Vegetarian Action

Vesanto Melina, Passionate Vegan Dietitian and Author

Melina is the child of two university professors who instilled in her a passion for teaching and nutrition, and she grew up with an appreciation of food. While she considered becoming an artist, she ultimately decided to study nutrition, hoping to inspire others to make healthy choices in their own lives.

Melina began her career in 1965 and went vegetarian in the 1970s. She and her friends were inspired by Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet, one of the first books to note the environmental impact of meat production as wasteful and a contributor to global food scarcity, and together they formed a vegetarian cooking group. Later, Melina's family travelled to India and Nepal where they were able to experience delicious vegetarian cuisine, and while there, she chose to focus her career on vegetarian nutrition. In 1993, she became vegan after writing the "Without Dairy" chapter for her first book, Becoming Vegetarian. She realized that she could implement the changes she suggested in the book within her own life and that there were plenty of vegan alternatives available, which were better for the animals, the planet, and her own health. As a consultant for British Columbia Corrections, Melina works to ensure that each of the menus (non-vegetarian, vegetarian, and vegan) meet nutrition standards.

Among the many professions Melina has held throughout her life, she has found time to co-author 10 books, including Becoming Vegan, Cooking Vegan, and Becoming Raw. She has worked with co-author and Registered Dietitian Brenda Davis for the past 23 years. Their books are widely available in numerous languages, and both the comprehensive and express editions of Becoming Vegan have been recognized for multiple awards. These books are essential to health professionals and everyone else hoping to learn more about nutrition on a plant-based diet. While they have received strong support and recognition for these books, they have also faced opposition. Following the release of their first book, Becoming Vegetarian in 1994, a 45-page booklet was written in opposition to their publication. Luckily, they were able to counter this booklet and as a result, they ended up with even better book sales! Davis and Melina currently teach courses on vegan nutrition, which are available in California and online.

Melina has also had many speaking opportunities, and recently she did a tour in Canada that was sponsored by the Dietitians of Canada. On this tour, she was asked to speak about two topics: an Update on Vegetarian, Vegan, and Raw Foods Nutrition, and The Effective Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes with Vegan Diets. She believes "plant-based nutrition is an idea whose time has come," and she was met with an enthusiastic response. This response is consistent throughout her speaking events in North America and Europe as well. During these tours, she educates the public on how to transition to a plant-based diet, and she educates health professionals so they can successfully assist their clients when making these changes.

Melina encourages health professionals to follow their passions, especially in plant-based nutrition, because "together we have the ability to change the face of health care!" For more information on Melina and her book line, see and

Written by Casey Brown. Casey is a former VRG intern who is currently majoring in nutrition.