Jill Levy has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.
By Jill Levy
Curious about whether the ketogenic diet could help you reach your goals, but dreading diligently counting macros and calories each day? Then a “lazy keto diet” might be a good option for you. Of course, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to starting any diet or lifestyle program.
This approach focuses most on limiting carb intake, while allowing for more flexibility in terms of how much fat and protein you eat.
While this type of diet may not help you get into nutritional ketosis as easily as a stricter keto diet, many find it can still pay off in terms of supporting weight healthy management and leading to other benefits.
What Is Lazy Keto?
Just like a traditional ketogenic diet (TKD), the so-called lazy keto diet is a high-fat, very-low-carb diet. However, the major difference between the two is that lazy keto is less strict overall.
The goal of the lazy keto diet is still to consume about 20 grams of net carbohydrates per day or less, but there isn’t as much emphasis on eating a certain amount of protein or fat each day, compared to a TKD.
Because carefully counting macronutrients (your “keto macros”) every day while on the TKD can be difficult and tedious for some people, lazy keto is a good alternative if healthy weight management and other benefits are desired, but being very restrictive and detail-oriented isn’t realistic.
Lazy Keto vs. Dirty Keto
What’s the difference between dirty keto and lazy keto? A “dirty keto” diet describes a high-fat, low-carb diet that includes a decent amount of processed foods. For example, foods like processed meats such as salami and bacon, poor quality cheeses and butter, and refined oils may provide a lot of someone’s daily calories while on a dirty keto diet.
When someone is eating dirty, they are typically only focused on minimizing their carb intake, but are not purposefully including healthy, nutrient-dense foods in their diet, such as vegetables. The opposite of a dirty, low-carb diet is a “clean keto diet,” which emphasizes whole foods such as non-starchy veggies, herbs, wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, etc.
Lazy keto, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily an unhealthy diet. It’s not “lazy” because the person following the diet is eating tons of convenient junk foods, but rather that they aren’t carefully tracking their intake of fat and protein.
Can you still manage your weight on dirty keto? It’s possible, since even a dirty, low-carb diet can get you into a ketosis, fat-burning state, plus reduce your appetite. Protein and fat tend to be very filling, so many people find that they eat less when cutting carbs and sugar from their diet.
Still, this doesn’t give you the green light to forget about the quality of the foods you eat altogether.
1. Can Help With Healthy Weight Management
Assuming you aren’t eating a junk food keto eater and are getting most of your calories from keto fats, then healthy weight management is definitely still possible while doing lazy keto, even if you slack a bit when it comes to tracking your food intake.
Because any type of low-carb, high-fat diet tends to be filling and can help to support appetite control, this approach may make it easier to consume less calories overall.
That being said, keep in mind that using the keto diet for healthy weight management is most likely to occur if you follow a “clean,” nutrient-dense diet overall, so first and foremost be sure to focus on eating real, whole foods.
2. Less Restrictive, More Approachable, and Easier to Start
Starting a lazy keto diet can be less overwhelming and more flexible than a traditional keto diet, which means you may be more willing to give it a shot.
Because it requires a bit less mental energy and hard-core dedication, it might also seem easier to sustain, therefore leading to more beneficial outcomes long-term.
3. Can Lead to Other Health Benefits
Because lazy keto is low in carbs, especially added sugar and refined grains, the diet can contribute to benefits in many health markers — such as by supporting healthy blood sugar levels, a healthy body weight and healthy metabolism, and so on.
Of course this really all depends on the quality of your diet; if you eat a clean keto diet that emphasizes plenty of low-carb, anti-inflammatory foods (like vegetables, quality proteins, and healthy fats like nuts, olive oil, and avocado), then you’re much more likely to experience benefits beyond just healthy weight management.
What can you eat on lazy keto? In a nutshell, the lazy keto diet is a very low-carb diet, which means foods like meat, fish, eggs, healthy oils and non-starchy vegetables should provide the bulk of your calories.
Here’s a more detailed list of low-carb keto foods to include:
- Performance fats, including MCT oil, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, avocado, and fats found naturally in meat, eggs and fish.
- Quality protein sources, such as pastured eggs and poultry, grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish and full-fat cheeses
- Non-starchy, low-carb vegetables, such as leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like broccoli or cauliflower, mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes, bell peppers, herbs, etc.
- Fresh or dried herbs and spices.
- Unsweetened keto drinks, including water, seltzer, low-sugar green juices, coffee, tea or herbal tea.
- Monk fruit or stevia extract instead of sugar to satisfy cravings for sweetness.
What can you NOT eat on the keto diet?
- Grains and products made with wheat/grain flours
- Most fruit (berries can be eaten in small amounts)
- Added sugar of all kind
- All desserts
- Sweetened dairy products
- Soda, juices and other sweetened drinks
- Most starchy vegetables like potatoes, beets and butternut squash.
- Recall from above that a dirty keto diet doesn’t distinguish between healthy, unprocessed fats and those that are known to be inflammatory. To get the most benefits from the diet, avoid things like highly-refined vegetable oils, pork rinds, bacon, sausage and processed cheeses.
Now that you know which foods to include in lazy keto meals, let’s take a look at an example lazy keto diet meal plan:
- Breakfast: Eggs cooked in oil or butter with sautéed veggies and sliced avocado. Another option is skipping breakfast all together and doing intermittent fasting on keto.
- Lunch: Grass-fed burger with aged cheddar cheese, served over salad with dressing and pickled veggies.
- Dinner: Wild-caught salmon, steak or chicken cooked in butter or oil, served with sautéed veggies cooked in more butter/oil.
- Keto snacks (optional, if needed depending on hunger levels): Deviled eggs made with avocado, keto smoothies (made with ingredients like collagen powder or bone broth protein powder, cocoa and coconut milk), a handful of nuts, or “keto fat bombs” made with ingredients like nuts, seeds, cocoa powder and coconut flakes.
Although you won’t necessarily be tracking your food intake very carefully, here are some general tips to keep in mind to make sure you’re sticking to the correct keto macros:
- Include at least 1-2 servings of healthy fats with every meal.
- Aim to eat small amounts of healthy protein sources throughout the day.
- Eat several servings of veggies per day, ideally including them with all meals.
- Read ingredient labels carefully, this way you avoid added sugar and carbs, plus difficult-to-pronounce chemical ingredients.
- Consider using a keto supplement, such as exogenous ketones in the form of Keto FIRE, to help support you in getting into ketosis. Exogenous ketones, MCTs (medium chain triglyceride fats) and adaptogens can all work together to boost your energy levels and athletic performance, support a healthy metabolism and aid in healthy weight management while on a keto diet.
While it’s not necessarily a “risk,” trying the lazy keto diet may make it harder to get into ketosis and to achieve all of the benefits of a traditional ketogenic diet.
For example, if you aren’t eating enough fat and/or are consuming too much protein, then your body may struggle to make ketones, which are responsible for many of the unique benefits of high-fat diets.
If you’re following lazy keto and find that you’re not managing a healthy weight, you’re feeling sluggish, and overall you aren’t seeing the results you expected, then you have two options:
- Try a stricter, traditional keto diet instead. This can help you to actually get into ketosis and to burn fat for energy, plus experience many other benefits associated with ketone production.
- Stop following a low-carb diet altogether, and instead focus on improving the quality of diet overall (i.e, eat more whole foods, cut out processed foods, watch portion sizes, etc.).
- So what is lazy keto? It’s a high-fat, low-carb diet that’s a bit more flexible than a traditional keto diet. It focuses on limiting carbs, but otherwise not strictly counting macros.
- A lazy keto diet food list includes foods like: olive oil, coconut oil, free-range eggs, grass-fed butter and meats, and wild-caught fish. Clean keto encourages you to eat lots of non-starchy vegetables everyday to obtain essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, plus to help keep hunger in check. High-antioxidant foods like sea vegetables, probiotic foods like fermented veggies, and bone broth are also recommended.
- Examples of popular lazy keto diet recipes include: breakfast of coffee and heavy cream along with three eggs fried in butter with sautéed veggie; lunch of a grass-fed burger (no bun) with melted cheddar, greens and avocado; dinner that includes a protein like fish or chicken with buttered veggies and cauliflower “rice”.