I remember rolling out cookie dough at my grandmother's old kitchen table when I was a little girl, and when our boys were young they used some of the same cookie cutters to create holiday traditions in our Vermont kitchen. Along with decorating the house, making and sending cards to family and friends, and participating in community activities why not create healthy holiday cooking traditions with your children? What could be better than building cherished holiday memories along with a love of healthy food?

Before you start cooking with your kids, follow these simple guidelines for a never-fail holiday cooking tradition:

Think through your favorite holiday recipes. Choose a favorite cake or bread for Hanukkah, a special Christmas fruit salad with bright red and green colors, or a New Year's low-fat vegetable dip. Pick one recipe for each holiday to prepare with your children, and start a tradition by making that same recipe each year.

Select recipes with the ability of your children in mind. Very young children may be content stirring the ingredients, while older children want to read recipes, push the buttons on the blender and add their own creative touches to the food. When in doubt, keep it simple.

Set the mood. Don't forget the kitchen when you're putting up holiday decorations. After all, it's where much of the holiday magic is actually created! Play festive music while you cook with your children to set the mood and they'll always remember baking cranberry bread for the neighbors when they hear the holiday favorites on the radio each year.

If you just can't come up with some favorite recipe ideas of your own, try these two child-tested favorites:

Bread, muffins or rolls. Children love to knead and roll out bread dough, and they have a blast designing their own shaped rolls. Muffins give kids options: should we use blueberries or raspberries? Craisins or golden raisins?

Salads. Kids love to clean and cut up vegetables or choose different colors of fruit for a fruit salad. Choose your utensils with ability and safety in mind.

Lynn Grieger, RD, CDE, cPT is a health, food and fitness coach in Manchester and online at www.LynnGrieger.com. Her boys help create favorite meals when they're back in Vermont for the holidays.