Spa Food--Menus and Recipes From the Sonoma Mission Inn by Edward J. Safdie (Clarkson N. Potter: $19.95, 170 pp., illustrated).

The concept of spa food grew out of then nouvelle cuisine movement that emphasized beautiful, low-calorie, good-tasting food. So now that spa food has new meaning among those who do not necessarily go to spas but want to eat lightly, a book on the subject by people who run spas seems to work. (Safdie's group owns hotels and spas in Connecticut, New York, Texas and Monte Carlo.)

The illustrations alone can provide a wealth of clues on how to present food--any food--attractively albeit low in calories. But for those in search of ways to cut calories for weight loss, two basic diet programs are given.

An 850-calorie cleansing diet used at the spa should be approved by your physician before starting, as the publisher cautions. The individual recipes, however, can be adapted to any diet. A 1,200-calorie maintenance diet for home use is made up of menus for five days. There are recipes for main courses such as wheat berries and scallions, eggs ranchero with salsa, stuffed cabbage and vegetable terrine among them.

The recipes provide the ins and outs of cutting calories by using nonfat dairy products, herbs for flavor impact, minimal use of cooking fat, trimming fat from meats or using less caloric fish and poultry. There is a dessert section that makes life worth a few calories that don't cut into your daily calorie budget too seriously--things like tropical fruit soup for 118 calories a serving, coconut-carob truffles for 22 calories, a coffee-rum zabaglione for 100 calories.

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