"I love to cook. Love, love, to cook," he tells PEOPLE. "When I'm in L.A., I cook every night that I'm home. It's really relaxing to me."
Harper takes pride in creating vegetarian meals that aren't boring. "People are always asking, 'If I'm a vegetarian, are my options limited?' " he says. "My answer is no way! There are so many great recipes out there to choose from, and I also love to experiment with different vegetables and grains. Guests are always surprised when they come over for dinner and I whip up pasta."
The trainer is also a whiz at making old favorites with a nutritious twist. "Working on The Biggest Loser, you have to get into the kitchen and make foods the contestants used to love to eat, but make them healthier, lower in calories and above all else, tasty," he explains.
And regardless of income, Harper believes anyone can invent dishes that are exciting and healthful. "I always encourage people to go into the produce section of the grocery store and pick a vegetable that they aren't used to working with, and see what they come up with."
Want to try one of Harper's dishes that celeb vegetarians like Carrie Underwood, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire might enjoy? See below for his roasted vegetable salad recipe!
Plus: Check out more healthy ideas – including workout tips from Trainer Bob – here! And tune in to The Biggest Loser season premiere on Tuesday, Jan. 5, at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
Mary Ellen Bartley
Roasted Vegetable Salad with Vinaigrette DressingServes: 3 to 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
8 small carrots, sliced into rounds
6 small zucchini, sliced into rounds
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
3 squash, sliced into rounds
1 (15.5-oz.) can chickpeas
Salt and pepper to taste
3 heads romaine lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
1 cup cucumbers, sliced
2 ripe red tomatoes, sliced
Vinaigrette dressing of your choice
1. Preheat oven to 425º
2. Toss together carrots, zucchini, peppers, yellow squash and chickpeas on a large sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and lightly spray with olive oil. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once. Let cool.
3. In a large bowl, combine lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. Add grilled vegetables and toss with dressing.
Reporting by AMY ELISA KEITH
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