Theo Wargo/WireImage
Liz McNeil
January 30, 2009 10:40 AM

Shhh, don’t tell her kids: Brooke Shields loves chocolate for breakfast.

“I’m telling my children [daughters Rowan, 5, and Grier, 2], ‘You can’t have cookies and chocolate for breakfast – what’s the matter with you?'” Shields, 43, tells PEOPLE. “Then I’m sneaking off in the closet eating a good square of dark chocolate with a cup of coffee – a breakfast of champions!”

But it’s not like she’s cheating on a diet with those treats, says the actress at the Bryant Park Hotel’s Godiva Decadence Suite Wednesday in Manhattan.

“I’ve always believed in being more healthy and athletic than being skinny, just as long as I was strong,” says Shields, a proponent of spinning and dancing. “So I really didn’t have [eating issues] that I see a lot of young people have today.”

The actress admits that, while her daughter Rowan is so young, even she’s started wondering if her body is flawed.

“At 5 ½, she’s asking questions like, ‘Am I fat?'” says Shields. “Kids are conscious of it even at a young age. I’m guilty of perpetuating these images, but to me it’s always been a job, so I’ve sort of compartmentalized.”

Adds the former Calvin Klein jeans model: “I’m also six feet tall, so skinny was really never an issue for me – healthy was. It’s a hard lesson to teach kids, but if you start young enough, that can be instilled in them. But I’m never going to give up chocolate!”

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