If you're looking for a good way to use your Christmas gift money, we suggest you consider a book on nutrition. We can recommend several that are interesting readable and reliable.

For the budding athlete, for example, there's "Food for Sport" by Dr. Nathan Smith. It's filled with helpful advice and it may even inspire those who take their sports vicariously in front of the TV to try a more active life. Dr. Smith offers common-sense advice on a good diet and on how to eat to maximize physical performance. The paperback is published by the Bull Publishing Co., Palo Alto, Calif.

To help you resist every "miracle" diet or the "wonders" of a health-food store, try "The Health Robbers." It contains 23 chapters by a number of health experts and is edited by Dr. Stephen Barrett and Gilda Knight. The publisher is the Stickley Co., Philadelphia. One particularly good chapter is by Dr. Victor Herbert, a noted nutritionist and physician, who discusses how to avoid quacks. This chapter alone could save you more than the cost of the book.

One of the best books published recently for mothers who are trying to foster healthy eating habits in young children is "Creative Food Experience for Children" by Mary Goodwin and Gerry Pollen. This book, published by CSPI, Washington, D.C., makes good nutrition child's play with a variety of educational eating-related games. Some very good recipes are included. There are instructions on how to make things like raisins and peanut butter. There's also an excellent section on improving bag lunches.

For vegetarians, there's a treat in "Laurel's Kitchen" by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders and Bronwen Godfrey, published by Nilgiri Press, Petaluma, Calif. In addition to explaining how to plan and cook healthy vegetarian meals, the book has an excellent section on nutrition written by eminent nutrutionist Dr. George Briggs. Even nonvegetarians will be attracted by the gourment meatless recipes, the variety of sandwich suggestions, and the charts showing the nutritional value of several hundred foods, ranging from alfalfa sprouts to zucchini.

Another good "specialty" book is "Gardening for Food and Fun." It is a 400-page book divided into four sections: one each on growing vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and one on food preservation. This practical guide, available from the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D.C., enables even those who lack a green thumb to experiment with raising food, even if we have only a windowsill or balcony to "farm." Each topic has been checked by Department of Agriculture experts, so you can rely on the advice.

There are also a couple of useful general nutrition books. One is by Ronald Deutsh who has written a number of excellent books on nutrition. This one, entitle "Realities of Nutrition," is published by Bull Published Co., San Francisco. You also may wish to consider a book written by one of us (Dr. Jean Mayer), "Diet for Living," which is from Pocket Books, New York, N.Y. In question-and-answer form, the book deals with some specific problems of diet and health that occur throughout life.