Updated: 01/03/2014 7:14 PM
Created: 01/03/2014 5:26 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- In what might be considered an odd move given that childhood obesity is still considered an epidemic in America, the U.S. government has now given schools approval to give kids more food at lunch time.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will permanently adopt new regulations that allow schools to serve larger portions of whole grains and lean meats.
The old rules for portion size were intended to curb childhood obesity, but experts say for many kids the restrictions were hurting, not helping.
"Most of them weren't getting enough food, they weren't feeling full enough,” said Kelsey Schauer, dietitian for Hy-Vee in Albert Lea. “In that case I think it's really important that they listen and raise portions."
Schauer said while kids need to be well fed to perform well in school, the focus shouldn't necessarily be on the quantity of food, but on the quality.
"If nachos are supposed to be your whole grain, that's probably not the best thing for you,” Schauer said. “That's maybe going to give you immediate energy, but that's not going to keep you going, to keep you lasting for all that time you need."
Experts also said we need to look beyond the traditional meal times and make sure kids are getting the proper nutrition throughout the school day.
"I'm 100 percent on board for really trying to get snacks in the day for these children to keep them held over,” Schauer said.
And those snacks are getting healthier too.
Thanks to legislation passed back in 2010, vending machines in schools will no longer be able to sell candy and other sugary treats, but will instead be filled with healthier options like granola bars and other nutritional snacks.
Health officials said all of the changes are helping, but with an estimated 12.5 million American kids still considered obese, experts know we still have a long way to go.
"At least it's definitely in the front view of everything,” Schauer said. “People are paying attention and we're making a conscious effort to change it."