Bachelor Award 2016

grant holder
Sarah Clesen,
Institut Paul Lambin

Sarah Clesen,

How to motivate patients with cardiovascular disease to eat a more plant-based diet.

Sarah Clesen student at the Institut Paul Lambin, received the Alpro Foundation Bachelor Award for her thesis. The objective of Sarah’s thesis was to evaluate which methods can help patients with cardiovascular disease to encourage to eat a more plant-based diet.


Plant-based foods and eating patterns are typically low in saturated fat, rich in unsaturated fat and fibers and usually have a low energy density. These components are associated with lower body weight and less weight gain over time. Furthermore plant-based eating patterns play a role in maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels and can subsequently contribute to a healthy heart.

The health benefits of a more plant-based diet for patients with cardiovascular disease are clear. Sarah Clesen, graduated as a dietitian at the Institut Paul Lambin, evaluated for her thesis which methods could motivate patients to adopt a more plant-based diet.

Informative workshops: plant-based food pattern – why and how?
Sarah worked in a multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, nurses, physical therapists, psychologists and dieticians at the cardiology department of Robert Schuman Hospital in Luxembourg. In order to motivate cardiovascular disease patients to choose a more plant-based diet, they organized informative and interactive workshops with small groups of 6 to 10 patients.

Each group of patients followed three interactive workshops where practice was interchanged with theory. Choosing for a complete vegetarian lifestyle is of course a good choice but was not the purpose of the workshop itself. The purpose is to inform patients about the benefits of a healthy balanced plant-based diet. Each session started with a quiz about the current nutritional knowledge of the patients followed by a theoretical explanation of the health benefits of a more plant-based diet and the beneficial role in cardiovascular disease. This included the role of fats (saturated and unsaturated), fibers and low salt content. Different vegetarian dishes could be tasted and the group could also exchange ideas for how to integrate more plant-based foods into the daily diet.
The patients also received an information brochure with practical nutrition advice and vegetarian recipes. All suggested recipes are low in saturated fats and sources of (or some even rich in) fibers. To be consistent with this advice, the vegetarian menus of the hospital were also adjusted (low in saturated fat, rich in fiber, low salt).
Sarah’s internship was a pilot study, but feedback from the first patient groups was positive. Also, patients who were initially skeptical could still be convinced of the importance of a plant-based diet for their health and that a plant-based diet can be easy to prepare and taste delicious. These patients expressed their willingness to occasionally put more plant-based dishes on the menu.
The nudging strategy through interactive informative workshops has therefore been successful. This is an important first step in behavioral changes and the multidisciplinary team of the hospital continues to work to achieve long-lasting behavioral changes. Follow-up workshops and individual sessions are recommended.
The patients also follow 24 sessions of different physical exercises with a physical therapist. In addition to behavioral change for dietary habits, more physical exercise is also recommended.


The Alpro Foundation Award

The Alpro Foundation gives out an annual award to a Bachelor’s thesis in Nutrition and Dietetics which takes a closer look at the impact of food on health. This award includes a prize of € 1,250.00. “We hand out this award because we noticed that there is a need for more thorough knowledge of nutrition and health”, says Doctor De Vriese of the Alpro Foundation. “By way of this Bachelor award we want to further stimulate the dietician of the future to formulate correct scientific information in a way that is accessible to all”.

The Dutch and French press release can be downloaded.

Alpro Foundation Award Bsc_persbericht NL 2016_FIN

Alpro Foundation Award Bsc_persbericht_FR 2016_FIN