In the center of the tug of war between the government and the food industry is a slender, 20-page pamphlet called "Nutrition and Your Health--Dietary Guidelines for Americans."

It used to be free from the Agriculture Department. Now it costs $2.25 at the Government Printing Office, where it is selling like hotcakes.

What you get for $2.25 is the kind of advice your mother or your fourth-grade health teacher might have given you: eat a well-balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, watch your weight and, if you drink, drink in moderation.

But the pamphlet also suggests that you avoid too much sugar (for the sake of your teeth), too much salt (to help avoid high blood pressure) and too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. It's the last part that particularly grates on meat, egg and dairy producers.

In a recent letter urging the Reagan administration to review the guidelines, the American Cattlemen's Association complained that the advice "conveys an unwarranted negative connotation about beef to the consuming public."

The guidelines don't mention the word beef. They do suggest choosing lean meats and trimming excess fat off meats, as well as eating eggs, butter and cream in moderation, and broiling or baking food rather than frying it--all pieces of advice that Americans have been getting for years from their family doctors and various health organizations, for the sake of their weight if not their arteries.

The advice on fat and cholesterol is a heavily diluted version of the advice in another USDA pamphlet, called "Fats in Food and Diet." That 1974 publication not only suggested eating less fat but also listed the fat and cholesterol content of various foods.

But don't look for it from your federal government. It went out of print last July, and a GPO official said, "It doesn't look as if there is anything that replaces it." graphics/illustration: Nutrition and Your Health Cattlemen Find Advice Something to Beef About

In the center of the tug of war between the government and the food industry is a slender, 20-page pamphlet called "Nutrition and Your Health--Dietary Guidelines for Americans."

It used to be free from the Agriculture Department. Now it costs $2.25 at the Government Printing Office, where it is selling like hotcakes.

What you get for $2.25 is the kind of advice your mother or your fourth-grade health teacher might have given you: eat a well-balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, watch your weight and, if you drink, drink in moderation.

But the pamphlet also suggests that you avoid too much sugar (for the sake of your teeth), too much salt (to help avoid high blood pressure) and too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. It's the last part that particularly grates on meat, egg and dairy producers.

In a recent letter urging the Reagan administration to review the guidelines, the American Cattlemen's Association complained that the advice "conveys an unwarranted negative connotation about beef to the consuming public."

The guidelines don't mention the word beef. They do suggest choosing lean meats and trimming excess fat off meats, as well as eating eggs, butter and cream in moderation, and broiling or baking food rather than frying it--all pieces of advice that Americans have been getting for years from their family doctors and various health organizations, for the sake of their weight if not their arteries.

The advice on fat and cholesterol is a heavily diluted version of the advice in another USDA pamphlet, called "Fats in Food and Diet." That 1974 publication not only suggested eating less fat but also listed the fat and cholesterol content of various foods.

But don't look for it from your federal government. It went out of print last July, and a GPO official said, "It doesn't look as if there is anything that replaces it."