Dear Jeanne: My husband and I are extremely fond of baked-potato soup. The problem is we are both on a fat-restricted diet and I also need to watch his sugar and salt intake. Could you come up with a lighter version of this soup? Thank you.

- Martha Kelly, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Dear Martha: While this soup is a lot of work, it is a hearty "meal in a bowl" and makes enough to feed a little-league team! To bring this soup into the "big leagues" nutritionally, I used turkey bacon, a lot less butter, and substituted low-fat milk for the half-and-half. Needless to say, I also eliminated the 3 tablespoons of bacon fat! Since I reduced the amount of fat, and fat carries flavor, I increased the seasonings and spices to compensate. This soup is even better the second day because the flavors have had a chance to marry.

- Each serving contains approximately:

Original Recipe: 577 calories; 90 mg cholesterol; 35 gm fat; 1, 045 mg sodium; 12 gm protein; 54 gm carbohydrates.

Revised Recipe: 306 calories; 22 mg cholesterol; 8 gm fat; 552 mg sodium; 11 gm protein; 50 gm carbohydrates.

Even though the original recipe for this soup was high-fat and fattening, it wasn't the fault of the potatoes. My potato booklet, "Po-tat-oes Are Not Fattening," will show you some more of my light and del-i-cious recipes for this wonderful food. Order it for $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed, No.10 envelope from Potato, P.O. Box 5541, Riverton, NJ 08077-5541.

BAKED-POTATO SOUP

3/4 pound bacon

6 large potatoes (about 5 to 51/2 pounds)

1 1/2 pints (3 cups) half-and-half

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter

4 cups chopped yellow onions

4 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached flour

1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Garnish (optional): Cheddar cheese, minced chives or green onions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Finely chop bacon, then fry until well done. Reserve 3 tablespoons fat. Drain fried bacon on paper towels; set aside.

Wash and dry potatoes well. Bake in preheated oven for 11/4 hours or until soft. Allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 1 hour, uncovered and uncrowded. Remove skins and coarsely chop. Let half-and-half reach room temperature. Place 11/2 cups chopped potatoes (well packed) into blender or food processor. Blend or mash with a little water to make a smooth paste.

In a large heavy pot over medium-low heat, melt butter; add bacon fat and onions. Cook until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. In separate pan, heat chicken broth to boiling. While stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually mix flour into onion mixture. Continue stirring and cook for 3 minutes; do not brown.

While stirring, slowly add boiling broth to onion mixture. Now add potato puree and mix well. Lower heat to simmer and cook 30 minutes uncovered. Stir every 5 minutes to keep from scorching. Add half-and-half, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and remaining chopped potatoes. Cover and simmer another 30 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes to keep from scorching. If soup is too thick, add a little warm milk. Stir in 1/3 cup of the crisp bacon, using remaining bacon to garnish each serving. Makes ten 2-cup servings.

`MAJOR LEAGUE' BAKED-POTATO SOUP

1/2 pound turkey bacon

6 large potatoes (about 5 pounds)

2 tablespoons butter

2 large onions, chopped (4 cups)

4 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth

1 cup unbleached flour

3 cups 2 percent low-fat milk, at room temperature

1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Optional garnish: grated low-fat Cheddar cheese, minced chives or green onions

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place turkey bacon slices on baking sheet in one layer and bake 12 to 15 minutes, until crispy. Finely chop and set aside.

Wash and dry potatoes well. Bake in 400 F. oven for 1 hour or until soft. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 1 hour, uncovered and uncrowded. Remove skins and coarsely chop. Place 11/2 cups chopped potatoes (well packed) into blender or food processor with enough water to blend into a smooth paste.

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, melt butter and add onions. Cook until onions are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. In a separate pan, heat chicken broth until boiling. Stirring onions with a wooden spoon, gradually mix in flour. Continue stirring and cook for 3 minutes. Do not brown.

While stirring, slowly add boiling broth to onion mixture. Add potato paste and mix well. Lower heat to simmer and cook 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir every 5 minutes to keep from scorching. Add bacon, milk, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and remaining chopped potatoes. Cover and simmer another 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to keep from scorching. If soup is too thick, add a little more milk. Makes 5 quarts, ten 2-cup servings. If desired, garnish with grated cheese and chives or green onions.