This version of the diet is much simpler—but does it work? A nutritionist weighs in, and serves up tips for building lazy keto meals that'll help keep you in ketosis.

By Brierley Horton, MS, RD
Updated February 22, 2019

Turns out there's more than one spin on the keto diet—that ultra-low-carb, high-fat, trendy way of eating. You've got the super-strict original diet, in which roughly 5% of your daily calories come from carbs; 75% to 90% of your calories come from fat; and the remaining 5% to 20% of you caloric intake comes from protein. Then there’s "dirty keto," where you adhere to the same macronutrient breakout, but the quality of the foods you eat doesn’t matter so much. (You can read more about dirty keto here.) Simplify dirty keto, and you essentially get "lazy keto."

So what is lazy keto?

The cardinal (and only!) rule to lazy keto is to eat no more than 20 grams of carbohydrate a day. Unlike the original keto plan, you don’t have to track your calories, nor do you have to count the other macronutrients (fat and protein).

Trust us, we get the appeal: Tracking is very time intensive. And there’s a steep learning curve involved. A laser focus on carbohydrates is way simpler. But simpler isn't always better, of course: Though you will lose weight on a lazy keto diet (it’s essentially just another low-carb eating plan, and we know those work), you’ll probably hit a weight-loss plateau, and likely fairly soon.

RELATED: 4 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on the Keto Diet, According to Nutritionists

The goal of the keto diet is to reach a state of ketosis, in which your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. While cutting way back on carbs is crucial, you also need to keep your protein intake down.

"Carbs offer a direct source of glucose, but protein is similar. Eat too much protein and your body can make glucose from protein through a process called gluconeogenesis,” explains Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, of Mohr Results. “It’s a fine line. Protein is, of course, required for repairing and building muscles, but too much can tip the body out of ketosis.” And if you're not tracking your protein, it's pretty easy to overdo it. 

Not tracking your fat intake could potentially be problematic as well, because you may not get enough of the nutrient. Fat is filling (it has more calories per gram than the other macros) and you digest it slower, so it helps keep you satisfied between meals. (In other words, an inadequate fat intake could leave you feeling hangry all day.) Fat also helps your body absorb key fat-soluble vitamins from foods, though that doesn’t have much, if any, bearing on weight loss. It’s just good nutrition.

RELATED: 5 Supplements You Should Take If You're on the Keto Diet

Building lazy keto meals

If you’re still thinking, Strict keto isn’t for me, here’s how to approach lazy keto so you can make healthy choices and see results.

Start by getting a general idea of how many carbs, proteins, and fats you need in a day. (Try using an online calculator.) Next, it’s vital to understand carbohydrate counting. You know to avoid bread and pasta, of course, but there are carbs in fruits, vegetables, and even dairy. “Do some research on some of your weekly staples, read food labels, and write down a list of carb-heavy items you will need to cut from your diet,” suggests nutritionist Carly McGavin of Nourish Foods.

Then build a list of staple foods and meals that you know will keep you in ketosis. McGavin suggests things like eggs, bacon, and avocados. "Even pre-made meals like chicken salad, or heat-and-eat dinners that star beef with veggies like broccoli or Brussels sprouts work,” she adds.

Make sure to include lower-carb veggies, like asparagus and cauliflower, on your keto grocery list; as well as higher-fat, lower-carb nuts like pecans and macadamia nuts.

There is an upshot to lazy keto: It’ll teach you about carbohydrates, and how to identify the better-for-you kind. Plus, just being more aware of what you're eating can help you make healthier choices on a day-to-day basis.

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