The following recipe was incorrectly printed in the September 28 food section: SCOTCH SHORTBREAD (2 dozen squares) 3 1/2 cups rolled oats 2/3 cup sugar 1/4 cup unbleached white flour 3/4 cup margarine 1/2 teaspoon salt Place all the ingredients in a bowl and work together lightly with a wooden spoon or the fingertips. Press into a well greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done. Cool 10 minutes.

Do you consider yourself an average American? If so, you guzzled 493 eight-ounce bottles of soda pop in 1976, which is 300 more eight-ounce bottles than you drank in 1960.

You also reduced your consumption of coffee, down from 1,005 cups a year in 1946 to 560 cups in '76.

As Mr. and Mrs. Average American, you and your kids have also cut down on the number of eggs you eat, from 403 a year in 1945 to 276. What's more, you've reduced your candy consumption to 16.7 pounds a year from 20.3 pounds in 1968. That doesn't mean, however, that you are eating less sugar. But the things you are eating it in are just less obvious than candy bars. Sugar and other sweetners are "hidden" in foods such as mustard, crackers, peanut butter, beef extenders, even ordinary table salt.

The American diet has changed, and not for the better, according to many authorities who believe increased consumption of fats and refined carbohydrates and decreased consumption of complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grain products is partly responsible for the poor state of our health.

According to several recent studies there are a lot of Americans who want to make some changes in their eating habits but aren't exactly sure how to go about it. There has never been much practical advice. Help may be on the way.

A number of studies into the causes of six of the 10 leading causes of death in this country (heart attack, stroke, arteriosclerosis, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and diabetes) link them with poor eating habits.

In January 1977, the now-defunct Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs released a report that urged changes in American eating habits. "Dietary Goals for the United States" suggested an increase in complex carbohydrate intake and reduction in cholesterol, sugar, salt and fat consumption. The report was widely circulated, but until recently there was no way for the ordinary lay person to implement the goals suggestions.

At the same time, the storm that arose over Dietary Goals for the United States has never abated completely. But public interest in sound nutrition and in dietary goals specifically does not appear to have been slowed by such criticisms. What has prevented many people from making serious attempts to change poor eating habits is lack of specific information on how to do so.

Until recently the only suggested menus offered to conform to the goals were those prepared by Betty Peterkin at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Her suggested menus included 13 slices of bread each day. Peterkin said it would be necessary to eat that many slices in order to meet the suggested amount of complex carbohydrates.

Barbara Abrams, a registered dietitian with a masters in public health, was appalled by Peterkin's menu suggestions. She was asked by the Senate Nutrition Committee to put together some more palatable menus that would conform to the goals. Originally they were to be an appendix to the goals. Instead they are now part of a larger companion study to the goals, entitled "Guidelines for Food Purchasing in the United States."

The guidelines are the work of a former Nutrition Committee staffer, Nick Mottern. Their purpose is to help consumers "attain the objectives of the dietary goals . . . quickly and effectively."

Mottern left the Nutrition Committee before the guide was released officially and decided to release it himself because, he said, a number of members of the successor committee, the Senate Agriculture Committee, "have been opposed in varying degrees to the recommendations of the 'Dietary Goals' report . . ." Mottern feared that "compromises would be made . . . that will deprive the public of important information."

The guidelines make three basic recommendations. Substitute fresh and lightly processed food staples for premixed, ready-to-eat refined and substitute food.

Rely on nutrition information, taste and price to make food purchases instead of advertising.

Purchase as much food as possible through consumer cooperatives and direct farmer-to-consumer markets. Grow as much food of your own as you can.

According to the guide, in addition to improving your health, adopting the goals and purchasing guidelines "should enable the consumer to save between 20 and 30 percent of total food costs."

The guide then takes the next step. It offers three days of menus and recipes that conform to the goals. The recipes, which require no special ingredients, are taken from well-known cookbooks. The calorie count is appropriate for men between the age of 23 and 50 who engage in office work.

Women who want to follow the menus would have to eliminate some of the calories either by cutting down on what Abrams says are large portions or by substituting less caloric foods for some of the dishes: whole wheat toast for datenut muffins; grapefruit juice for orange juice; plain yogurt instead of Swiss style yogurt; fruit for cookies.

The menu don't look very different from those people eat normally. Mottern says that's exactly the effect they were trying to achieve. "We were very concerned that we get a tasty diet. We wanted it to be something that people would be pleased to see rather than have them feel they were on a very tight regimen."

And that's why, according to Abrams, there are foods like pizza, hamburger, french fries and beer in the menus. "I don't think people want to give up those things. You know you can't change eating habits it took you 45 years to develop in two days.

"I have always pretty much eaten according to dietary goals without knowing it. But when I want to eat something pretty decadent, I watch what I eat the rest of the time.

"The problem with what Betty (Peterkin) did was that she doesn't think people want to change. I felt what she did was pretty destructive.

"People do want to change, but not everything."

*Statistics on dietary changes from "The Changing American Diet" by Letitia Brewster and Michael Jacobson. The book is available for $2.50 from Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1796 S St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20080.

Guidelines may be purchased for $5 from: Guidelines, Box 2732, Winchester, Va. 22301.

These are the menus for each of the three days Abrams created, along with some of the recipes which appear in Guidelines. MENU-DAY ONE

Breakfast:

Orange juice

Swiss-style blueberry yogurt

Date-nut muffins

Margarine

Lunch:

Tomato soup

Peanut butter and preserves on oatmeal bread

Fruit and vegetable salad

Raisin squares

Nonfat milk

Dinner:

Stir-fried chicken, broccoli-cashew mix, with white rice

Apricot-banana fruit gelatis

Whipped topping

Snack:

Pear MENU-DAY TWO

Breakfast:

Whole wheat waffles

Margarine, maple syrup

Citrus sections

Nonfat milk

Lunch:Tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread

Lettuce, tomato

Carrot and raisin salad

Vanilla frozen yogurt

Fresh strawberries

Dinner:

Cheese pizza

Vegetable antipasto salad

Beer

Cantaloupe wedge

Snack:

Fresh grapes MENU-DAY THREE

Breakfast:

1/2 grapefruit

100 percent natural cereal with dried fruit

Nonfat milk

Lunch:

Hamburger patty on French bread

Lettuce, tomato

French fried potatoes

Catsup

Snack:

Plums

Dinner:

Vegetarian enchiladas

Green pepper rice

Red leaf salad with cabbage

Oil and vinegar dressing

Scotcher shortbread cookies

Snack:

Hot apple cider with cinnamon stick VEGETARIAN ENCHILADAS

(Makes 12) Sauce: 2 tablespoons safflower oil 1 1/2 cups onion 2 cups canned tomatoes 1/4 cup tomato paste 1 clove garlic, minced Pinch cayenne 10 drops hot pepper sauce 1/2 tablespoon chili powder 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed, ground 1 tablespoon honey 1/2 teaspoon salt Filling: 1/2 cup dry pinto beans, cooked and mashed 1/2 tablespoon safflower oil 1/2 cup onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons chopped ripe olives 1 teaspoon chili powder 12 corn tortillas 4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated

To make the sauce, saute 1 1/2 cups onions in 2 tablespoons safflower oil until golden. Add remaining sauce ingredients and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

To prepare filling, saute onion, garlic and olives in 1/2 tablespoon oil and add chili powder and mashed beans. Fill the tortillas with a few tablespoons of filling and a tablespoon of grated cheese. Roll up tortillas, and place in shallow baking dish. Cover with sauce; sprinkle with remaining cheese. When ready to serve, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling hot.

Adopted from Diet for a Small Planet. STIR-FRIED CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI

(4 servings) 1 1/2 tablespoons oil 1/2 cup sliced onion 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced 1 pound broccoli, cut into flowerettes 2 cups cooked white chickens meat 1/4 cup chicken broth 1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 tablespoon soy sauce 3 ounces unsalted cashews

Heat oil in heavy skillet or work and stir-fly onions and mushrooms for a minute. Add the broccoli and cook until almost tender. Stir in the chicken meat. Meanwhile blend the cornstarch with the chicken broth and stir in soy sauce. Pour mixture into skillet; heat and stir until slightly thickened. Add nuts and serve. TOMATO SOUP

(4 servings) 3 cups fresh or canned tomatoes 1/2 cup chopped onion%2 stalks celery 2 tablespoons oil 1 carrot 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil 1 quart hot vegetable stock 2 teaspoons salt Pepper to taste

Chop the tomatoes into small pieces with or without the skins. Chop the onion and celery and grate the carrot. Saute the onion along with the celery and carrot. Cook these vegetables until the onion is soft. Add oregano, basil and tomatoes to the pot and simmer gently for 5 minutes. At this point, if you want a creamy texture, puree the soup in a blender or food mill. Add the hot stock and bring the soup to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

From Laurel's Kitchen SWISS BLUEBERRY YOGURT

(Makes 1 pint) 3 cups blueberries 2 cups partially skimmed milk yogurt 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 2 teaspoons brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together. SCOTCH SHORTBREAD

(2 dozen squares) 3 1/3 cups rolled oats 2/3 cup sugar 1/4 cup unbleached white flour 3/4 margarine 1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and work together lightly with a wooden spoon or the fingertips. Press into a well-greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake 30 minutes or until done. Cool 10 minutes.

From New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook.