7 Ways to Exceptional Healthy Dining Experiences at Home During the Warmer Months

By Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN, CSSD

If you were used to going out to eat before the pandemic, why not make dining-in at home a unique experience. Eating at home can be better than going out! Read on for some great ways to enjoy spectacular dining at home and create a new look for your yard, patio, or deck too!

  1. Breakfast Nooks 

    Porches are a restful place for meals.

    Indoor or outdoor cozy breakfast nooks for relaxing on your mornings off. Switch it up, meals do not always have to be at the kitchen table or counter. It could be on your outdoor furniture, to a bistro table, to your favorite comfortable chair with a book by your side. These little spots are fabulous on a front porch or deck, or with a couple of chairs near a window for the days, you choose to eat-in. Below I chose to set up a couple of indoor/outdoor chairs in my kitchen looking out through glass doors onto the deck that especially comes in handy for rainy days. The best part about the chairs is they can easily be moved onto the deck for extra company. 
Plain yogurt, blueberries & blackberries. Homemade wheat bread and blueberry preserve.
Comfortable cozy sitting area.
Front porch breakfast - oatmeal with milk, cinnamon, and blueberries. Scrambled eggs with cheese.

Refreshing afternoon delight with sparkling mineral water and fresh lemon

2. Afternoon to Sunset – Outdoor spaces for a beverage, lunch, early evening cocktails or mocktails work anywhere in the yard that may catch a sunset or enjoyable setting! Here I made a very quick patio out front by removing old grass, moss and weeds, tampering and leveling the soil, laying down landscape fabric, and stone purchased in bags. I love mixing different rocks for an uncommon look. Shown here is layered river rock, white marble rock, then topped off with seashells. It matches the marble, shells, and sea glass patio I created under the porch. Connected between this is nice thick artificial turf with no infill needed (sand fill to weigh it down) to bring together a clean and enjoyable look that only makes food more enjoyable. Above is a relaxing afternoon with a glass of mineral water and lemon. It is also a perfect spot for a fresh veggie and cheese sandwich.

  1. Extraordinary Patio Dining– Company or not, outdoors does not always mean plastic or paper dishes. Go ahead and make it a memorable evening by using your good dining plates, stemware, and cloth napkins. When I first moved into my house, I did not want to step foot in my backyard, it was full of mud, and no landscape. I opted to make it carefree by adding a simple patio, pet-friendly artificial turf that did require sand, but it was simple to sweep in, and the rest is stone, sand, and a freshly painted deck. All that is needed is a leaf blower, artificial turf rake, and no mowing to have dining a pleasure! 
Casual weekend outdoor dining with grilled swordfish, corn, shrimp, and fresh picked vegetables served on melamine plates.
  1. Island Flair

    Weekend appetizers as a meal.

    Enjoy fine dining at home around the island, bar areas, or counter height table. It does not always have to be a sit-down one entre meal, mix it up with small plates, and be creative. Music, candles, and ambiance go a long way for an exclusive evening. The one thing I love and use frequently is an electric wall fireplace that has dimmer lights with or without heat, and for the cooler evenings the heat setting can be turned on high, and with the lights dimmed low, you will think you are dining out. 
Lighting makes all the difference!
Mineral water with lemon in a martini glass
  1. Deck & Porch– Casual evenings with Hors d’oeuvres, dim lighting, citronella candles, and plants, or LED lights, to holiday lighting year-round. Relax any evening with a mix of your favorite foods, and a way to fit in a meal with cheese, fruit, seafood, veggies, bread, or grains, with a mix of nuts, olives, or avocado slices. 
Porch - veggies, grapes, cheese, and homemade bread
Back deck grilling
Veggies, nuts, olives, and cheese
  1. Dining room for any day or night of the week!

    Dining Room– Let us not forget this room! Whether you live alone or have a large crew to feed, make use of this room if you have one. It will break up the monotony of everyday kitchen meals. Switch it up by using it casually or having an indoor picnic on a rainy day! Just as your outdoor table can be used for fine dining, your formal dining room can be used for casual food too. I personally did away with my beautiful large dining table once used to host many people and opted to downsize to a bar height table in place of the formality but placing it under a chandelier. It works if you only have a few people in your household and do not host large dinner parties. 
  1. Fire Pit AreaThis area is for more than only roasting marshmallows. Pull up an Adirondack or beach chair with a nice cup of real milk hot chocolate or your favorite beverage, dessert is optional. This year, I opted for a sandpit area filled with play sand including a barrier underneath. Rather than a firepit, I made a nice little fire bowl out of concrete and Mexican beach rock to use with either propane gel fuel or wood. A perfect way to unwind on a weekend after dinner. This is enjoyment for the whole family of all ages!
A great place to unwind and relax after a long week!

While I do much of the work including building the stone stairs – a great deal of credit and thanks go to the companies below for pulling it all together, I could not have done it alone! 


–       Pavement Protectors for driveway repairs and blacktop 

–       Stone Work in CT for the magnificent backyard patio

–       Quality Affordable Landscaping CT college students for installing the front yard 300-pound artificial turf, sandpit, loose stone pathways, planting, mulch, and major clean up after a tropical storm Isaias

–       ACE Landscaping for additional mulch areas

All photos, food, and landscape design by Kathy LaBella

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