Heart-Check Food Certification Program Nutrition Requirements

Updated:Dec 22,2015

The Heart-Check Food Certification Program’s nutrition requirements for certification are based on the sound science of the American Heart Association regarding healthy dietary recommendations including food categories, specific product ingredients and nutrient values.

To be certified, a product must meet specific nutrition requirements. The Heart-Check program has seven different categories of certification, and each category has a different set of nutrition requirements. All products must also meet government regulatory requirements for making a coronary heart disease health claim. When a product is close to exceeding the limits for fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat or sodium, independent third-party lab testing is conducted to verify that it meets our nutrition requirements.

Most nutrient requirements are per FDA/USDA RACC amounts (RACC = Reference Amount Customarily Consumed or “standardized serving size”). Some are per additional or other measurement amounts as noted with an asterisk below. Main Dish and Meal Products do not have RACC amounts. 

Heart-Check Food Certification Program Nutrition Requirements

Standard Certification (FDA-regulated products)

  • Total Fat: Less than 6.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g or less and 15% or less calories from saturated fat
  • Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (also per label serving*). Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification.
  • Cholesterol: 20 mg or less
  • Sodium: One of four sodium limits applies depending on the particular food category:  up to 140 mg, 240 mg or 360 mg per label serving*, or 480 mg per label serving and per RACC*.  See Sodium Limits by Category for details.
  • Beneficial Nutrients (naturally occurring): 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber)
Additional Food Category-Specific Requirements:
  • Certifiable grain-based products include breads, biscuits, cereals (ready-to-eat & cooked), crackers, pancakes, French toast, grains (single or multi) and their derivative flours/meals, waffles, muffins, sweet quick-type breads, and pastas. Must be a good source of dietary fiber (10% or more Daily Value per RACC), and contain 7 g or less Total Sugars per serving if the product is a good source of dietary fiber (10-19% Daily Value per RACC) or 9 g or less Total Sugars per serving If the product is an excellent source of dietary fiber (20% or more Daily Value per RACC). Sugars from pieces of fruit do not count toward the sugars allowance but amount(s) and source(s) must be disclosed.
  • Total sugar for yogurt is limited to 20 g or less per standard 6 oz serving.
  • Milk and milk alternatives must have 130 calories or less per 8 fl oz.
  • Certifiable juices must be 100% juice or 100% juice plus water with no added sugars/sweeteners (this excludes non-nutritive sweeteners), 120 calories or less per 8 fl oz, and a minimum of 10% Daily Value for 3 nutrients for which a Daily Value exists. At least one of these beneficial nutrients must satisfy the 10% Daily Value level requirement.
  • No “Heavy Syrup” allowed for canned fruits and vegetables, including potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • Frozen fruit must be 100% fruit with no added sugar.
  • Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification.
     

  • Total Fat: Less than 6.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g or less and 15% or less calories from saturated fat
  • Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (also per label serving*). Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification.
  • Cholesterol: 20 mg or less
  • Sodium: One of four sodium limits applies depending on the particular food category:  up to 140 mg, 240 mg or 360 mg per label serving*, or 480 mg per label serving and per RACC*.  See Sodium Limits by Category for details.
  • Beneficial Nutrients (naturally occurring): 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber)
Additional Food Category-Specific Requirements:
  • Certifiable grain-based products include breads, biscuits, cereals (ready-to-eat & cooked), crackers, pancakes, French toast, grains (single or multi) and their derivative flours/meals, waffles, muffins, sweet quick-type breads, and pastas. Must be a good source of dietary fiber (10% or more Daily Value per RACC), and contain 7 g or less Total Sugars per serving if the product is a good source of dietary fiber (10-19% Daily Value per RACC) or 9 g or less Total Sugars per serving If the product is an excellent source of dietary fiber (20% or more Daily Value per RACC). Sugars from pieces of fruit do not count toward the sugars allowance but amount(s) and source(s) must be disclosed.
  • Total sugar for yogurt is limited to 20 g or less per standard 6 oz serving.
  • Milk and milk alternatives must have 130 calories or less per 8 fl oz.
  • Certifiable juices must be 100% juice or 100% juice plus water with no added sugars/sweeteners (this excludes non-nutritive sweeteners), 120 calories or less per 8 fl oz, and a minimum of 10% Daily Value for 3 nutrients for which a Daily Value exists. At least one of these beneficial nutrients must satisfy the 10% Daily Value level requirement.
  • No “Heavy Syrup” allowed for canned fruits and vegetables, including potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • Frozen fruit must be 100% fruit with no added sugar.
  • Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification.
     

  • Total Fat: Less than 5 g (also per 100 g*)
  • Saturated Fat: Less than 2 g (also per 100 g*)
  • Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (also per label serving*). Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification.
  • Cholesterol: Less than 95 mg (also per 100 g*)
  • Sodium: One of four sodium limits applies depending on the particular food category:  up to 140 mg, 240 mg or 360 mg per label serving*, or 480 mg per label serving and per RACC*.  See Sodium Limits by Category for details.
  • Beneficial Nutrients (naturally occurring): 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber)

  • Total Fat: 3 g or less per 100 g of product* and 30% or less calories from fat
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g or less per 100 g of product* and less than 10% calories from saturated fat
  • Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (per label serving*). Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification.
  • Cholesterol: 20 mg or less per 100 g of product*
  • Sodium: 600 mg or less (per label serving*)
  • Beneficial Nutrients (naturally occurring): 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber) per the entire main dish or meal

  • Total Fat: Less than 6.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g or less and 15% or less calories from saturated fat
  • Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (also per label serving*). Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification.
  • Cholesterol: 20 mg or less
  • Sodium: One of four sodium limits applies depending on the particular food category:  up to 140 mg, 240 mg or 360 mg per label serving*, or 480 mg per label serving and per RACC*.  See Sodium Limits by Category for details.
  • Beneficial Nutrients (naturally occurring): 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber) 
  • Whole Grain Content: 51% or more by weight/RACC
  • Minimum Dietary Fiber (from whole grain only): 1.7 g/RACC of 30 g; 2.5 g/RACC of 45 g; 2.8 g/RACC of 50 g; or 3.0 g/RACC of 55 g
Additional Food Category-Specific Requirements:
  • Certifiable grain-based products include breads, biscuits, cereals (ready-to-eat & cooked), crackers, pancakes, French toast, grains (single or multi) and their derivative flours/meals, waffles, muffins, sweet quick-type breads, and pastas. Must be a good source of dietary fiber (10% or more Daily Value per RACC), and contain 7 g or less Total Sugars per serving if the product is a good source of dietary fiber (10-19% Daily Value per RACC) or 9 g or less Total Sugars per serving If the product is an excellent source of dietary fiber (20% or more Daily Value per RACC). Sugars from pieces of fruit do not count toward the sugars allowance but amount(s) and source(s) must be disclosed.

  • Total Fat: No limit
  • Saturated Fat: 4 g or less (per 50 g only*)
  • Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (also per label serving*) 
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg per label serving*
  • Sodium: 140 mg or less (per label serving*)
  • Beneficial Nutrients (naturally occurring): 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber). Not applicable to walnuts.
Other:
  • Eligible nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts & some pine nuts
  • Added Fats: Less than 0.5 g per RACC
  • Added Carbohydrates: Less than 1 g per RACC
  • Amount(s) and source(s) of added fats and carbohydrates must be disclosed

  • Total Fat: 16 g or less
  • Saturated Fat: 4 g or less
  • Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (also per label serving*)
  • Cholesterol: Less than 95 mg (also per 100 g*)
  • Sodium: One of four sodium limits applies depending on the particular food category:  up to 140 mg, 240 mg or 360 mg per label serving*, or 480 mg per label serving and per RACC*.  See Sodium Limits by Category for details.
  • Beneficial Nutrients (naturally occurring): 10% or more of the Daily Value of 1 of 6 nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber)
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA & DHA): 500 mg or more per 85 g (3 oz cooked)
Other: 
  • Added Fats: Less than 0.5 g per RACC
  • Added Carbohydrates: Less than 1 g per RACC
  • Amount(s) and source(s) of added fats and carbohydrates must be disclosed
  • Fish may be certified under the Standard, Extra Lean or Fish categories, depending on the nutritional profile of the product.

  • Total Fat: no limit
  • Saturated Fat for Olive Oil, Corn Oil and vegetable oil blends: 4 g or less (also per label serving*, not per 50g)
  • Saturated Fat for Canola Oil: 1 g or less (also per label serving*) and 15% or less calories from saturated fat
  • Trans Fat: Less than 0.5 g (also per 50 g*). Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible for certification
  • Cholesterol: 20 mg or less (also per 50 g*)
  • Sodium: 0 mg

Other:
  • Must be pure Olive Oil, pure Canola Oil, pure Corn Oil, or vegetable oil blend containing 4 g or more Corn Oil per RACC

  • Total Fat: < 6.5 g per RACC
  • Saturated Fat:  1.0 g per RACC and  15% calories from saturated fat
  • Trans Fat: < 0.5 g per RACC and per label serving and no PHOs allowed
  • Cholesterol:  20 mg per RACC
  • Sodium:  140mg per serving
  • Beneficial Nutrients: 10% DV of 1 of 6 nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber
Other:
For OLD NF label
  • Dietary fiber: 10% or more DV per RACC
  • Sugars (total):
    • 7 g or less per serving if good source of dietary fiber (10-19% DV per RACC)
    • 9 g or less per serving if excellent source of dietary fiber (20% or more DV per RACC)
For NEW NF label
  • Dietary fiber: 10% or more DV per RACC
  •  8g** ADDED sugars per serving vs. RACC (1 tsp sugar = 4g;
  • Sugars from pieces of fruit do not count toward the sugars allowance
FDA Health Claim Language: (exact language) “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and as low as possible in trans fat, may reduce the risk of heart disease”

RACC = 40g (same as new RACC for med.-weight cereals). Per FDA – all bars (protein, snack, nuts/seeds, etc.) fall into same RACC category

  • Calories : 200 cal. Per RACC (8oz) or 300 cal. Per 9 - 16 oz. (upper limit)
  • Total Fat: < 6.5 g per RACC
  • Saturated Fat:  1.0 g per RACC and  15% calories from saturated fat
  • Trans Fat: < 0.5 g per RACC and per label serving and no PHOs allowed
  • Cholesterol:  20 mg per RACC
  • Sodium:  240mg per serving
  • Beneficial Nutrients: 10% DV of 1 of 6 nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber
Other
  •  2 tsp. (or 8 grams) added sugar per serving
  • Must contain at least one serving of whole fruit or vegetable (not including any added juice or puree concentrate; juice concentrate and puree concentrate will be counted as added sugars) OR
    dairy/dairy alternative (e.g. nut/grain/soy-based milks)
  • Caffeine and other stimulant additives are not permitted; caffeine occurring naturally in other ingredients (e.g. green tea) is permitted.
FDA Health Claim Language: (exact language) “Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and as low as possible in transfat, may reduce the risk of heart disease”

RACC category for Smoothies = Dairy Products and Substitutes: Shakes or shake substitutes (e.g. dairy shake mixes, fruit frost mixes) = 240mL OR 1 cup or 8 fl. oz.

If product requires additional ingredients to be added in preparation (e.g. milk, yogurt, juice, water) the company must provide a nutrient profile for the finished product and at least one preparation method must meet certification criteria per serving/RACC.


*Measurement amounts in addition to or instead of RACC.


Additional Resources:


The American Heart Association Heart-Check Food Certification Program is designed to help consumers make informed choices about the foods they purchase. The nutrition requirements are food-based and intended for healthy people over age two. The Heart-Check program is not a dietary solution for any particular condition or disease. People with medical conditions or dietary restrictions should follow the advice of their healthcare professionals.

Food manufacturers participating in the program pay administrative fees to the American Heart Association to cover program operating expenses. No donations are used to support the program.


Heart-Check Program