Clients/patients already come to you for advice on how to make better food choices. You want to offer them a plan that is simple and straightforward.There are more than 38,000 products to choose from and countless health and nutrition messages in the average supermarket. That’s why the American Heart Association created an easy way to help you and your clients/patients see through the clutter on grocery store shelves and find foods to help them eat healthier.
Reasons to Make Heart-Check a Part of Your Practice
If you asked your clients/patients to make a list of their top health goals, eating better probably would top the list. Teaching them how to change their eating habits — and motivating them to stick with those changes — can be challenging.
Here’s why the Heart-Check program works:
- Backed by science-based nutrition criteria. Sound science is the foundation of the Heart-Check program. When you see the Heart-Check mark on a food package, you can trust that the food meets the American Heart Association’s requirements for certification. The Heart-Check nutrition requirements were developed in consultation with association medical volunteers and leading nutrition experts and are based on AHA scientific statements and recommendations. They include:
- Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations Revision 2006: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee
- Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association
- Defining and Setting National Goals for Cardiovascular Health Promotion and Disease Reduction: The American Heart Association’s Strategic Impact Goal Through 2020 and Beyond
- Non-Nutritive Sweeteners: Current Use and Health Perspectives
- Healthy in the real world. Foods and nutrients of public health concern were taken into account when developing Heart-Check nutrition requirements. The requirements positively impact overall diet quality and promote nutrient adequacy and moderation goals. Additionally, Heart-Check nutrition requirements take food science and the role of ingredients in producing a quality product into consideration since we understand that certain ingredients serve functional purposes, such as leavening in bread.
- Meets consumers where they make food choices. The Heart-Check mark is there when your clients/patients need it – at the grocery store and at select restaurants. The American Heart Association is there in other ways, too, such as in-store identification of foods bearing the Heart-Check mark and health and wellness promotions nationwide.
- Quick and simple. The required Nutrition Facts label on food packaging is unequivocally important, but it is also dense with numbers and can intimidate newly health-conscious shoppers. There’s no learning curve with the Heart-Check mark. That’s because the Heart-Check mark represents a “bundling” of criteria based on the food category. This usually includes total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and beneficial nutrients that are important in determining if a food can be part of an overall healthy dietary pattern.
- Recognized and trusted. Shoppers trust the Heart-Check mark on packaging more than other nutrition icons, according to a 2012 American Heart Association quantitative study. The study also showed that eight out of 10 shoppers are already familiar with the Heart-Check mark. That means your clients/patients are likely to be very receptive when you advise them to choose Heart-Check certified products. Plus, shoppers associate the Heart-Check mark with both heart health and overall health.
- Time-saving and confidence-boosting. Instead of spending valuable time researching specific brands, give your clients/patients a straightforward tactic for healthy eating courtesy of the Heart-Check mark. In your counseling sessions, you can use the handouts in this toolkit to keep them shopping and cooking their way to a healthier lifestyle.
- Growing and expanding. A growing number of food manufacturers are reformulating their products — and even creating new ones — to meet Heart-Check nutrition requirements. That means more heart-healthy options for your clients/patients.
Trust in Governing Body
- The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest, largest voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
- Consumer research shows that “the AHA is the authority most trusted by consumers to decide if a product may display nutrition message or mark.”
- Our mission drives everything we do: Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
- Heart-Check program criteria are based on American Heart Association scientific statements.
- Nutrition requirements were developed in consultation with expert volunteers.
- Bundled criteria take a wide variety of nutrients into account. This usually includes total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and beneficial nutrients.
- Food modeling data demonstrate that a greater consumption (as percentage of total calories) of foods that meet AHA Heart-Check program nutrition requirements is associated with better diet quality and lower cardiovascular disease risk.
- Heart-Check Food Certification Program nutrition requirements are posted at heartcheckmark.org.
- All nutrition requirements comply with federal regulations for coronary heart disease health claims.
- Program staff validate that products’ Nutrition Facts label values meet Heart-Check nutrition requirements.
- Lab tests are required when certain nutrient values approach certification limits.
- Program staff conduct packaging and promotional reviews to ensure compliance with program requirements.
- The Heart-Check mark is easy to spot and takes much of the guesswork out of grocery shopping.
- Foods bearing the American Heart Association Heart-Check mark make it easier for consumers to follow a heart-healthy diet.
- Manufacturers’ products can be distributed anywhere within the U.S. and its territories.
- Most certified products are available through national grocery chains.