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

  • 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.

*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