu heavy cream Starbucks peach citrus white tea with sugar-free vanilla syrup.
Sounds delicious as all get-out, right? Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, in the case of the Starbucks drink, Today investigated and found that even though it keto-correctly has no carbs, it has 5 fat grams and 50 calories from the heavy cream. What they heard from experts was that, sure, as long as it’s a splash and not a cup of cream, you’re probably fine having this drink. But that’s easier said than done, and you wouldn’t have to be keto to approach eating in a more moderate way such as this.
In part, one reason the low-carb craze of decades past led to weight gain, and why low-carb diets like keto aren’t ranked well by health experts, is because the illusion of the good food halo makes people think they can go to town on these approved foods that check the boxes, regardless of whether true healthfulness is being achieved. So it’s not that low-carb diets aren’t great at weight control and staving off diabetes, it’s that they’re fucking impossible to follow in a world that feels literally constructed out of bread. (I mean, for Christ’s sake, We have actual soup served to us in actual bread bowls.)
Moreover, with dirty keto, you’re still eating processed foods, which means they’re less likely to have the good stuff in them you want from anything that promotes health, like vitamins, minerals and maybe a little fiber.
Experts already say regular keto presents some health concerns, such as heart disease, or gut problems from lack of nutrients and fiber. Other experts say dirty keto is worse, a “temporary fix at best,” because as with regular keto, it’s as hard to maintain and it’s likely you’ll yo-yo back.
Still, dirty keto has a devoted following of people who swear by it.
Generally speaking, there have recently been numerous keto adaptations tailored to whatever style of eating already floats your boat. Just as the dirty version is for people who like hitting up a White Castle already, other keto devotees say you can tweak the diet to four modes:
- High protein needs
- Better workout performance
- General fat loss
There’s even a vegan keto diet, which is particularly slippery, because it’s already hard enough to eat vegan, and in the keto case, vegan go-tos like beans and legumes tip those carb scales, and there’s no animal protein to lean on to make up the difference. Hope you want to double that avocado and nut intake!
Regardless, the merits of keto, when used sensibly, are hard to dispute: That pep in your step, the laserlike focus and the insufferable confidence that comes from losing weight quickly even when they all said it was just a fad. The drawbacks from high fat consumption noted above, though, are worth keeping in mind, even if, at least according to keto folks, the hardest thing to do is deal with that judgment when swallowing down a spoon of butter for breakfast.
Also worth keeping in mind: A recent study found that neither the carb lovers nor carb haters win the day on this argument. Recent research found that once again, it’s the moderate carb consumers who end up better off in the long run, following what’s been ranked as the best diet in the world for as long as any of us would know — the Mediterranean diet.
If nothing else, this means we don’t need to hate the keto people, or the keto haters. We don’t need to hate anyone. Because at this rate, if we don’t cool it on the extreme diets, we’ll never live long enough to have the last laugh anyway.