"I mainly want to do it for my kids," the former Jersey Shore star tells PEOPLE
Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

Motherhood looks good on Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi.

The former Jersey Shore star was a weight-loss machine after the birth of her first child, Lorenzo, 2 ½, back in 2012. And less than a year after welcoming Giovanna, now 8 months old, with husband Jionni LaValle, 28, in October, her speedy slim-down proved to be just as effective the second time around.

But the mom of two says it’s not about looking thinner than ever: She’s trying to set a good example for her little ones.

“Even though I want to be healthy for myself and it feels great to be healthy, I mainly want to do it for my kids,” Polizzi, 27, tells PEOPLE. “I just really want to be a fit mom. I want to be able to keep up with them, run after them.”

Polizzi rules the gym – and refrigerator – with a no-excuses mentality. The mom of two chatted with PEOPLE about her wellness habits, rigorous fitness regimen, clean-eating plan and (phew) her daily indulgence. Spoiler: There are no shortcuts!

She gets up and out every day.
Polizzi typically hits the gym with her trainer Anthony Michael at least four times a week for 45-minute or hour-long sessions.

“I would try and go every single day but it’s just hard with the kids,” she says.

But a busy schedule doesn’t stop her from finding a way to squeeze in a daily activity to ramp up the heart rate.

“I’ll take the kids for a walk around the block and try and do something,” she says. “I also have a gym downstairs, so usually if I can’t make it to the gym and Jionni’s not home and I have to work out I’ll bring the kids downstairs. We have a playroom down there.”

She’s breaking up with carbs.
With the help of her trainer and his customizable meal system Anthony Michael Fit Food, Polizzi is doing away with the carbs in her diet and loading up the pre-packaged meals with lean protein and veggies.

“You don’t have to do anything but heat them up,” Polizzi explains of the individual dishes that she gets delivered to her home.

She may be saying goodbye to whole-wheat pasta and bread for the indefinite future, but Polizzi enjoys the meaty meals that will better help her tone up.

“I eat a lot of grilled chicken and vegetables,” she says. “He also gives me a turkey burger, which is really, really good.”

The wife and mom still cooks for her family, however. Her specialties are quesadillas and pasta dishes with homemade sauce.

“And salad is always on the menu with whatever dish I am making,” she adds.

She works out with a pal.
Polizzi doesn’t just have her trainer to keep her going while flipping tires and burning out the arms with weighted ropes: She makes it a group activity whenever possible.

“I train with my sister-in-law,” she says. “We basically do weights every single day and we target different areas. Whether it’s biceps, shoulders, abs legs, each day is a different thing and it’s fun to do it together as much as we can.”

But one person she can’t buddy up with in the gym? Her hubby.

“Jionni is more of, like, the lazy type,” she jokes. “He doesn’t really need to work out, and if he does work out, he’ll lose like 10 lbs. in one day. It’s so annoying.”

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She wants to gain 10 lbs. of muscle.

Polizzi has been focusing on plyometrics (such as burpees or squat jumps) and isolating specific muscle groups to chisel various sections of the body.

“I love that stuff because it burns and I know that I’m making a difference in my body – plus I can’t breathe,” she says. “I like my arms when they get nice and muscley. I’m in the process of trying to get that back.”

She lets herself indulge – by the spoonful.
Peanut butter has become Polizzi’s culinary vice. But she has no problem treating herself in moderation.

“A scoop of peanut butter is actually good because it’s high in protein,” she explains. “I usually skip every other day, but I’ll do a scoop of peanut butter at night. But I’m addicted to peanut butter right now, I don’t know why.”