Have you ever been grocery shopping and seen food packaging with a check mark surrounded by a heart on the label? That symbol indicates that the food has met the American Heart Association’s (AHA) standards to be named a heart-healthy food. But, just what does that mean? What makes that food healthier and why should you choose it as part of a healthy meal plan for an aging family member? Let’s take a closer look at the Heart-Check Program and find out what it takes for a food to be included.

About the Program
The purpose of American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Program is to make it easy for people to spot healthy food options in the grocery store or when they are eating at a restaurant. The AHA notes that it’s important to also look for their name associated with the heart symbol since not all red hearts on labels indicate the food has been approved by them.

Nutritional Requirements
There are many requirements a food must meet to be labeled heart healthy. The program uses seven categories to certify a product, looking at things like ingredients and nutrients. In addition, all foods must also meet the government’s requirements for claiming to be heart-healthy. In cases where a food is close to the line of what makes it healthy (i.e., fat content, sodium, trans fat, etc.), third party testing takes place to make certain it meets the qualifications.

Some of the requirements of a food certified by the Heart-Check Program are:

  • Total fat of less than 6.5 g (saturated fat less than 1 g, trans fat less than .5 g).
  • 20 mg or less of cholesterol.
  • Must not contain partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Sodium levels within limits based on the category.
  • Must contain at least 10 percent of the Daily Value of one of six nutrients (protein, fiber, vitamin A, iron, calcium, or vitamin C).

There are many other requirements that are specific to each food category.

Research Supports the Effectiveness of the Program
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers revealed that people who eat foods that meet the Heart-Check Program’s qualifications are more likely to eat a healthy diet overall. Data was gathered using a survey of 11,000 people regarding their eating habits. The results showed that those who chose foods in the program were more likely to eat greater amounts of whole grains, fiber, fruits, and vegetables. They also ate fewer empty calories and less sodium.

If you’re concerned about the eating habits of an older adult family member, hiring an elder care provider may help improve their diet. Many seniors who live alone eat whatever is convenient and may pay little attention to the nutritional value of their foods. Having an elder care provider who can help them shop for healthy ingredients and prepare meals can make a big difference. An elder care provider can cook meals that the senior might otherwise find too difficult to make or too much trouble.


If you or an aging senior are considering hiring in-home elder care in Southlake, TX, please contact the caring staff at Ray of Sunshine today! (940) 442-5374.