Lauren Manzo Scalia has spent the past seven years getting a handle on a lifelong struggle with her weight, transitioning in to a healthy lifestyle after dropping 30 lbs. from weight-loss surgery. And that’s not stopping now that she’s pregnant.
The 28-year-old Manzo’d with Children star, who is expecting her first child with husband Vito, tells PEOPLE that she made a promise to herself that she would stay healthy during her pregnancy “in order to feel and look as good as I can.”
“When I got pregnant, I promised myself I would do what was necessary in order to gain weight at a healthy pace and not use my pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever I want,” she explains. “In my first trimester, I felt so bloated and it drove me crazy. I didn’t feel comfortable at all. That experience just reassured me that being healthy isn’t just about the way I look, but about the way I feel.”
For Scalia, that means sticking to a clean diet throughout the week, trying not to over-eat, drinking lots of water, and getting consistent exercise.
For breakfast, she’ll allow herself carbs she can burn off during the day — like a scooped out whole wheat bagel or cereal with almond milk. “I feel like it’s a good way to get my day started,” she says. And though she knows caffeine isn’t the best, she’ll indulge in a small coffee with almond milk — “Just a little!”
Lunch is typically a salad with oil and vinegar dressing, or a sandwich on whole wheat bread — which she says she rarely has room to finish. “I can usually only eat half a sandwich, and never finish my salads,” she reveals.
At dinner, the Real Housewives of New Jersey alum gets to play. “I love to cook, so I try and have fun with dinner,” she explains. Since her husband is usually working late, Scalia focuses on meals that will keep well for when he gets home or for leftovers.
“I like turkey chili, marinated chicken breast with a veggie and maybe a carb in there,” Scalia details. “I try to stay away from red meat and pork as much as possible. I love cheese, but I’m trying super hard to stay away from that as much as I can.”
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Lucky for Scalia, she says she hasn’t had many cravings while pregnant. “I think I’ve been lucky with only wanting to have a few bites of the unhealthy things,” she confesses. “I give my body what it craves in moderation. I do usually feel gross after I cheat a little [but] I think if I deprived myself, I would drive myself crazy and eventually just binge. I like the healthy balance.”
There has been an unexpected surprise along the way though – her baby’s high-brow taste in water. “I’ve become a bit of a water snob during my pregnancy,” Scalia laughs. “I’m leaning towards Pellegrino, Voss and smartwater. I don’t know why this has become my desire, — I was never like that with water before! This baby just has really expensive taste in water, I guess!”
For exercise, Scalia is staying mobile by walking everyday. “I live close to a lake, so I like walking to and from the lake everyday and then walking all around it. It comes to about 3 miles a day from my house all the way around the lake and back.”
She’s also considering buying a treadmill for those winter months, and Scalia is taking her vitamins. “I did my homework to find the best prenatal vitamins that work for my baby and me,” she says. “I found USANA Prenatals, which are made with the finest ingredients and include its patent-pending USANA InCelligence Technology, which has unique personalization abilities. I decided to partner with USANA, and they have helped keep me healthy.”
Throughout it all, Scalia says she’s tried to remain herself. “I am trying not to let pregnancy change me being me,” she says, explaining how she takes the time to dress up every morning. “I think feeling good about myself is just as important as that physical aspect of health. I really struggled with this my first trimester. [Now], if I look good, then I feel good. That’s why exercising and dressing nice is so important to me.”
Manzo’d with Children airs Sundays on Bravo at 9 p.m. ET.