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Places that cater to your family's dietary sensitivities, allergies and -free needs

When violent outbursts and tantrums became a daily occurrence for her 4-year-old daughter Monica, Euless mom Michaela Añez turned to her pediatrician for answers. “A urinary peptide test showed that excess gluten and casein go straight to her brain, like a drug, and cause her to act out,” the mom of two recalls. A dietary change seemed like the easiest place to start. Within a few weeks, the family noticed less aggression in Monica and an increased ability to focus. A recent diagnosis of autism and sensory processing disorder solidified the family’s commitment to dietary changes.
Like the Añez family, many parents report significant improvement in behavior and symptoms of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and seizure disorders with dietary modifications. While mainstream health care remains neutral on the benefits of specialized diets, nutritionists have reassurance for families seeking healthier eating choices. Clinical dietitian and mom of two Emy Storms of Corinth encourages families with children with special needs to look at healthy eating when making overall health choices.
“Incorporating diet into a whole picture of health includes dealing with less illness, less gastrointestinal disturbances, good growth, increased mental sharpness and, hopefully, improved moods,” she says.
One deterrent to choosing a special diet is the difficulty of meeting the needs, particularly when eating out. Fortunately, as more restaurants across Dallas-Fort Worth are catering to gluten-free, non-genetically modified organism (GMO) and organic eating, there have never been more choices for eating healthy while eating out.
Company Café
Good for: Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Whole foods/ingredients
Dallas, Katy Trail, 214/468-8721
Dallas, Lower Greenville, 214/827-2233

Eating a restricted diet doesn’t mean giving up comfort food, at least not at Company Café. The casual, coffeehouse-style restaurant offers down-home flavors with organic ingredients that come from local sources. The restaurant has an extensive gluten-free menu, including chicken and waffles that are so good you won’t even know they’re gluten-free. There is not a dedicated children’s menu, but families flock to gluten-free pizza Tuesday, where they can all share a pie while dining on the expansive outdoor patio.
Cupboard Café
Good for: Gluten-free, Vegan/Vegetarian, Whole-foods/ingredients 
Denton, 940/387-5386

Cupboard Natural Foods has been the go-to grocery store for the health-conscious in Denton for five decades, providing organic meats, pesticide-free produce and a large assortment of gluten-free items. To put the icing on the (gluten-free) cake, the Cupboard also offers an in-store restaurant known for its organic breakfast and lunch options. Most popular are the sandwiches served with nitrate-free meats and the organic salad bar filled with locally sourced veggies.
Horny Toad Café
Good for: Vegetarian, Whole-foods/ingredients
Denton, 940/383-2150

This newcomer to the Denton restaurant scene has a hankering for the old days when restaurants cooked from scratch and used local, natural ingredients. To get back to that tradition, Horny Toad uses all-natural meats, with no hormones or antibiotics, as well as produce grown without pesticides. Diet-conscious families who still crave southern comfort food will be thrilled with a menu that doesn’t skimp on big Texas taste. Fried green tomatoes and chicken fried steak are just two of the favorites. An extensive kids’ menu with standard favorites is also available.
Kozy Kitchen
Good for: Gluten-free
Dallas, 214/219-5044

With the exception of a burger bun and challah, Kozy Kitchen is completely gluten-free, which means gluten-free kids have the freedom to order anything they see on the menu. Bonus: Kozy even has gluten-free pasta, a rare treat on a restrictive diet. Loyal patrons to the organic restaurant agree that the menu doesn’t taste gluten-free at all. It’s just good food that won’t hurt you.
LYFE Kitchen
Good for: Gluten-free, Vegan/Vegetarian
Dallas, 214/526-5933
Plano, 972/867-5933

With a belief that healthy food should be good and fast, LYFE Kitchen, which stands for “Love your food every day,” is trying to change the bad rap in both the fast-food and the health-food business. Locations in Plano and Dallas provide a menu for every variety of specialized diet, including gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian. Locavores will especially appreciate the emphasis on ingredients sourced from local farms. Parents can rest assured that they are meeting their child’s dietary needs by looking over the detailed, allergy-friendly ingredient list. The fact that this responsible dining choice is ready at a fast food speed makes it all the sweeter. 
Righteous Foods
Good for: Organic, Vegan/Vegetarian, Whole foods/ingredients
Fort Worth, 817/850-9996

Following their belief that “processed is a dirty word,” Righteous Foods has recently jumped onto the healthy-foods bandwagon, providing a much-needed addition to the Museum District in Fort Worth. Ingredients are sourced from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified-organic providers to create a full breakfast, lunch and early dinner menu, including burgers, tacos and breakfast burritos. Vegetarian and gluten-free options, including the aptly named “Meat and Gluten Haters Burrito,” are also available.
Although the restaurant does not have an official kids’ menu, Righteous Foods is happy to make smaller portions for half price and has plenty of options that kids love, including meatballs, burritos and grilled chicken. The enclosed patio is also a big plus for families needing a little extra wiggle room.
Spiral Diner + Bakery
Good for: Gluten-free, Soy-free, Vegan/Vegetarian, Whole foods/ingredients
Dallas, 214/948-4747
Fort Worth, 817/332-8934

Spiral Diner’s all-vegan menu is divided into sections offering options for a variety of diets, including gluten-free and soy-free. The majority of the menu items, including nachos made from cashews, are made in-house from organic ingredients, so most dietary restrictions can be accommodated. Families can enjoy an outdoor dining atmosphere where the kids are free to scream for a scoop of the made-fresh, organic ice cream for dessert.
Good for: Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Whole foods/ingredients
Dallas, Greenville Avenue, 214/265-1411
Dallas, Lemmon Avenue, 214/599-7884

Start is bucking the tradition that fast food has to be unhealthy. Created with the busy family in mind, meals are made with organic, nitrate-free ingredients and available for drive-thru, pickup or dine-in. The menu seeks to provide familiar foods prepared with healthier ingredients, making Start a great place for picky eaters to find their favorites. Kids love ordering peanut butter sandwiches and burgers on Start’s gluten-free bread and buns. And parents love that they don’t have to fight their kids to eat healthy.
True Food Kitchen
Good for: Gluten-free, Vegan/Vegetarian, Whole foods/ingredients
Dallas, 214/377-3333

Nutritionists and doctors alike agree that bad food choices cause inflammation that affects overall health. True Food Kitchen in Dallas is taking the precepts from Dr. Andrew Weil’s books about anti-inflammatory diets and putting them into practice. Rather than focusing on a specific dietary limitation, the menu is built around the premise that the right balance of nutrients yields optimum health. With that in mind, diners will still find gluten-free and vegetarian choices on the menu, including several gluten-free kids options. An open kitchen allows kids the opportunity to watch the prep and cooking process that takes from-scratch ingredients and turns them into plates of yummy food.
Unrefined Bakery
Good for: Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Non-GMO, Vegetarian, Whole foods/ingredients
Dallas, Greenville Avenue, 214/826-2414
Dallas, White Rock, 214/414-2414

Frisco, 972/668-2414
Unrefined Bakery is a haven for gluten-free diets, but a promise that the restaurant is 100-percent gluten-free, 99-percent corn- and dairy-free, and 80-percent egg-free ensures that those with any dietary restrictions will find something sweetly delicious here. Unrefined offers a dine-in menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also provides a take-out menu for gluten-free staples to have on hand like muffins, pizza crust and hot dog buns. Of course, no bakery worth their cupcakes is without treats, and everything from cakes to brownies is gluten-free and organic. For gluten-free kids who often have to miss out on desserts, the opportunity to pick anything from the case is a sweet reward.
Wholesome Grub
Good for: Gluten-free, Kosher, Vegetarian, Whole foods/ingredients
Plano, 972/964-4782

Wholesome Grub knows a thing or two about family. The whole food restaurant in Plano is the creation of three siblings who want to make healthy eating more than just a fad. With that in mind, they offer a nutritious alternative to fast food, choosing ingredients that are free from synthetic hormones and rich in fiber and proteins. For families watching their pocketbook, the affordability of the menu is a big plus. Kids meals, including chicken strips and gluten-free mac ’n’ cheese, are just $2.99. Specialized menus cater to gluten-free and kosher diners, as well as those who are counting calories and want controlled portions with nutrient density. Picnic tables on the patio are the perfect place for families to enjoy a quick and casual meal.
Zoë’s Kitchen
Good for: Gluten-free, Vegan/Vegetarian, Whole foods/ingredients 
Multiple locations

Zoë’s Kitchen offers a healthy take-out menu chock full of gluten-free options that are perfect for a family on the go. Call ahead to order a family meal of Mediterranean cuisine that includes a salad, hot entrée and side for four. Ingredients are always fresh, whole foods that are never processed.