Amanda Edwards—WireImage
February 21, 2017 10:06 AM EST

Giving birth to two children has completely changed Alyssa Milano‘s perspective on her body.

While the actress says she’s never been critical of her shape, pregnancy helped her appreciate it even more.

“Once you have kids, you realize what the human body is made to do,” the Atkins spokeswoman, 44, tells PEOPLE. “You realize why sometimes women’s bodies retain fat, and usually that’s biologically to create breast milk. You realize all the changes your body goes through hormonally.”

“It’s really an awakening — when you get pregnant and have a child — that the female body is the most amazing machine imaginable.”

Milano also says she feels lucky to have avoided body pressures as an actress.

“I’ve been aware of other people in the industry who felt that, but I’ve been very blessed in that I’ve never been impacted by that in my career,” Milano says. “People have always been very supportive of me in the business, no matter what weight I was.”

And as her kids — Milo, 5, and Elizabella, 2 — grow up, Milano hopes to pass along her positive body image to them.

“I’ll take them to the gym, where they have a daycare center, so they can see where I’m going and what I do, and that it’s important to work out and be active in a world that’s so sedentary,” she says.

Along with staying active in her daily life, Milano follows what she calls an “Atkins lifestyle” — not a diet.

“I eat whole foods that are low in refined carbs and low in sugar. And foods that are rich in healthy fats and proteins, vegetables, and any fiber-rich carbs,” she explains. “I think that when you call things a diet you’re setting yourself up to fail. Because to me that means there’s an end to it, and with health and fitness, you have to maintain your entire life.”

“For me it’s all about feeling healthy and strong, and fitting into my clothes, and keeping up with my kids.”

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