Salt free, sugar free, low cholesterol, lowfat, high fiber, vegetarian, lite this, light S that -- book titles are becoming interchangeable with food packages. Even if you haven't eaten it, you can read about it.

Among cookbooks of this genre -- which typically include a mixture of recipes, how-to-reduce advice and tables of nutritional values -- there are some serious attempts to follow the dietary recommendations from such groups as the American Heart Association or the National Institutes of Health. Vegetarian cookbooks for mainstream tastes are also hitting the stands.

Within these parameters, the books vary in their degree of rigidity and sense of purpose. And there is also a lot of schlock.

Just like food companies that sometimes sell us more glitz than nutrition, every actress who wears a Size 6 is suddenly a fitness aficionado, and every other ersatz "nutritionist" has some kooky concoction for long life.

"A lot of books go way outside the boundaries of what's likely to be probable," said Johanna Dwyer, director of the Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts' New England Medical School. There is "no diet that completely transforms your immune system" or that can absolutely prevent all forms of cancer, said Dwyer. "All we can do is play the probabilities," and remember that there are other preventative measures for overall good health, such as not smoking and getting enough exercise, Dwyer said.

Among the questionable guides, for instance, is the new book "Fit for Life," by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond (Warner, $16.50), which advises taking advantage of the sun (tanning lotions or sunscreens are not recommended) and claims that the key to being "Fit for Life" is to eat fruit on an empty stomach. In the current best seller "Dr. Berger's Power Immune Diet" (NAL, $14.95), Dr. Stuart Berger tells us that by eliminating certain foods we can be free from colds and flu and have increased sexual energy. The book, which is making the headlines of supermarket tabloids, stresses that to do this, people should not eat selected "danger foods" more than once every four days.

Other books recommend unnecessarily complicated ways to reach sensible goals. Dietary advice is hedged in all sorts of requirements that you follow T-plans or A-type diets. You could lose weight just worrying how to figure it out. While a number of books contain solid nutrition information, too often the cooks provide bland recipes. You may be better off adapting recipes from cookbook classics or sticking to good recipes that are naturally low in fat, sugar or salt.

For instance, "The Living Heart Diet" (Simon and Schuster, $19.95), a 1984 bestseller, is chock full of good information from its fine team of authors, who include Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, the heart surgeon who performed the first heart transplant. The recipes, however, while adequate, are often unimaginative and lacking in the use of interesting spices and fresh ingredients.

"Even Julia [Child] doesn't go near using the amount of butter and cream" that she used to, says cookbook editor Judith Jones. But, Jones added, "you're not going to persuade people [to change their eating habits] unless you give them something good to eat."

Here is a sampling of the newest in the 1985 crop of nutrition-minded cookbooks:

Gourmet Light, by Greer Underwood (Globe Pequot Press, $9.95).

It's an overused term, but this is the yuppie cookbook of the group. Two dead giveaways are the book's elegant italicized type style and the publicity information that describes author Underwood as "an active young mother who stays busy teaching cooking classes, marketing a small line of specialty sauces and jogging daily . . . "

The book is not a diet manual, as Underwood explains, but is based on the belief that "good food doesn't have to be fattening and thin food doesn't have to be boring." Recipes include such new American darlings as Leek Quiche with a Cornmeal Sage Crepe Crust and Pasta Salad with Basil-Walnut Sauce.

Aside from the cliche's, this is a decent cookbook with some appealing spa cuisine sorts of recipes for those who want to cut down rather than cut out. A section on lower calorie adaptions to basic sauces is particularly helpful (although purists may believe in the just-use-less-of-it school of thought); however, for those concerned about cholesterol, the hollandaise with less butter -- but more egg yolks -- may not be such an advantage. Also keep in mind that if the calorie counts sound low, it's because the portion sizes are small.

The Chinese Salt-Free Diet Cookbook, by Merle Schell (NAL, $16.95).

Chinese cooking needn't be laden with soy sauce and msg, and Merle Schell tells how. While the recipes include Chinese standbys as well as some of Schell's own intriguing creations (although because of the adaptions, none are "completely authentic"), probably the most important section of the book is on sauces and seasonings, which are the heart of the salt source in Chinese cooking. (If you remove the salt, soy sauce and msg, Chinese cooking is already low in sodium, as Schell says herself.)

Made with cider vinegar, low-sodium beef bouillon and molasses, her substitute for soy sauce transforms the seasoning from about 1000 mg sodium per tablespoon for commercial soy sauce or 600 mg for low-sodium to 4 mg of sodium per tablespoon. It is, as Schell promises, a decent facsimile although obviously not the real thing. It has the body of soy sauce, adheres well to meats and vegetables and may go unnoticed by unsuspecting eaters.

A word of warning: This book is really for those committed to the cause for health reasons, as it will require that you renovate your Chinese pantry. Many of the recipes call for low-sodium products -- ketchup, bouillon, peanut butter. And you will need to keep a stable of the sauces and seasonings, since most of the recipes call for at least one of them. (In addition, some of the ingredients in the sauces and seasonings are other sauces and seasonings.)

The book of course includes sodium counts, as well as calories, carbohydrates and fat. In the appendix, there are menus for entertaining, nutritional tables and a two-week Chinese diet plan, the latter an unlikely regimen for most.

Eat Right, Eat Well -- The Italian Way, by Edward Giobbi and Richard Wolff, M.D. (Knopf, $19.95).

Talented Italian cook and painter Ed Giobbi and Boston cardiologist Dr. Richard Wolff have teamed up for a 500-page-plus opus filled with marvelous-sounding recipes using fresh and lively ingredients. Catfish in Carpione, Squid Stuffed with Polenta, Veal with Lentils and Pasta, Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms -- these are recipes for serious cooks.

Giobbi's contribution is his cooking talent. Wolff's part is his belief that the importance of all this advice about lowering blood cholesterol should be qualified. It is not necessarily the total amount of cholesterol in a given food, he believes, but calories, the amount of total fat, saturated fat and the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat. Wolff stresses that it's not only the cholesterol and fat count of one particular dish that matters, but the balance of the day's intake as well as the care devoted to other risk factors.

Based on these premises, the book includes a complete breakdown of each dish's calories, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrate, total fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. (The authors chose not to list each item per portion but rather for the total dish, an interesting device to force eaters to calculate and control their portion sizes.)

The recipes aim to follow these guidelines: not more and preferably less than one third of the fat is saturated, an equal or greater amount is polyunsaturated and the remainder is monounsaturated. This is accomplished by omitting butter, reducing the amount of olive oil in traditional recipes and combining the olive oil with a lesser amount of safflower oil. There are also very few recipes that include cheese and only one recipe that gets near cream (it uses half-and-half.)

While this is certainly a first-of-its-kind Italian cookbook, with lots of appendix charts and information and a collection of recipes that will make you hungry as you read them, in some ways, the book sends out mixed messages.

In his introduction, Wolff, he states that it is "not so easy to limit the total fat of the diet to 30 percent or less of its calories" per day (the goal set by the American Heart Association, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and other groups), while fulfilling the guidelines of fat proportions he has set for the book. And while he says he would "even be happier" if 25 percent of the day's calories came from fat, many of the recipes reach into the upper 30's and 40'sfat percentages, as well as being fairly high in calories. In addition, while most of the recipes are light renditions, there are a surprising number of fried dishes.

Wolff admits that the recipes which do not fit his fat requirements are "nevertheless improvements over most similiar foods even though they are not ideal" and that what is important is the total fat intake for the day, which can be calculated using a lengthy procedure described in the appendix. Though it is true that total daily fat is the important fact, recipes in a cookbook aimed at 30 percent of daily calories from fat should demonstrate that goal rather than expect the reader to do the culling. One need not buy a special cookbook to find good 40-percent-fat recipes.

Also, an end note: these are recipes that are subtle and delicate in their flavors. If you are expecting the pungency of olive-oil-and-butter sauces and cheeses, you will be disappointed. Giobbi's point is to make the food light, fresh and imaginative. And that he does.

Fast & Low: Easy Recipes for Low Fat Cuisine, by Joan Stillman (Little Brown, $9.95).

Joan Stillman had to do an about-face in the kitchen when her husband contracted angina. Her book, a compilation of her adaptions, is a sensible and easy cooking manual for what everyone can do to alter eating habits -- with a limited amount of pain.

The best part of this book is not the formal recipes. While there may be winners in the group, two that we tested were disappointing (the Szechuan Fish Mousse, in fact, was a disaster).

Instead, what "Fast & Low" should be used for are its quick and simple tips: fresh peaches chilled in red wine and perfumed with cardamom and cloves; freshly grated ginger root on yogurt and ricotta sauce; sunflower seeds roasted in tamari; cucumbers with yogurt mayonnaise, fresh mint and chives . . .

The Fit-or-Fat System Target Recipes, by Covert Bailey and Lea Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, $5.95)

This book is a companion to "The Fit-or-Fat System," a paperback written by Covert Bailey, which is mostly a primer on the importance of exercise in weight loss and maintenance. The combo's titles sound hokey, all right, but the "Target Recipes" contain some good hints for lowering the amount of fat in recipes.

It is a decent guide for everyday cooking; the recipes are nothing fancy -- homey dishes such as chicken and rice casseroles and macaroni -- but in several of the recipes, the authors alert cooks as to the original ingredients, what adaptions have been made and the result. Bailey and Bishop are moderate in their approach; they reduce but do not omit.

One criticism is the system used for noting the amount of fat per dish. This is how the authors explain it: 1 "fat" equals 5 grams or 45 calories. A recipe that contains 130 calories contains "1/10 fat per serving." Since each "fat" contains 45 calories, the 1/10 fat contributes 4 1/2 calories to the serving; that is, 4 1/2 of the 130 calories or about 3 percent come from fat.

Why bother with this convoluted system (plugged as being in "harmony" with their companion book)? Why confuse the issue more? Why not just list the percentage of calories from fat or stick with grams?

Lifespice Salt-Free Cookbook, By Ruth Baum and Hilary Baum (Perigee, $9.95).

Written by a mother-daughter team who own Lifespice, a line of salt-free food products, this book is not as self-promoting as one might expect. (It doesn't call for Lifespice products in any of the recipes, although the back page of the book does plug the company and how the spices can be substituted when a recipe calls for any condiment.)

Instead, the recipes make creative use of spices, even though some are recipes in which salt can be omitted without being noticed anyway. Although it is careful in its use of fats, this is not a lowfat cookbook. In all, this is a nice collection of recipes, with guest entrees from Barbara Kafka, Marion Cunningham, Craig Claiborne, Alfred Viazzi and James Beard.

Heart Smart: A Plan for Low Cholesterol Living, by Gail L. Becker (Fireside, $5.95)

Originally published in 1984 by Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, manufacturers of cholesterol-lowering medicine, this Fireside edition is written by registered dietitian Gail Becker. It is a book of moderation rather than omission and concentrates on lowfat dairy products, chicken and fish. This is no masterpiece by any means, but it's a book of sensible reductions for everyday eating.

The Barbara Kraus Cholesterol Counter, by Barbara Kraus (Perigee, $5.95)

The author of a handful of other nutrient value books has come up with another for cholesterol counters. This slim volume is enough to give readers a basic idea of cholesterol counts; however, it doesn't offer a very wide array of brand names. Although there aren't likely to be huge variations in the amount of cholesterol between two brands of frozen macaroni and cheese, serious cholesterol counters may be frustrated by knowing about only Morton's.

Here are some quick and simple cooking tricks and tidbits from the latest nutrition books.

*Make a roquefort dip with less fat and calories than the usual by combining in a food processor or blender: 2 ounces roquefort or blue cheese, 2 ounces lowfat cottage cheese, 2 1/2 ounces plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons farmers cheese, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and freshly ground pepper to taste. Calories per tablespoon: 21. ("Gourmet Light")

*Put a dollop of ricotta cheese into a pretty dessert dish. Sprinkle with kahlua and candied orange peel or candied ginger. Cut a chilled papaya in half, fill the cavity with a mixture of fresh lime juice and a dash of cre me de cassis and garnish with a sprig of mint. ("Fast & Low")

*When you skin a chicken before cooking, you remove about 55 percent of the calories. When you skin it after cooking, some of the fat has soaked into the meat and you remove only about 25 percent of the calories. ("Target Recipes")

*In adapting your own Chinese recipes without the salt, play up garlic and ginger in dishes, intensify sherry with vinegar or mustard powder and sprinkle aniseed and szechuan peppercorns on vegetables, fish and poultry. Add vinegar, orange or lemon peels to sauces or marinades. ("The Chinese Salt-Free Diet Cookbook")

*Saute' in stocks, broth and wine instead of fats and oils. Add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/8-inch, bring to a boil, add food, cover and reduce heat to medium. Stir frequently and add more liquid should it evaporate before food is cooked. ("Gourmet Light")

*In baking, limit the amount of fat to 1 to 2 tablespoons per cup of whole grain flour. In baking, you can usually cut the amount of salt in half with no noticeable difference in flavor. ("Target Recipes")

*In recipes that specify 2 eggs, substitute 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites. ("Target Recipes")

*Substitute part of the oil in salad dressings with homemade chicken or beef broth (without all the salt). ("Gourmet Light")

*To assure that light sauces -- such as vegetable and fish sauces -- stick to pasta, cook the pasta partially in water, drain, I drain, and f inish cooking it in a shallow saucepan along with the vegetables and/or fish and whatever liquid you have added to the sauce components, so that the pasta will help thicken the liquid a little and absorb some of its flavor. An even better method is to cook pasta from scratch with only raw vegetables in a large, shallow, heavy pan and just enough moisture -- either water or stock -- to keep it from sticking, adding more liquid as needed. It takes only 10 minutes and everything is done in one pot. A final method is to pure'e the vegetables in their liquid. ("Eat Right, Eat Well -- The Italian Way") TOMATO CONDIMENT (Makes 3 cups)

A spoonful or two of tomato condiment adds depth of flavor to any cooking sauce, stew, or vegetable dish. It's also a good all-purpose tomato sauce or ketchup. Try it on broiled fish. It will keep well in the refrigerator for about three weeks.

1 green pepper, seeded and quartered

2 medium onions, quartered

3 tablespoons grated and well-drained fresh horseradish

1/2 cup water

14-ounce can salt-free tomato pure'e

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

In a food processor, blender or by hand, chop the green pepper and onions as finely as possible with the horseradish. Put into a medium-sized saucepan and add the water, tomato pure'e, mustard, sugar, vinegar, ground cloves, red pepper flakes and bay leaf. Mix well. Cover the saucepan and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

Serve hot as a sauce or cold as a condiment.

Sodium per serving (1 tablespoon): 3 mg. Calories per serving:16. From "Lifespice Salt-Free Cookbook," by Ruth Baum and Hilary Baum, (Perigee, $9.95) CHICKEN SALAD CANTON WITH PEANUT SAUCE (8 servings)

This sauce is so versatile that it works with equal success on fish or meat.

3-pounds chicken

8 cups water

1 1/2 cups lemon juice

1/2 cup dry sherry

1/3 cup unsalted peanuts, crushed

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup peanut oil

1/4 cup hot water

2 tablespoons soy sauce substitute (see below)

2 tablespoons low-sodium ketchup

4 scallions, chopped, including greens

1/16 teaspoon ground szechuan peppercorns

1 1/2 pounds bean sprouts

2 tomatoes, sliced thin

2 tablespoons dried cilantro (or parsley)

1 tablespoon low-sodium chicken bouillon

1 tablespoon cornstarch

In dutch oven, place first 4 ingredients. Turn heat to medium and bring to a slow boil. Continue boiling 1/2 hour, or until chicken is fork tender but not overdone, turning occasionally. Remove to platter. Let stand 30 minutes. Reserve stock.

While chicken is cooking, combine peanuts, vinegar, oil, and hot water in a bowl. Stir to blend.

Add soy sauce, ketchup, scallions, and szechuan pepper. Stir thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Skin chicken and cut the meat from the bone into bite-size pieces.

On platter, place bean sprouts. Arrange chicken on top. Place tomato slices over all, and garnish with cilantro. Cover and refrigerate.

Bring reserved chicken stock to a boil over medium heat. Continue boiling until liquid is reduced by half. Then stir in bouillon and cook 5 minutes more.

Stir in cornstarch and continue stirring until cornstarch is dissolved and mixture starts to thicken.

In large bowl, combine vinegar and hot stock mixtures. Let stand 15 minutes or refrigerate. Pour half the sauce over the chicken. Serve remaining sauce on the side as a dip.

Per serving: 418.5 calories; 72.4 mg. sodium; 23.6 gm. carbohydrates; 22.1 gm. fat. SOY SAUCE SUBSTITUTE (Makes 2 cups)

1 1/2 cups boiling water

4 tablespoons low-sodium beef bouillon

1/16 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon dark molasses

4 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

In bowl, combine all ingredients, stirring to blend thoroughly. Pour into jars. Cover and seal tightly.

May be refrigerated indefinitely. Shake well before using.

Per tablespoon: 9.4 calories; 4.0 mg. sodium; 1.1 gm. carbohydrates; 0.5 gm. fat. From "The Chinese Salt-Free Diet Cookbook" by Merle Schell (NAL, $16.95) FLANK STEAK IN GINGERED BEER SAUCE (6 servings)

Flank steak, a strip of muscle that lies on either side of the loin, is the leanest of all beef cuts, with about 163 calories in a 4-ounce serving. Because the muscle fibers are coarse and there is little fat, it is most often cooked with moist heat, though occasionally it is broiled or grilled as a steak. With its long, thin configuration, which is ideal for stuffing, flank steak makes an attractive presentation. Here it is rolled around a fruit stuffing and slow-cooked in a fragrant sauce of gingered beer. The meat may be readied for cooking early in the day.

5 dried apricots

2 tablespoons rum or hot water

1 small onion, minced

2 tablespoons beef broth

3 small apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

2 teaspoons minced ginger root

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Dash ground cinnamon

1 3/4 pounds flank steak

Dijon-style mustard

1 onion, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

12-ounce bottle dark beer

1 1/2 cups beef broth

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 or 4 allspice berries or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 unpeeled garlic cloves, halved

1 cinnamon stick

1 quarter-size piece of fresh ginger root, peeled

To prepare the stuffing, plump the apricots in the rum or hot water for at least 30 minutes or as long as 12 hours. Saute' onion in the broth in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until limp and the broth is evaporated.

Drain the apricot liquid into the onion skillet. Chop and add the apricots. Add the apples and ginger. Season with salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 4 minutes or until the fruits are soft. Remove from the heat and cool while preparing the pot vegetables and meat.

To prepare the meat, place the meat between two sheets of waxed paper and pound it with a cleaver until somewhat thinner and enlarged. Dip a pastry brush into a pot of mustard and brush it over the inside of meat. Set aside.

Spoon the stuffing onto the meat, completely covering the surface; reserve any extra. Starting at the small end, roll the meat up in jellyroll fashion. Tie tightly with butcher's twine. Gather what stuffing falls out and reserve with other stuffing.

Spray the skillet used for stuffing (no need to wash) with cooking spray. Add the onion, celery, and carrot, cover, and cook at high heat until the vegetables are lightly browned. Scrape them into a 5-quart dutch oven or electric crockpot.

Pat the meat dry. Spray the skillet with cooking spray. Sear the meat over high or medium-high heat, turning frequently. If the meat seems to be sticking, dribble in a bit of vegetable oil. When browned, remove to the dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper.

Deglaze the skillet with 1/4 of the beer, stirring with a wooden spoon over medium heat. Pour the deglazing juices, remaining beer, and broth onto the meat. Stir in the tomato paste. Add any extra stuffing.

Cut a piece of cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni of the allspice, bay leaf, thyme, and garlic. Enclose the herbs and knot the cheesecloth. Add to the dutch oven.

Add cinnamon and ginger to the pot. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and cook an additional 2 hours. Flip the meat 2 or 3 times, spooning hot juices over. To cook in an electric crockpot, simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Don't let liquid boil. Check for evaporation, adding more broth if necessary.

To serve, remove the meat from the pot. Cut and discard strings. Let the meat rest, covered with a towel, while preparing the sauce.

Remove the bouquet garni, cinnamon, and ginger from the pot. Pour the sauce through a coarse strainer (or put through a food processor and then strain), pushing the vegetables with the back of a wooden spoon. Discard the pulp in the strainer, taste the sauce, and adjust seasoning. If it's too thin, boil until somewhat reduced. If there's not enough sauce, add broth or red wine, heat, and stir until it reaches the desired thickness.

Slice the meat in 1/2-inch slices, arrange in a circle on platter. Pour the sauce over and around the meat.

Per serving: Calories: 267. Protein: 30 gm. Fat: 8 gm. Carbohydrates: 19 gm. Sodium: 375 mg. From "Gourmet Light" by Greer Underwood (Globe Pequot Press, $9.95) ALL-AMERICAN LOWFAT POTATO SALAD (4 servings)

3 medium potatoes, cooked, peeled, and cubed

5 scallions, sliced

2 stalks celery, diced

6 radishes, sliced (optional)

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 cup yogurt dressing (see below)

1 cup diced cucumber

Combine the first four vegetables. Add the dill weed to the yogurt dressing and mix thoroughly with the salad. Refrigerate for several hours. Add the cucumber, toss all together gently, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

Calories per serving: 130From "Target Recipes" by Covert Bailey and Lea Bishop (Houghton Mifflin, $5.95) YOGURT DRESSING (Makes 1 cup)

1 cup plain lowfat yogurt

1/2 teaspoon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon horseradish or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar

1 tablespoon minced onion

Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate.

Calories per 1/4 cup: 40. WHOLE WHEAT PRETZELS (Makes 25 pretzels)

Whole wheat pretzels are delicious as a satisfying snack by themselves or with drinks. The seeds on top add flavor and interest, but they can be omitted.

1 ( 1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 cups very warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees)

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons caraway or sesame seeds

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 egg, beaten

Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Put the yeast and sugar into a large bowl. Add the water, stir and set aside for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to dissolve.

Stir the whole wheat flour and the all-purpose flour into the yeast mixture. Knead in half the caraway or sesame seeds and all the black pepper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into 25 pieces. Roll the pieces out into strips about 8 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. To form the pretzels, bring the ends of each strip toward the center of the strip, forming two loops. The ends should cross, with one end in front and the other behind, where they meet at the center, and should project about 1/2-inch below the center of the strip. Pinch together where the ends cross.

Put the pretzels on the baking sheet. Brush them lightly with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the remaining caraway or sesame seeds. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until the pretzels are lightly browned. Cool the pretzels completely on wire racks. Store them in a tightly covered container.

Calories per pretzel: 69. Sodium per pretzel: 3 mg. From "Lifespice Salt-Free Cookbook" by Ruth Baum and Hilary Baum (Perigee, $9.95) LEEKS AU GRATIN (6 servings)

6 medium leeks, trimmed, cut into 3/4-inch slices and washed

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup skim milk

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In large skillet over medium heat in 1 inch boiling water, place leek slices in a single layer; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover. Simmer about 10 minutes or until tender-crisp; drain. (Do in batches, if necessary.)

In 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, place leeks.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan over low heat or in double boiler, melt butter. Add flour; cook about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, mustard, and pepper; cook until thickened and smooth, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat; stir in parmesan cheese. Pour over leeks. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Per serving: Calories: 85. Protein: 4 g. Fat: 3 g. Carbohydrate: 9 g. Cholesterol: 5 mg. Sodium: 95 mg.From "Heart Smart" by Gail L. Becker, (Fireside, $5.95) RIGATONI WITH VEAL AND ARTICHOKE HEARTS (6 to 8 servings)

This recipe can be made with broccoli, cauliflower, fresh peas, fresh lima beans, and artichoke hearts, in any combination, but I would suggest using no more than two vegetables. The dish makes a complete main course -- all you would need is a tossed green salad to finish the dinner nicely.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon safflower oil

1 1/2 pounds veal, from either shoulder or leg, cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup finely chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, skins on

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

3 tablespoons minced Italian parsely

1 cup dry white wine

4 cups chopped tomatoes, fresh if possible, put through a food mill and drained

3/4-ounce package dried boletus mushrooms, soaked in warm water 15 minutes (optional)

6 cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon dried basil

9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts

10-ounce package frozen lima beans or 2 cups fresh shelled lima beans or 2 cups fresh peas

1 1/2 pounds rigatoni

Heat oils in medium saucepan; then add veal, salt, and pepper, stirring often. When moisture cooks out and veal begins to brown, add onion and garlic. When onion begins to brown, add carrot and parsley; cook several minutes more, stirring constantly. Add wine, cover, lower heat, and simmer about 10 minutes. Remove cover and simmer until wine cooks out. Add tomatoes and optional mushrooms, cloves, and basil, cover, and simmer about 1 1/2 hours.

Blanch artichoke hearts and lima beans. Add to the sauce, cover, and simmer an additional 20 minutes.

Cook pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Drain, when done al dente and toss with sauce. Garnish each portion with minced Italian parsley.

Per complete recipe: 4697 calories, 483 mg. cholesterol, 271.4 gm. protein, 675.7 gm. carbohydrate, 87.3 gm. fat or 16 percent fat, 21.2 gm. saturated fat, 26.4 gm. monounsaturated fat, 12.9 gm. polyunsaturated fat. From "Eat Right, Eat Well -- The Italian Way," by Edward Giobbi and Dr. Richard Wolff (Knopf, $19.95)