Teaching good nutrition and cooking at a young age builds good habits that will last a lifetime, says the Sugar Association.

It has the following tips to encourage good eating habits in children:- Kids like familiar foods. Add a twist to favorite foods to encourage kids to try new foods. Serve new foods with old favorites.

- Children eat small portions. Cut food into small chunks or bite-size pieces and serve on a small plate.

- Make healthy food fun. Cut foods into interesting shapes. Or use colorful sauces and dressings.

- Provide a choice of foods at the table. Giving children an alternative to a new dish will prevent having to cook something new if the child refuses to eat the new food.

- Set a good example for children by eating healthy foods yourself.

- Schedule regular mealtimes and snacks. A firm schedule will help you plan ahead and will teach your children to eat regular meals.

Spinach Manicotti

For the tomato sauce:

1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon Italian herbs

For the manicotti:

5 ounces raw spinach, washed

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

3/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

10 manicotti shells, uncooked

1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small saucepan combine tomato sauce, sugar, garlic, onion and Italian herbs. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer while preparing manicotti shells.

In food processor puree spinach, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese. Use a cake pastry bag or a spoon to fill uncooked manicotti shells with cheese mixture.

Pour half of the tomato sauce into an 8-inch baking pan. Place manicotti shells in pan. Pour remaining tomato sauce over shells. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 40 minutes or until shells are tender. Uncover and cook another 10 minutes. Makes 10 servings.

Stuffed Baked Apples

6 small baking apples

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup graham crackers, crushed

31/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon sliced almonds

1 tablespoon margarine, softened

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon granulated sugar Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash apples but do not peel. Core to 1/2-inch above the bottom of the apple. Use a knife or potato peeler to hollow out the inside of the apple. Leave a 1-inch shell around the edges. Save cutout apple and chop into small pieces.

In a bowl mix 2/3 cup chopped apple with oats, graham crackers, brown sugar, sliced almonds, margarine, lemon juice and cinnamon.

Place apples in an 8-inch baking pan. Fill apples with oat mixture. Sprinkle tops of apples with remaining 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar.

Combine water with sugar and pour in baking pan around, but not over, apples. Bake apples in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes until tender but not mushy. Makes 6 servings.

Fruit Fondue

Assorted fruits such as banana slices, apple slices, chunks of kiwi fruit, chunks of pear, red and green grapes, whole strawberries, chunks of nectarines, cantaloupe balls, melon balls or chunks

Cold Creamy Raspberry Dip (recipe follows)

Hot Very Raspberry Dip (recipe follows)

With colored toothpicks, dip assorted fruit in one or both of the following dips.

Cold Creamy Raspberry

2 cups frozen individual raspberries, do not thaw

1 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt

4 teaspoons sugar Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Serve immediately with assorted fruits.

Hot Very Raspberry

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/3 cup water Combine sugar and cornstarch in a food processor. Add raspberries, lemon juice and water. Process. Pour into a small saucepan and mix over medium heat until thickened. Serve hot or cold with assorted fruits.